• 'Digital by Default' and the 'hard to reach': Exploring solutions to digital exclusion in remote rural areas

      Williams, Fiona; Philip, Lorna; Farrington, John; Fairhurst, Gorry; University of Chester; University of Aberdeen (SAGE, 2016-09-30)
      In the UK, the geography of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure required for Internet connectivity is such that high speed broadband and mobile phone networks are generally less available in rural areas compared with urban areas or, in other words, as remoteness and population sparsity increase so too does the likelihood of an area having no or very poor broadband connectivity. Against a policy backdrop of UK Government efforts to bring forward network infrastructure upgrades and to improve the accessibility of broadband services in locations where there is a weak commercial investment case, this paper considers the options for the ‘final few’ in the prevailing ‘Digital by Default’ public services context. The paper outlines the Rural Public Access WiFi Services project, a study focused upon enabling Internet connectivity for commercially ‘hard to reach’ rural areas in the UK. The Rural Public Access WiFi Services concept and the experiment are introduced before findings from a pilot deployment of a broadband service to households in a remote rural area, who may be classified as ‘digitally excluded’, are presented. The paper then reflects on our field experiment and the potential of the Rural Public Access WiFi Services model as a solution to overcoming some of the digital participation barriers manifest in the urban–rural divide. Early indications show that the Rural Public Access WiFi Services model has the potential to encourage participation in the Digital Economy and could aid the UK Government’s Digital by Default agenda, although adoption of the model is not without its challenges.
    • The digital divide: Patterns, policy and scenarios for connecting the ‘final few’ in rural communities across Great Britain

      Philip, Lorna; Cottrill, Caitlin; Farrington, John; Williams, Fiona; Ashmore, Fiona; University of Aberdeen; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2017-01-17)
      The Internet can bestow significant benefits upon those who use it. The prima facie case for an urban-rural digital divide is widely acknowledged, but detailed accounts of the spatial patterns of digital communications infrastructure are rarely reported. In this paper we present original analysis of data published by the UK telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, and identify and reflect on the entrenched nature of the urban-rural digital divide in Great Britain. Drawing upon illustrative case vignettes we demonstrate the implications of digital exclusion for personal and business lives in rural, and in particular remote rural, areas. The ability of the current UK policy context to effectively address the urban-rural digital divide is reviewed and scenarios for improving digital connectivity amongst the ‘final few’, including community-led broadband, satellite broadband and mobile broadband, are considered. A call is made for digital future proofing in telecommunications policy, without which the already faster urban areas will get ‘faster, fastest’ leaving rural areas behind and an increasingly entrenched urban-rural divide.
    • The efficacy of appropriate paper-based technology for Kenyan children with cerebral palsy

      Barton, Catherine; Buckley, John; Samia, Pauline; Williams, Fiona; Taylor, Suzan; Rachel, Lindoewood; Powys Teaching Health Board; University of Chester; Aga Khan University, Kenya
      Purpose: Appropriate paper-based technology (APT) is used to provide postural support for children with cerebral palsy (CP) in low-resourced settings. This pilot study aimed to evaluate the impact of APT on the children’s and families’ lives. Materials and methods: A convenience sample of children with CP and their families participated. Inclusion was based on the Gross Motor Function Classification System levels IV and V. APT seating or standing frames were provided for six months. A mixed methods impact of APT devices on the children and families included the Family Impact Assistive Technology Scale for Adaptive Seating (FIATS-AS); the Child Engagement in Daily Life (CEDL) questionnaire; and a qualitative assessment from diary/log and semi-structured interviews. Results: Ten children (median 3 years, range 9 months to 7 years). Baseline to follow-up median (IQR) FIATS-AS were: 22.7 (9.3) and 30.3 (10.2), respectively (p=.002). Similarly mean (SD) CEDL scores for “frequency” changed from 30.5 (13.2) to 42.08 (5.96) (p=.021) and children’s enjoyment scores from 2.23 (0.93) to 2.91 (0.79) (p=.019). CEDL questionnaire for self-care was not discriminatory; seven families scored zero at both baseline and 6 months. Qualitative interviews revealed three key findings; that APT improved functional ability, involvement/interaction in daily-life situations, and a reduced family burden of care. Conclusions: APT devices used in Kenyan children with non-ambulant CP had a meaningful positive effect on both the children’s and their families’ lives.
    • Healthy Ageing in Smart Villages? Observations from the Field

      Philip, Lorna; Williams, Fiona; University of Aberdeen; University of Chester (Sciendo, De Gruyter, 2019-12-30)
      In the context of demographically ageing communities across rural Europe Smart Villages have considerable potential to promote ageing healthy. Whilst in principle supporting healthy ageing in the context of the Smart Village might appear a relatively straightforward endeavour, in operational terms, successful development of smart, 21st century villages relies upon, and sometimes assumes, an appropriate interplay of socio-technological factors. Articulated through a lens provided by the digital ecosystem model advocated by the European Network for Rural Development (2018), this paper offers some observations from the field. We acknowledge the challenges faced by remote rural places in their journey to become ‘smart places’ and identify formal and informal interventions that could better position rural communities to become part of a wider, smart society.
    • ‘It’s revolutionised how we do things’: then and now - a case study of Internet behaviours in a remote rural community

      Williams, Fiona; Farrington, John; Philip, Lorna; University of Aberdeen (James Hutton Institute, 2015-08-31)
      The Digital Economy has opened up new opportunities for societal wellbeing across many domains of life. However, the market dependency of the landscape of connection has resulted in communities which have inadequate broadband infrastructure and are off the digital map. This form of digital exclusion is most notable in remote, rural areas. In this paper we draw upon the Rural Public Access WiFi Service research study that is focused upon enabling Internet connectivity for commercially ‘hard to reach’ rural areas in the UK. Enabling broadband connectivity to those who were previously unable to access the Internet demonstrates benefits, which translate into the positive role that improved digital connectivity can have on the wellbeing of individuals and remote rural communities at large.
    • Remote rural home based businesses and digital inequalities: Understanding needs and expectations in a digitally underserved community

      Philip, Lorna; Williams, Fiona; University of Aberdeen; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2018-10-09)
      The digital economy offers home based micro-businesses in rural areas many advantages but stubborn social, economic and territorial digital divides continue to create challenges for this sector of the rural economy. Complex digital inequalities are illustrated in our case studies of the digital behaviour and Internet experiences of those running micro, home based businesses in a remote, digitally underserved rural community before, during and after the deployment of broadband technology. Findings draw attention to the role and importance of fit-for-purpose broadband in promoting digital inclusion for individuals, households and small, home based businesses: in a fast changing digital national and global economy remote rural home based micro-businesses are at risk of being left behind.
    • Striking a professional balance: interactions between nurses and their older rural patients

      Corbett, Sophie; Williams, Fiona; University of Aberdeen (Mark Allen Publishers, 2014-04-07)
      Close relationships between older adults and their health-care professionals in community settings can enhance wellbeing and support positive health in older age. In rural areas, health-care workers may know their patients socially as well as professionally, and roles are mediated. This article reports the findings from 16 qualitative interviews with older adults and health and social care professionals in rural areas of Wales. The study found that the sharing of non-clinical information in rural home-care situations is both likely and desirable, supporting the sense of social connectedness experienced by the older adult, contributing towards the development of the nurse/carer–client relationship and improving older adult wellbeing. However, it is recognised that there is potential for boundaries to become blurred and, in some situations, nurses and carers may need support to negotiate the divide between appropriate and inappropriate disclosure while maintaining a close relationship with the older adult.