The amazing connectivity in Ambridge

Rural Broadband Meeting, Digby, Lincolnshire

Those of us who know anything about Broadband in Britain’s rural areas know how difficult it can be in the vast majority of such areas to get any kind of connectivity. This is why some of us have been so exercised about the growing number of stories in BBC Radio 4’s long-running serial “The Archers” about the use of computers and social media. I think the intention behind these stories is to be welcomed, as a demonstration that such issues are featuring in the mainstream more and more. However, what doesn’t ring true, is that nobody in Ambridge seems to have any connectivity issues. We have had lots of stories recently about community members using Skype to talk to relatives in far off places, and they have been using the video function, which, we know just won’t work over many rural connections.

Now, there ARE rural communities in the UK which have good connectivity, but these, almost exclusively, are areas which have not sat on their backsides waiting for BT or someone else to decide to upgrade them, they have gone out and done something themselves about the situation. Such communities include Wray in Lancashire, and Asby de la Launde in Lincolnshire, which is the UK’s first 100Mbs Fibre to the Home rural village. ¬†There have been no such stories in Ambridge, it would be great if there were, as an inspiration and signpost to other rural communities. So, the question remains, how does this particular rural community get such great connectivity?

Now, apparently, Ambridge is also in an area of great 3G mobile coverage, as we learn that Elizabeth Pargetter has bought her daughter a Christmas present of a phone with internet and “all the bell and whistles”. Is Lilly Pargetter destined to berate her mother for buying her an expensive brick, which won’t work in her home and surrounding areas, or are we to get a story about the another aspect of Ambridge’s fortunate position in contrast to most of its rural counterparts. Is it the one rural village with a proper 3G signal that would allow a mobile phone to connect to the internet?

Guy Jarvis of NextGenUs talks about installing fast broadband in rural Lincolnshire

Community Development and “Nudge Theory”

This post is a quick response to a recent post by Mike Chitty, 32 (Tentative) Beliefs About Community Development.

As usual, I agree with 95% of what Mike says. Actually, that’s not usual, nearly all the time I agree with everything Mike says. This time, however, I depart slightly from Mike’s point of view, or at least I think I do.

You see, Mike argues, very persuasively, that community development only works if people are allowed to identify their own self-interests and that what produces collective social progress is when people with similar and compatible self-interests find each other and work together to achieve change (at least this is what I think Mike believes, I hope this very brief summary doesn’t distort it).

I couldn’t agree more with this, but it does beg the question, how do you encourage the process to start? In an ideal world, everybody would understand where their self interest lies and would know how to find others with like minds. But, it is obviously not like this, so how far do you go to encourage it to start, and where is the line between encouragement and corralling people to follow visions that bear no relations to their lives. The latter is where most community development and regeneration has ended up, producing one of two results. Either all the poor people are displaced from an area and are replaced with those with the resources to live in the regenerated landscape, or nothing changes except for a few new shiny buildings and jobs for outsiders.

So, the self-interest approach has to be better. But, what about the argument that poor communities are a drag on the resources of the taxpayer, and that it is therefore in all of our interests to “nudge” them towards regeneration. Can we get this right?