Can broadband access rescue the rural economy?

  • Galloway L
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Purpose – Government is promoting broadband for all, and specifically, is advocating business up-take of broadband that affords high-speed internet activity, to foster global competitiveness. Urban areas have economies of scale and the effect on price of concentration of demand. Rural areas do not, and potential broadband provision is thus problematic. The paper aims to study technology roll-out in rural areas, and provide a commentary, based on empirical work, on the potential of demand for, and use of, the service. Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws from secondary research sourced from academic papers, government and agency documents to evaluate rural broadband provision, and analyses the suitability of current “solutions”. It also draws together conclusions of various empirical and survey researches on the potential of uptake and business use of broadband. Findings – The paper questions whether broadband access in rural areas has the potential to contribute to economic development. It also identifies the limitations of current broadband technologies, concluding that, in fact, none are appropriate for rural and remote locations. The paper finds that rural businesses tend to lack propensity for growth and diversification; therefore, accessibility for rural businesses may be an issue secondary to that of lack of enterprise in many rural areas. Therefore, efforts to roll out technology to rural areas may not provide results desired or expected. Originality/value – The value of the paper lies in providing a holistic viewpoint, based on research and technology considerations, from which policy can be informed.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Broadband networks
  • Electronic commerce
  • Rural areas
  • Small enterprises

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