Digital Village Halls?

In which I provide some feedback to the UK government on their Digital Britain report: a place to build and democratise access to the internet.

From ‘two birds with one stone’ part of my brain, I’ve come up with an idea for the government that will head off complaints that Post Offices are being closed all over the country and get rural areas connected to the rest of the world.

Lord Carter, the UK Government minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting recently presented the interim version of his “Digital Britain” report. He talked about it this morning. Here’s the blurb on what he has to say:

In his first major speech since the publication of the interim “Digital Britain” report, Lord Carter outlines how he believes industry and government can work together to put the UK at the forefront of the global digital economy. Lord Carter discusses the implications and recommendations of the report, and focus in particular on how to deliver the infrastructure for next generation networks and universal access to broadband.

You should have a listen, it’s great to hear how informal, yet informed a member of government minster can be.

The headline summaries of the report usually mentioned his suggestion that it would be a good idea of everyone in the UK to access to at least 2Mbps broadband connections in the next few years. Most people think that this is woefully unambitious.

My idea is to create an intermediate sort of nation-wide access until the infrastructure can reach every home: a Digital Village Hall for every community in the country. Imagine a small building with a large room and a few meeting rooms where local people will be able to share a 2Gbps connection to the rest of the world. This would be where the community would meet, be educated, where retired people could care for toddlers, where people would get access to government (post office-type) services.

It is a great deal easier keeping a single link to well set-up computers in a single location than dealing with sorting out access for hundreds of households.

The large room could be used to link communities together via conferencing technology during the day, or as a place for youth groups to meet in the evening. Smaller rooms could be used by people needing private access to the net, or for digitally connected meetings. Corporations who value employees with a good work-life balance would benefit from an intermittently connected workforce.

Imagine what a single very fast connection, three or four well-trained members of staff and the correct good value equipment in a few rooms would be able to do to keep children, freelancers, home workers, retired people connected and involved with the rest of the country and the world! I think that older people would be much more confident on dealing with the government through the web if they were led through it by a considerate human being.

Remember that Village Hall is a kind of branding, there’s no reason why these Halls couldn’t be set up throughout urban Britain too. It will also make sure that people still leave their homes and get out to meet other members of their ‘village’, wherever it is in the UK.

The Digital Village Hall is the place to introduce us all to the future of the internet and Digital Government.

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1 comment
  1. We have one already! It is a great facility and well used. We provide 4 computers and free broadband access. The community love it, farmers come down from the fells to use it as they have no broadband where they live. The kids meet up there after school, and retired people pop in to check mail and look up information. I think your idea of all village halls having this facility is a good one and should be supported.

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