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Why bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas will be key to digital transformation

How technology and innovation are helping to generate new opportunities for remote communities



At its most basic level, the technology that a business uses for its everyday running is there to make things easier, quicker, safer, more productive. The internet and this century’s various iterations of faster and more agile business tech have proven revolutionary in this regard.

But what happens when these innovations are distributed unevenly – or simply not available at all?

For businesses, governments, and other private and public organisations pursuing digital transformation – and the CIOs steering that transformation – a lack of connectivity can present a huge barrier to this process.

In the UK, as in many countries worldwide, there is a stark divide between urban and rural areas when it comes to connectivity and network infrastructure.

This places limitations on organisations looking to connect remote sites and IoT assets, or to attract the best talent with flexible working options. It presents a significant hurdle for the many businesses dependent on online sales, service delivery, SaaS applications, or mobile staff working in the field.

The issue of the digital divide isn’t one that’s going to be solved by any single organisation or sole, trailblazing CIO, however.

Cisco’s 5G RuralFirst project – a collaborative effort, along with partners from industry, academia, and government – aims to close the gap between the haves and have nots of connectivity.

By experimenting with state-of-the art solutions, such as LiFi and 5G spectrum sharing, the project aims to prove the value of technology in generating new opportunities for the people and communities in these remote areas. Ultimately, it aims to prove the genuine commercial value of extending fast, consistent connectivity to some of the hardest-to-reach places in the world.

For MACRO, Cisco’s innovation podcast, we spoke with the innovators involved in the project to find out more…