Making a ‘Place’ for ICTs in Rural Communities The role of village halls in digital inclusion
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In this paper we look at how ICTs can become integrated into the workings of rural communities; how they might find their place - both metaphorically in terms of the sense of community, and literally as a particular space. This is set in the context of challenges rural villages face, particularly around social, economic and geographic marginalization and whether access to digital infrastructure can help to contribute to more socially and digitally inclusive communities. We describe the results of a study of rural villages in Cornwall, UK, a region characterized by rural deprivation, which has recently been part of a programme bringing superfast broadband to the region. The study aimed to understand the role of ICTs in rural villages, and the mechanisms for digital infrastructure to be transformational at a local level. In particular, we focus on the role of the rural village hall to provide a resource for supporting digital inclusion, and to be a 'place' for the integration of digital skills and resources into the community. We used methods such as interviews, focus groups and surveys undertaken within the village settings and a case study of one village hall that has become a digital hub. In discussion we reflect on the need for ICT policy to recognize the role of the 'place' in digital inclusion that is relevant the particular characteristics of rural communities.
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