Digital Scotland launches 'Smart Village' platform
Digital Scotland, a business network supporting the Scottish Government's ambition of building a world-leading digital nation, has launched the first 'Smart Village' platform for equipping Scotland's rural communities with the same technologies enjoyed by large cities.
Smart Village Scotland will provide small towns and rural villages with their own online services and digital tourism portals so that they can better showcase themselves to a global visitor audience, and integrate smart data feeds like weather and flooding alerts.
The first two sites: VisitLanark.com and SmartStrathyre.scot, demonstrate how the platform can be customised to the unique requirements of each town. Lanark has a uniquely powerful William Wallace history that will be promoted globally to boost visitor numbers to the town, and Stirling's Strathyre is intent on pioneering digital capabilities that enable a sustainable strategy.
Digital Scotland Founder, Neil McEvoy says "The Scottish Government's R100 goal of providing broadband across all of Scotland is only half the challenge - Small businesses also need the Cloud applications and support that will make use of this increased capacity, what Smart Villages will deliver to them as an integrated platform."
The Smart Village concept is the brainchild of Digital Scotland senior consultant Kenny Higgins, who lives in Strathyre, previously a senior manager with BT who led the nationwide adoption of wireless data services. From his own experiences of cultivating sustainable economic development in his own rural village of Strathyre, Kenny saw the opportunity and need to replicate this approach to all of Scotland's rural communities.
The rural and tourism development actions initiated by Kenny working with members of Strathyre community has helped design the Smart Village strategy and the village is now moving to a digital platform as part of a natural progression. For Strathyre, this provides essential standard information such as weather, storm and flood alerts, road traffic conditions, links to Stirling Council services, National Park planning and advice on managing flood risk from Scottish Flood Forum. The Smart Village digital platform is then passed to the community under the control of village champions with training provided to allow further enhancement. This can include local business listings, history, heritage and tourism links such as places to visit, accommodation, food and drink locations, village events, community news and any other information of value to the community or future visitors helping to boost the local economy.
Kenny stated: "Strathyre offers a good example of the positive impact that simple measures can have in providing the aspiration and ambition to create a thriving community. With Scotland facing uncertain times ahead through Brexit, there has never been a more important time to introduce a fresh, unique strategy to help safeguard the future of Scotland's 2112 rural villages and 273 towns. Kenny said, "I was inspired by the work of Lesley Riddoch and her series of smart/connected nation videos based on; the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway and this fits with the Scottish Government vision for a digitally connected nation."
With grant funding in short supply and to seek an early start on the anticipated launch of the Smart Village Scotland project, Digital Scotland has created a Crowd Funder page and welcome contributions or donations of any size.
Contributions are starting to come in, one from Yellow Pencil in Canada who responded by offering a contribution of £200 as they can see the benefits the project will bring. It is Digital Scotland's hope that the Smart Village Scotland initiative will attract further Government or other funding contributions to help them achieve their £55k target.
As confirmed by Kate Forbes Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy in her parliamentary motion of 20 November 2018, in Scotland's rural communities connected by broadband, around 52% of villages and their SME business, have yet to enjoy the benefits of digital connectivity. The Smart Village Scotland initiative directly addresses this.
Cllr Evelyn Tweed, SNP Councillor for Trossachs and Teith said “This is a fantastic initiative for Strathyre that will open up a whole new digital arena run by the community for the benefit of the community and local businesses to aid business and tourism and other services. There are ambitious plans to take the initiative forward and it would be great to see the crowd funder take off to allow early work to begin on making the vision a reality. It is wonderful to see international recognition of the project with a generous Canadian contribution already being received. It is hoped with a bit of investment that a huge amount of economic growth for our rural communities could be unlocked. I wish the project success and look forward to seeing how it progresses.”