September 28, 2006 By Indrajit Basu, International Correspondent
Of course, aficionados of Europe's and UK's digital communities efforts may jump up to rattle names of at least a dozen local governments that are supposedly "bubbling" with pilot projects or have already successfully implemented a couple. But the impression one gets after attending the two-day brain-storming session is that the pursuit of building digital communities in UK, or even in Europe, is still mired with issues starting from technological problems to choice of appropriate business models to even skepticisms.
The gap is stark in UK considering that fact that it is at the forefront of Europe's digital communities efforts and even has articulated policies and programs in place. As they say, "if it happens in Europe it has to happen in UK first". But the fact is, barring the Westminister's wireless city project it has nothing significant to talk of just yet.
Still the driving force behind UK's digital efforts through the policy document called to "Connecting the UK: the Digital Strategy" released in April 2005 is worth noting. Riding on highest figure in the land in terms of possessing one of the most advanced and most competitive mobile phone markets in the world, and one of the most competitive broadband markets in the G7 that boasts of over 90 percent of the population with broadband services, the government has decided to adopt the power of information and communication and technology to bridge the digital divide and to change the way its people work, live and play.
The Government is even putting money where its mouth is. For instance through one of the Strategy initiatives called Digital Challenge launched in December last year, local communities were invited to create a world class exemplar of a "wired up community". Eighteen regional winners were chosen from 79 entries, and on July 12 at a ceremony in London 10 finalists were given
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.