Welsh government to spearhead digital pilots in the rural Valleys

The projects service hard to reach areas with better Wi-Fi and data mapping services

The Welsh government is developing an Uber-style community transport app to help people get to a hospital, access public Wi-Fi, and exploit enhanced data mapping in rural areas of the country's Valleys region.

The projects will be led by the Ministerial Taskforce for the South Wales Valleys as part of its Our Valleys, Our Future initiative. The scheme will look into ways to make life easier for rural communities using new technologies.

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The transport app will allow patients to book their transport on demand, so they can attend appointments at hospitals without having to rely on public transport. It will also utilise community transport provider services rather than new resources, making it a more cost-effective solution.

Community hubs will be encouraged to open up their Wi-Fi hotspots to provide always-available connectivity to the public, while the group will investigate into how it can improve services in the region using online data mapping tool Lle.

"Wales has always punched above its weight on the world stage in terms of digital innovation and the South Wales region, in particular, has a high concentration of successful digital companies, as well as university expertise in the sector," said Leader of the House and Chief Whip Julie James.

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James, who is also the Welsh Government's lead on digital infrastructure and inclusion, added that "the taskforce has a really important role to play in ensuring these successes benefit Valleys communities."

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The pilots were announced at a meeting of the Our Valleys, Our Future taskforce last week. The group also discussed how the government can work with employers to offer digital skills training to employees and other ways to promote digital activities in the region.

"South Wales has a vibrant digital sector which is growing in strength," Ann Beynon, digital lead of the Our Valleys, Our Future initiative said. "It is supported by digital skills and training plans developed by the Learning and Skills Council working with local employers and training providers and by significant government investment in digital infrastructure.  

"We are determined to tap into the wealth of knowledge available to us and to exploit that investment as we develop the vision for a future digital Valleys."

The effort follows a partnership between Scotland's Stirling Council and an ISP to service some of the country's hardest to reach areas with ultra-fast 1Gbps broadband.

Image: Shutterstock

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