Fast broadband is a key service for many digital technologies and is a prerequisite for using on-line material, access to business-critical resources, including government services, to interactive and on-demand TV and a wide range of applications that demand high quality video.
Despite government and private sector initiatives to increase broadband deployment, many rural people remain beyond the reach of high speed technologies. These communities run the risk of becoming isolated from the emerging digital economy.
SIRA seeks to understand the social, economic and technological opportunities presented by fast broadband, and to explore satellite technologies that can enable access across the whole of the UK. A series of case studies is identifying challenges and the perceived benefits for rural stakeholders. Examples include a rural business with aspirations to radically expand its use of digital technologies, or a social enterprise or civil society organisation seeking to improve its effectiveness through enhanced connectivity. SIRA is supplying 5 locations with advanced satellite access for a 2 year period to enable in-depth analysis of the impact of high speed broadband.
Our social research will also include community outreach projects and analyse the impact of broadband on social and economic on rural communities. We will seek answers to important questions such as: To what extent do people's use of digital technology change after access to fast broadband? Can a flexible service offer greater valuable for people? What is the impact of fast broadband on customer business plans? Can broadband enhance a communities' social inclusion?
Informed by the case studies and socio-economic research, our technology research strand is engineering new techniques to increase an adaptability of the broadband service. This activity is already contributing to the next generation of satellite standards, ensuring that our expertise and new methods can influence evolution of rural broadband services.
For futher work into exploring ways rural communities can be connected to the wider world using Large Format Video over limited links, see the SIRA STREAMS project.