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Narrowing the digital divide

Rural micro businesses ‘need urgent action on broadband’
Narrowing the digital divide

The government ‘should double-down on its roll-out of broadband to rural areas to boost innovation and narrow the digital divide’, according to IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed.

Self-employment in rural areas

IPSE was responding to the release of the government’s ‘Evaluation of the Economic Impact and Public Value of the Superfast Broadband Programme’.

Jordan Marshall, IPSE policy development manager, said the report ‘shows the government’s long-overdue investment in regional broadband is starting to bear fruit.’

But Jordan added that of the UK’s 4.8 million self-employed workers, twice as many work in rural areas as in urban areas, and too many still don’t have access to a decent broadband connection.

‘Our smallest businesses – self-employed, independent professionals – are dependent on fast, reliable broadband in order to operate, particularly as more people are choosing to work from home’, Jordan said.

Flexible work and the UK economy

Poor connectivity can hinder productivity, and act as a deterrent for individuals who might otherwise consider starting their own self-employed business.

Inadequate broadband could also make it difficult for business owners in remote locations to submit their tax returns, following the government’s roll-out of ‘Making Tax Digital.’

‘Business is becoming increasingly digitised, and we risk leaving people behind if the pace of the roll-out slows’, Jordan said. ‘In the post-Brexit landscape, the flexible labour market will be vital to the success of the UK economy. Superfast broadband for rural micro businesses therefore must not be overlooked on the grounds of cost.’

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