The process has included several themes: community engagement, parish council meetings and one-to-one interviews. They form part of a study by Lancaster University Management School.
Professor Katy Mason says: “We develop an understanding of residents’ experiences, hopes, expectations and concerns of connectivity. We look for patterns in what people are telling us. Our findings are then fed into the MANY project, so that the technical solutions that are developed are right for the people in the community.”
Coverdale, which is known for its rural tourism, farming and racehorse training, currently copes with sporadic broadband and little mobile signal. For many, lives and livelihoods are more difficult than they should be. The pandemic has heightened this. Working from home, remote schooling and GP appointments are some of the activities that have moved online, which, for residents with digital not-spots such as those in Coverdale, has been difficult.
Leo Morris, manager of The Saddle Room inn, says: “We have had guests walk out because of the lack of connectivity – people expect it and we can’t currently offer it.” Tim Brown, a local farmer from Agglethorpe, says: “DEFRA assume our systems are online. For example, updating records whilst out or registering cattle after their birth, we can’t upload there and then. If we had fast connections, we could. However, we also struggle with unreliable broadband, which has been known to go down for weeks; therefore we can’t even take the information home and upload it.”