Wiltshire is a great place in which to live and work. Deprivation is generally low and it is a place of opportunity where high numbers work and educational attainment is good. However, we must be careful as some aspects of our life in Wiltshire could be undermined by economic, social and environmental challenges. The impact that many of these challenges will potentially have can be alleviated with technological advancement and improved online access.
Wiltshire’s population is set to increase by 12% by 2026 – around 54,800 people. This will be most significant in the older age groups placing more demand on resources in particular in public health, for example, telecare. Improved use of communications technology will mean a better quality of service for those who need it.
Wiltshire is generally considered to be relatively prosperous but pockets of deprivation do exist, including in rural areas where it tends to be dispersed and therefore less visible. Around 25% of households are likely to be non-users of the internet, particularly amongst older people and those on lower incomes. Improved access and support to utilise technology and online services will allow rural groups to participate more fully and to benefit economically through online savings and broader options for job searches.
Wiltshire is a mostly rural county meaning a large number of settlements are remote, dispersed and often have a poor legacy of telecoms infrastructure and therefore access to services and information. The majority of households in areas with poor internet speeds are those in isolated rural communities and so improvement of services will limit the impact of a decrease in rural services. The forecast demand on services, in tandem with economic pressures, highlights the need to look to local communities to provide some of the support needed themselves. The volunteering vision for Wiltshire includes an objective to ensure volunteering leads to outcomes valued by communities.
Wiltshire’s businesses are generally smaller than the regional and national averages, with approximately 87% having fewer than 10 employees (micro businesses) and 10% having 11 to 49 employees (small businesses). Keeping and attracting new businesses into Wiltshire is a vital target within the council’s business plan, which prioritises access to good connectivity.
Smaller businesses are particularly reliant upon the prevailing broadband infrastructure and available services and are also unlikely to have the resources and expertise to develop their own solutions. Through joint working initiatives, the need for superfast broadband infrastructure across the county has been highlighted as essential to ensuring all businesses can benefit from technological advances.