Digital Communities: Cities, spaces and third places

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Digital Communities are becoming essential for the competitiveness of a nation. They are connected communities, where a city-wide broadband infrastructure is provided using open standards to enable innovative services for government and public sector workers, businesses and people who live and work in the area.

The report looks at Digital Britain and the road to ubiquitous connectivity, next generation wireless for buildings and cities and intelligent municipal infrastructure. It also explores best practice for local authorities to build, support and share digital infrastructure through case studies of innovation’.

The Digital Britain Report published in June 2009, contains many aspirations that will require a joined up approach to the provision of infrastructure at a central and local government level.

Local Authorities can provide the impetus for a wideranging set of objectives for catalysing a community into action. Metropolitan networks have benefits that range from use for municipal operations, to the provision of new and innovative services as well as competitiveness and broadband penetration.

Primary drivers have included bridging the digital divide, traffic management, automated meter reading, public safety, integrated communications infrastructure, field force productivity, CCTV and security as well as e-Government initiatives.

There are a number of new and emerging technologies driving change. From fixed broadband and fibre links to wireless standards such as WiFi and WiMAX, as well as future evolutions such as LTE and 802.20, a host of enablers are available that point towards the need for a joined up and comprehensive digital strategy.

At the same time user demand is growing, fuelled by an increasing number of devices that are mobile and connect wirelessly, from potable technologies to fixed infrastructure. At the same time, the rise of mobile working, together with cloud computing and software as a service, is creating a demand for always on, synchronous services.

Enabling a digital community will be a pre-requisite for any commercial and competitive town, city or region. Many have taken first steps, and case studies are presented from major conurbations to rural communities. The digital challenge is a real one.

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