Smart Rural Leadership

Whilst there is substantial research and focus on the benefits of smart cities and the technological solutions that the future can provide; there is no clear strategy for smart rural. Indeed there is evidence that the future may become divided between the urban haves and rural have-nots. Smart here means technology enabled living eg meters, apps, travel etc through to Industry4.0.

It covers the opportunities available from enabling the digitally-based world from economic development to accessing public services. But without a joined up integrated approach, it will be difficult to derive clear benefits from the solutions available. For example smart cars will require an external infrastructure to operate safely while accessing patient information will require ubiquitous network access.

Research into publicly available material, shows few rural areas tackling the Smart issue. This provides an opportunity for the District to lead through the sharing of results. This then increases the profile of Forest. We are a place that balances technological advance with the practical rural needs, whilst preserving the landscape in which we live.

Issues Identified and Addressed

  1. Lack of readily available information on best practice for rural areas as opposed to isolated projects solving a single issue eg lack of broadband for area X. This contrasts with the volume of research and publication around smart cities and the internet of things future.
  2. Perception among economic planners that rural equals food-producing and tourism; failing to recognize the already significant proportion of businesses and manufacturing in rural areas.
  3. The District is on a significant journey digitally. By promoting that journey and sharing the experience, there is the opportunity to attract the investment needed to deliver the vision that the District wants. Fastershire has delivered the basic fibre infrastructure to those areas where it was seen to be lacking and is left with a few geographical pockets to be tackled through the Gigaclear phase. This is positive investment to solve a current problem where areas have fallen behind. The vision is to prevent the need for catch-up projects by pragmatic leading.
  4. An original ambition for all sub-groups was to project a vision through to 2050. In technology the longest timeframe could be 10 years given the speed of change. 4G was trialed in 2009 in Scandinavia, and then in 2012 in the UK before being launched by most operators in 2013/14. It is now presumed to be available in 90% of the UK so the focus is shifting to 5G. Too bad for the 10% without which are typically rural areas.
  5. Economic justification for network rollouts for rural areas are significantly different to urban. There are major differences between deliberate not-spots and can’t be bothered to resolve spots as too few users. There should also be a difference in expectation eg rural may not be as fast as urban but is fast enough for most needs with built in resilience.


The objectives of the project are focused on developing and sharing knowledge and raising the profile of the Forest of Dean as a place to test and trial technology sensitively and pragmatically. This will be achieved through:

  • Research Papers through partnership arrangements with appropriate organisations.
  • Case Studies arising from delivery of projects or in their preparation such as Overcoming Digital Connection Issues within the Forest of Dean;
  • Promotion undertaken by sub-group members and consultations feedback.

We aim to:

  1. Become known as the rural area that is leading on the pragmatic applications of the smart economy to determine best practice that brings real benefit and reduced negative impacts. To achieve this in Gloucestershire in 2021, regionally 2022, nationally 2023 and internationally 2024.
  2. Produce appropriate case studies and conference papers from all projects undertaken by FEP that relate to the Smart Economy. Outputs to be uploaded to FEP website and shared socially. 3 case studies 2020.
  3. Establish strong relationships with local university partners and research institutes. 2 funded project partnerships pa from 2021.