With a desire to shed some light on how the digital economy could be used to stimulate new rural businesses and the growth of existing ventures, the report follows news that the gross value added (GVA) per workforce job is lower in rural than in urban local authority areas in England. Despite 24 per cent of new business registrations in 2015/16 being made in rural areas, the GVA per worker stood at £43,900, lower than the £49,400 found in urban locales. Amazon, Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College will assess the level of digital skills and capabilities in rural areas, find out what tools and services are needed for support, determine what allows companies to relocate from urban to rural areas and highlight the business sectors emerging in rural areas most likely to gain from digital technology. Brain Wilson, chair of directors at Rural England, believes too much emphasis has been placed on the lock of connectivity rural businesses face, and that the report will look at areas where there’s a strong digital infrastructure – determining how effectively it is being used. Amazon’s UK country manager, Doug Gurr, said: “As long as you have a laptop, internet connection and a great product, you can now be local and sell global. We’ve seen thousands of rural businesses do just that through Amazon Marketplace.”
Statistics on rural businesses
88 per cent are micro businesses (up to nine staff)
Ten per cent are small businesses (ten to 49 staff)
Employ 3.5m people
24 per cent of all registered businesses in England
+1.9 per cent – expected ecommerce revenue rises over next year
According to MP Julian Sturdy, who is char of the All-Party Parliamentary Rural Business Group, rural businesses make an “essential contribution to the wider UK economy. “It is therefore essential that government and the private sector work together to support rural enterprise, and ensure that the internet and innovative technology can be used to power fast-paced growth,” he added. “I look forward to reviewing the findings of this research, and discussing ways in which government can help unlock the digital potential of our rural economy.” Rural businesses can submit views to the consultation up until 1 September.
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