Mobile technology research to revolutionise the rural enterprise
Researchers at Swansea University’s Future Interaction Technology Laboratory (FIT Lab) are to explore how digital technologies can promote rural enterprises in Wales and India.
The research team, led by the Head of the Computer Science Department Professor Matt Jones, will be supported by a grant of more than £400K through the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide (BURD) programme.
The work will build on the Swansea team’s previous work in the areas of mobile interaction design and computer science for rural communities.
The research will be carried out in collaboration with the Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub and the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham, the Centre for Technology and Development in Delhi, IIT Bombay, IBM Research Laboratory in India and other industrial research partners. The Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub leads the overall project, which has been awarded a total RCUK grant of £1.26M.
The three-year project will work closely with local communities in both Wales and India to exploit mobile technologies in order to empower rural enterprises and create both social and economic opportunities in these regions.
“Wales is known both for its high quality food products and for its academic research record in the field of Rural Computing, and this winning combination will lead to a real world impact on local welsh communities,” said Dr Alan Chamberlain of Nottingham’s Mixed Reality Lab, based in the area and who will link the project team with the localities it will serve.
Although a world apart, organic food producers in Ceredigion in west Wales and non-edible oil producers in Uttarakhand in the foothills of the Himalayas both increasingly struggle to get a fair price for the goods they produce.
One reason for this is that these communities lack the scale to maximise their position in an increasingly global market place.
Mobile technologies have already allowed rural communities across the world greater access to information and expertise allowing communities to create new local enterprises.
The next challenge is helping these communities exploit these technologies to coordinate their activities in order to scale up the levels of production and compete on an equal playing field with urban enterprises.
Professor Matt Jones of Swansea University’s FIT Lab said: “Technologies are often designed with a focus on urban, affluent, computer-savvy users who are surrounded by a rich, robust technical infrastructure.
“Rural communities bring lots of challenges – how do we support people who cannot easily get access to a computer? What about locations with limited network availability and power supplies? And, how do you provide efficient and effective systems where users have lower computer and textual literacies as in the foothills of the Himalayas?
“Computer Scientists at Swansea University are passionate about helping to shape a future where technology benefits all. We are delighted to be working on this adventurous, ambitious project with world leading academic and industrial partners.”
For more information about Swansea University’s FIT Lab visit http://www.fitlab.eu/.