Today independent think tank Rural England, and academic college SRUC have launched a consultation focused on how to maximise the potential of the internet and technology to boost the digital economy across the UK and level the urban-rural divide.

We commissioned this report to get a stronger understanding of how to grow the digital economy in rural areas, including a look at digital skills, the use of innovation to grow, and what factors help businesses successfully locate from urban to rural areas.

The latest government statistics from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs show that in 2015/2016, there were 537,000 businesses registered in rural areas across England alone, and those businesses account for 24% of all registered businesses in England and employ a total of 3.5 million people. Businesses based in rural areas of England are also overwhelmingly SMEs. However, currently Gross Value Added (GVA) per workforce job is lower in rural than in urban local authority areas of England.

As such, the report will aim to provide a roadmap for driving the growth of the digital economy in rural Britain, bringing together the public and private sector to bring the rural economy into the digital age.

Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Rural Business Group, Julian Sturdy MP said: “Rural businesses make an essential contribution both to our rural communities, and to the wider UK economy, which I see every day in my constituency of York Outer. 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. 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.”

“We believe that the digital revolution can create significant growth and job opportunities for the rural economy and bridge the urban-rural divide,” added Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “We welcome and encourage rural businesses of all shapes and sizes from across rural Britain to participate in this important research project.”

Rural businesses can submit their views to the consultation until the beginning of September, with a view of the report being published by the end of this year.

For more information, click here.

The complete the consultation survey, click here.