The SIRA project is investigating the impact of broadband connectivity for businesses in rural areas. As part of the project, we have decided to carry out case studies with a number of small rural businesses positioned in the creative industries. In these case studies, businesses will be provided with broadband connectivity via Satellite. We have chosen to focus on the creative industries for a number of reasons. Creative industries are important for rural areas – they enhance competitiveness around tourism and enrich life for rural communities. An increasingly digital climate in the Arts means that rural creative industries are disadvantaged if they cannot access broadband. Businesses positioned within the creative industries can potentially benefit greatly from broadband in terms of their activities, particularly in terms of engaging with a broad audience and publishing/publicising their audio or visual material online. The demand to upload audio and visual (images, video) materials will be interesting to study from a technical perspective – can Satellite provide the quality of service required for these activities? Finally, creative industries in rural areas are attracting increasing attention from policy makers (White, 2010).
We are working with NEOS (http://www.northeastopenstudios.co.uk/) and Woodend Barn (http://www.woodendbarn.co.uk/) who are both helping us to access a wide community of creative businesses in the North East of Scotland. The first stage of the social research within SIRA is to conduct baseline interviews with small rural businesses within the creative industries. These interviews are underway and a number of interesting stories have emerged. Example 1: a small business based jointly in Strathdon and London that record music DVDs for children – the Strathdon partner is unable to contribute effectively to the business given that many activities need to be carried out online (uploading trailers of the DVDs to Youtube, engaging with a blog and other social media, maintaining a website and reasearching the competition). Example 2: a home-based business run by an individual who both bagpipes and paints watercolours of Scottish landscapes. He feels that increasingly he needs to trade, interact with others, publicise and publish his work online. His competitors are already doing so and are benefiting by taking much of the trade.
Businesses such as these will be provided with Satellite broadband and studied over 2 years in order to explore the impacts that broadband has for their business activities and growth. How do these businesses incorporate broadband into their work? How might it enhance or even detract from their business activities? To what extent can broadband be said to be crucial for the creative industries in rural areas?