Amazon has teamed up with think tanks in the UK to try and understand how rural businesses across the nation can make better use of the internet.
The Seattle-headquartered ecommerce giant launched a consultation on Monday with Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College. Businesses of all sizes are being invited to respond between now and September.
Amazon said businesses’ responses will be used to help inform new research on how to grow the UK’s digital economy and address the urban-rural digital divide. The responses — which will no doubt help Amazon to improve its own operations in the UK — will be analysed alongside interviews and official statistical data.
“We believe that the digital revolution can create significant growth and job opportunities for the rural economy and bridge the urban-rural divide,” said Doug Gurr, UK country manager at Amazon, in a statement.
“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. We welcome and encourage rural businesses of all shapes and sizes from across rural Britain to participate in this important research project.”
Amazon said the report, to be published by the end of the year, will also aim to understand:
- How to grow the digital economy in rural areas through e-commerce, exports and productivity gains
- The level of digital skills and capabilities in rural areas and how to further improve them
- What digital business tools and services best support rural businesses
- What enables businesses to successfully relocate from urban to rural areas
- The business sectors emerging in rural areas likely to gain most from digital technology
- The best rural locations to set up a digitally-empowered business.
Amazon added that its report will also look to provide potential policy ideas to drive the growth of the digital economy in the UK, such as improved internet speeds and a better infrastructure for deliveries.
In 2015/2016, there were 537,000 businesses registered in rural areas across England alone, according to statistics from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs that were touted by Amazon. Those businesses accounted for 25% of all registered businesses in England and employ 3.5 million people.
Brian Wilson, chair of directors at independent think tank Rural England, said in a statement: “Considerable attention has been paid to the lack of connectivity in rural parts of Britain, and whilst that remains an important issue, we will look more at areas where there’s a strong digital infrastructure and how effectively it’s being used.
“The digital economy is critical to the long term prosperity of rural areas. Our evidence-based study, working with key stakeholders and rural businesses across the country, will be the first of its kind and we look forward to understanding how to accelerate growth of the digital economy in rural areas.”