Welsh, UK: Swansea University’s Computer Science Department and the University of Nottingham’s School of Computer Science have been awarded a GBP 365,000 grant for a two-year project from the Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme, towards a study worth nearly GBP one million. The project aims to bridge the rural divide in technology by assisting in the development of a new interactive toolkit.
The project will create community-based maps that enhance engagement with the countryside and novel data services that enable individuals to input or access digital content in the field. By developing these services with potential users of the technology, the research will provide a blueprint for broader roll-out and help to meet the needs of those who live and visit the countryside.
It is hoped that the user-led design of a “rural ubicomp toolkit” will allow people to create and share community-based maps that reflect their interests and concerns.
The project, Bridging the Rural Divide, is a collaboration between the two universities, Ordnance Survey, the Countryside Council for Wales and the RCUK Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub. It launched earlier this month and will focus on the uneven distribution of access to digital services across the UK.
Project partners will research factors contributing to the disparity between urban and rural environments and the development of digital mapping services.
Dr Alan Chamberlain, from the University of Nottingham’s Mixed Reality Lab, said: “Current digital mapping services largely focus on urban environments. Google Maps, for example, offers rich street views of urban settings, but such views of rural space are largely absent.”
Professor Matt Jones, from Swansea University’s Future Interaction Technology (FIT) Lab, said: “The Computer Science Department and the FIT Lab are well known internationally for work in human-computer interaction and this is a fantastic opportunity to apply this expertise close to home in Wales. “We will be focusing on exploring mobile devices and services that will allow people to represent the locations around them in personal and meaningful ways.”