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Implications of the digital divide on rural SME resilience
Journal of Rural Studies, Volume: 89, Pages: 369 - 377
Swansea University Author: Robert Bowen
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This paper examines the implications of the ‘digital divide’ on the capabilities for Small and Medium Sized enterprises (SMEs) to operate in the face of challenging economic times, such as the Coronavirus pandemic. Previous research has shown that rural businesses, especially SMEs, are more impacted...
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This paper examines the implications of the ‘digital divide’ on the capabilities for Small and Medium Sized enterprises (SMEs) to operate in the face of challenging economic times, such as the Coronavirus pandemic. Previous research has shown that rural businesses, especially SMEs, are more impacted by lower levels of digital connectivity than those in urban areas, with this digital divide affecting business' entrepreneurial activity. Using data from a survey of 110 businesses in Wales, the paper investigates the barriers and opportunities associated with the accessibility of high-speed broadband services and its impact on business decisions. Findings show that digital connectivity across rural areas of Wales has improved due to infrastructure investments; however, many businesses were still without reliable digital connections. Logistic regression findings show that location and distance to urban areas are significant variables relating to satisfactory levels of digital connectivity, with the impact of these more evident in rural areas. The implications of which are reduced opportunities for businesses to pursue diversified activities, limiting the ability of these businesses to develop resilience in economically challenging times. Furthermore, the paper considers how the Coronavirus pandemic has driven many business activities online, therefore businesses with less reliable access to digital connectivity and lacking an online presence are likely to be more constrained in their ability to be resilient.
Digital divide; Business resilience; Coronavirus pandemic; Rural economy; SME
School of Management