The Loddon Eye, WiSpire and Addiply receive backing to make Loddon and Chedgrave “one of the most digitally enabled rural communities in the UK“.
By BEN OLIVE
Excuse me while The Loddon Eye blows it’s own trumpet a little here but there is a very exciting announcement to be made. I have been working with WiSpire and Addiply on the early stages of an innovative digital project and today we are incredibly pleased to announce that we have been awarded funding by NESTA that will move initial plans towards an exciting reality.
The project, under the working title of #21VC, will bring high speed internet connectivity to the centre of Loddon and Chedgrave via a local news and views platform (this website) whilst also providing niche local advertising for businesses and events in the nearby Norfolk area.
#21VC, short for “21st Village Correspondent”, reflects the changing way in which online media and local news are a growing part of rural communities and brings together WiSpire, Addiply and The Loddon Eye to create a digitally enabled Norfolk town.
WiSpire is a joint venture between the Diocese in Norwich and FreeClix and aims to use parish churches to deliver high speed reliable wireless broadband internet access to local communities. The Loddon Eye will provide a ‘doorway’ to this high speed internet and make use of the improved connectivity to deliver relevant hyperlocal news and opinions for Loddon and the surrounding area.
Underpinning the project will be Addiply, a bespoke advertising service designed especially for hyperlocal community websites that will provide a flexible and efficient way for South Norfolk’s businesses to advertise to a highly relevant local market.
NESTA’s Destination Local programme was set up to “understand and stimulate the development” of hyperlocal media with regards to the “potential economic and social opportunities associated with it”. Today ten applicants, from a possible 165, have been awarded funding to “develop and test prototype services for the next generation of hyperlocal media”. #21VC and Loddon Eye are very proud to be one of those successful projects.
Rick Waghorn, Ceo and co-founder of Addiply and key driving force behind the #21VC project, says he is “delighted for everyone in the community”…
“To win the backing of both the Parish Council and the Loddon and District Business Association in double-quick time made a real difference – as did the support of Willi Stewart and the Holy Trinity PCC. It was a real team effort and in the face of 165 other entries from across the UK, it is something to be a little bit proud of that we were deemed to be one of the top ten.
“Hopefully, now with this funding and this opportunity – coupled with the friends and the contacts you make in this small, hyperlocal world of ours – we can now make Loddon and Chedgrave one of the most digitally enabled rural communities in the UK.”
The concept of the project can be a complex one to grasp but Rick explains that at it’s roots it is an extended version of the wifi hotspot you find in many public places… “If anyone’s ever sat in, say, a Starbucks coffee shop with their mobile phone or their iPad or their lap-top and been offered the chance to ‘sign in!’ to the free wifi – that’s what we’re going to build. Only for the two communities, not just for one coffee shop. A portal is the fancy term but think of it as a doorway. A doorway that leads to the web connectivity that will be piping into the tower of Holy Trinity via their WiSpire programme. And around that doorway we will re-route content from Ben’s Loddon Eye, the content and advertising from the parish magazine, as well as from other local sites, community groups and schools.
“In this way, we can hopefully build a sustainable, web-based news and information ‘portal’ for the villages. It will, I hope, prove to be a show home for some of the best digital and mobile applications out there right now – that should then prove of huge benefit to every sector of the community. In particular, the kids. There is a digital revolution afoot; with luck, a little bit of hard work and now this NESTA funding, we can ensure that our kids are at the very forefront of that revolution – and not left to watch it from the rural sidelines.”
The project is in it’s early days but NESTA’s funding announcement is been a pivotal stepping stone. From here we will be working to build something innovative and original that will put Loddon and Chedgrave on a map for some spectacular reasons. It is an opportunity to mark the area out as a beacon of digital connectivity and modern day community action in a way that is not being replicated anywhere else in the country, possibly even the world. That’s just a little bit exciting – I hope you’ll agree.
The hard work continues from here…