August 27, 2014
Electric city goes digital
One hundred years ago, the village of Brora in Sutherland achieved national recognition as the first place in the north of Scotland to have electric lighting for its homes, businesses and street lighting. For its innovative work in harnessing the potential of the latest technology, Brora became known as Electric City. These pioneering traditions in extracting local advantage from emerging new technologies have recently resurfaced with a local group endeavouring to turn their small village into a digital gateway for tourists and locals alike.
Brora is set to become a digital gateway for tourists and locals, as part of a community broadband pilot project being supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
An open access WiFi zone is scheduled to go live in the centre of the village by the end of the month.
It isn’t the first time the village has been a pioneer of technology. It was nicknamed the ‘Electric City’, when in 1913 it became the first place in the North to have electric home, business and street lighting.
Members of Brora and District Action Group (BaDAG), a registered charity, have developed the project which will create the public hotspot, to benefit local businesses and visitors.
The WiFi innovation is intended to boost local business by encouraging more visitors to stop in the village public areas and visit local retail and other premises. A high speed router and antennas have been installed by Edinburgh based firm Inkspot Wifi to provide the service, which will be linked to a leased BT line.
Public access will be free for an initial set time and for limited data download, with charges following for further use.
Tony Gill, chairman of BaDAG commented: “The enormous popularity of smart phones and tablets has created a revolution in communications. Ease of access is increasingly important – and expected – in identifying what is available in a local area. This project will attract people to the village centre and ensure retail, hospitality, service, visitor attractions and leisure providers are quickly on their radar.”
HIE is funding the project for three years at a total cost of just over £40,000. It is expected that annual costs will be covered by revenue generated – this revenue being ring-fenced to lengthen the life of the project beyond HIE support.
Peter Guthrie, HIE’s head of strengthening communities for the area, said: “This pilot project forms part of a three year community project plan in Brora focused on infrastructure and services. The project will put the village of Brora on the digital map, attracting visitors, raising local revenue and in the future providing the opportunity for the local development trust to operate the project as a social enterprise.”
Highland Council’s Leader of the Caithness and Sutherland Area, Councillor Deirdre Mackay said: “East Sutherland and Edderton Ward members were delighted to provide support for the preliminary surveys for this excellent community partnership project from our Ward discretionary fund. This is a first rate example of partnership working which will benefit locals, industry and visitors alike.”
The Albyn Community Fund has also assisted with signage in the village to alert visitors to the service.