Connectivity is central to the way we live our lives; in fact, the modern world thrives on connectivity. It influences our decisions on where we live, the jobs we have and where we socialise. There isn't a day which goes by where we don't all, in some way, connect with others or to the services we need.
But what do we mean by connectivity? The challenge in defining connectivity is that good connectivity means different things to people at different stages of their lives. A teenager living in a rural area wanting to commute to college in a nearby town will view good connectivity differently to that of a young family living in an urban area.
This challenge has led to a long-held debate on how to measure connectivity. The DfT has long established accessibility statistics which focus on access to key services, measured by journey times. But is connectivity all about journey times to services? What about connecting with our friends and family?
A lack of connectivity can have a profound effect on people's lives and can lead to social isolation and effects on health and wellbeing. Although not exclusively a rural issue, challenges around rural connectivity are often cited. We know that 34% of the Heartland's population live in small market towns and their hinterland and acknowledge this challenge in our Draft Transport Strategy, due to be published on Tuesday, July 14.
Increasingly connectivity can be achieved digitally. Take the COVID 19 pandemic as a prime example – during this time people have been heading online, with increased home working, virtual family quizzes and online retailing.
The possibilities improved digital connectivity can bring are huge, they provide an opportunity to help 'level up' the region, reducing barriers of poor physical connectivity. Equally, future generations are likely to see the world in a different light – used to living their lives online, connecting through an online device is second nature.
However, that is not to say that we should forget physical connectivity and investment in the transport infrastructure and services – there are certainly people who much prefer to connect with people and services in person rather than online. The idea of putting the user at the heart of our work is central to our Transport Strategy and that means making connectivity work for everyone, whether we choose to leave the house to connect with people or not……..