GovTech Challenge combats rural isolation

Written by Peter Walker

Five small technology companies have been awarded up to £50,000 each under a GovTech Challenge to help tackle the problem of rural isolation and loneliness.

Box Clever Digital, Enable International, GPC Systems, The Behavioural Insights Team and Zipabout will be given 12 weeks for research and development on the feasibility of technology platforms to match the supply and demand for transport in rural areas.

The projects, focused on Monmouthshire in south-east Wales, will also look to minimise the risk of digital exclusion among older people and those in more rural areas with limited connectivity.

Up to two of them will be selected for a second phase, in which they will receive up to £500,000 each to develop their ideas over the following 12 months. The successful companies will retain all the intellectual property rights on their solutions.

Sara Jones, cabinet member for social justice and community development at Monmouthshire County Council, said: “The diversity of our landscape has its challenges, where journey times on public transport to local services can exceed two hours – that is why we are determined to address this issue to ensure people feel connected and part of the community.

“Given the importance of the small business sector to the fabric of our country, it was great to see that 65 per cent of the applications were from Welsh and UK-wide micro businesses with less than 10 employees,” she added.

The awards are part of the £20 million GovTech Catalyst Programme, launched by the Cabinet Office last November to help innovative tech firms solve public sector challenges through innovation and emerging technologies.