Voluntary groups urged to join Norfolk’s broadband campaign

Norfolk's voluntary groups say they could be more effective and efficient if the whole of the county had better broadband access.

A raft of slow spots and not spots prevent organisations being able to use internet to contact their members, volunteers and the people who rely on their services.

But a successful bid to secure millions of pounds in government funding, being put together by Norfolk County Council, Shaping Norfolk's Future and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, could give everyone access to speeds of at least 2Mbps.

Jon Clemo, chief executive of independent charity Norfolk Rural Community Council, said voluntary groups were capable of utilising the internet in exactly the same way as businesses but, with great swathes of the county struggling with super-slow speeds, they could not make the most of it.

Mr Clemo, who thinks home working would help cut costs, said: 'If you don't have the infrastructure in place, you can't have any of those things.'

At the moment, the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People contacts a third of its members to update them on its service and offer support by email.

But while some people choose not to use the internet, many others have no choice because they do not have broadband access. It means the group still spends a lot of money posting out large numbers of letters.

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A poor signal, even at its main office in Framingham Pigot, just outside Norwich, also stops it making the most of video conferencing to cut down on travel costs.

Spokesman Carl Grint said improved broadband access would allow the organisation to do more with funding it receives through county council contracts. He said: 'Better broadband is never going to solve everything, but it could enable organisations to maybe be more effective and efficient in the way they do things.'

Hilary MacDonald, chief executive of Age UK Norfolk which has outreach workers, staff and volunteers across the county, said: 'Better broadband would benefit Age UK Norfolk by speeding up communication between people working within the organisation and this would have a positive impact on our service users. It would also enable us to make savings on communication costs, freeing up money to spend on our other services.'

Last night county council leader Derrick Murphy urged Norfolk's voluntary groups to join the Broadband: Back the Bid campaign. He said the sector was vital to the county's economy and community spirit, and added: 'Better broadband would not only support existing groups with poor access and allow them to work more effectively but also encourage the creation of new groups, particularly in rural areas, to work with their local communities.'

victoria.leggett@archant.co.uk

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