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Smart Villages enabling a digitally connected nation

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Smart Villages

Digital Scotland has now begun launching our first ‘Smart Villages’ – Check out SmartStrathyre.scot.

A few short years ago Strathyre was a tired community with Hotel closures and property for sale not selling, sometimes for several years. Surroundings also looked tired and the village lacked kerb appeal and visitors. I worked with the village found aspiration and some ambition and things improved through a series of events and local initiatives, which have turned the village around with pride restored in the community.

Live bothy-style music sessions started it off, followed by creation of the Strathyre Music Festival drawing up to 3000 into the village, a redundant toilet block was purchased and redeveloped into an award-winning and popular Broch Cafe, I formed Strathyre Outdoors to offer visitors – things to do, attracting guests from as far as the Hamptons in New York and Perth Australia. Sustrans, Scottish Government and Stirling Council funded a tarmac stretch of the National Cycle Network route 7 and this has benefitted the village with a stream of hikers and cyclists coming into the village. I helped the Village acquire 27 acres around the Village for leisure and recreational use.

Kim Proven Chair of Loch Earn Tourism Initiative worked with me as Vice Chair to create and develop a multi-award-winning “BLiSStrail” project, which uses part of the National Cycle network to showcase well-known artist exhibits. The trail links Strathyre with Balquhidder, Lochearnhead and St Fillans.

The Local BLS Community Trust has good ideas developing to sustain the village for the future. The grassroots bottom-up approach was refined into a strategy that works. The Village now looks forward to the natural progression to the next phase – a digital cloud platform to support the community for years ahead.

Connected Nations

A great context for this is Lesley Riddoch’s connected nation campaign.

In an interesting series of inspirational documentaries, Lesley Riddoch shows how communities such as the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway have thrived as successful nations. In the case of the Faroe islands with only 1% of the Scottish population and a key commodity of fish, they have achieved an amazing status as a digitally connected nation.

Iceland has 10% of the Scottish population, it is a nation of extreme volcanic conditions and faced bankruptcy in recent times. Iceland has bounced back as one of the worlds most equal and successful nations. Natural geothermal power sources have been harnessed with a positive impact on sustainability and profitability within its rugged rural environment. As has happened in Scotland, Hollywood has gone to Iceland in a big way with some blockbusting movies, attracted by its stunning natural landscape.

Norway often described as Scotland’s twin nation, with a similar population, landscape, strong cultural and heritage links and where we share the fish and oil of the North Sea, we are quite similar. Norway is the worlds most democratic nation. It has been able to build a massive wealth through its oil fund and has a thriving rural population.

Many of the positive outcomes covered in these informative videos, can provide useful learning for rural Scotland and show what can be achieved with good vision, aspiration and ambition within local development plans. The Smart Village Scotland initiative aspires to reflect a positive vision in support of rural communities to be all they can be, within a connected nation.

About Kenny Higgins

Innovative, and successful senior manager and director serving 31 years with British Telecom - first sales exec in wireless communications, head of wireless data having senior management experience within corporate, organisations, public sector and SME businesses. Multiple award winner on sales achievement and application developments.

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Kenny Higgins
Innovative, and successful senior manager and director serving 31 years with British Telecom - first sales exec in wireless communications, head of wireless data having senior management experience within corporate, organisations, public sector and SME businesses. Multiple award winner on sales achievement and application developments.

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