Topic: Digital policies and emerging forms of inclusion and exclusion – the Swedish case
Keywords: Broad band, digitalization, policy, exclusion, inclusion,
This paper addresses the emerging rural-rural divide in broad band infrastructure and its effects on processes of rural digitalization and perceptions of social inclusion and exclusion. As the urban-rural digital divide being addressed politically the frontiers of high speed broad band moves and the digital divide is being reshaped, a rural-rural divide emerge. This paper addresses the case of Sweden. Swedish governments on both the left and the right side of the political spectrum has since 2010 presented high speed broad band delivery as a key priority of Swedish rural policy. The national government has set ambitious goals regarding next generation high speed broad band coverage and allocated a significant share of available EU funds for regional development and rural development as well as national resources to support broad band delivery in rural areas. This paper builds on the national evaluation of rural high speed broad band expansion jointly commissioned by the two state agencies responsible for financial support for broad band delivery in sparsely populated areas. In this project, started in 2017 and being finalized this year, we have conduced around 100 semi-structured interviews during research visits in four Swedish regions complemented with a telephone survey and econometric analysis based on available statistics. Our material covers a range of possible effects of the new infrastructure such as business opportunities, welfare service delivery, effects on employment, as well as changing work practices and emergingnforms of spatial integration mediated through digitalization. The present national government strategies are being translated differently into practice in different parts of the country and drawing on this we discuss the effects of establishing inclusive broad band networks in some rural regions in comparison with patchy and discriminatory broad band networks in other parts of the country. At the same time as the urban-rural divide are being addressed new forms of divides are emerging.