- about us
A major focus of the living labs approach is in East Manchester where the City Council has formed an Urban Regeneration Company (URC): New East Manchester (NEM) Ltd. This public-private-community partnership operating on a not-for-profit basis has led the establishment of an online community network, “Eastserve”, run in partnership with local citizens’ organisations and representatives, which is linked to a city-wide initiative, the Manchester Digital Development Agency (MDDA).
The loss of heavy industry and manufacturing in East Manchester has seen its population decline from 100,000+ to less than 30,000 people. Through the MDDA, EastServe and the Intelligent Cities EU Integrated Project initiative the City aims to ensure that local people can develop the skills to participate fully in the emerging information society and to be able to take advantage of the new training and employment opportunities becoming available through the take-up of ICTs by small businesses and social enterprises. Residents prefer to use mobile phones and 25% no longer have a landline.
Thus wireless broadband connectivity was required to enable households to access the Internet and on-line services and Manchester became one of the first local authorities in the UK to be an Internet Service Provider (ISP) through its partnership with the Phone Coop Internet, which is the UK’s only mutual cooperative ISP . EastServe has become one of the largest community based all-wireless broadband networks in Europe and is UK’s largest community regeneration initiative using ICT.
East Manchester was the least connected part of the city with less than 15% of residents having dial-up Internet access in 2003, when other parts of the city had already reached more than 50%, and very few parts of the area had access to Cable TV or broadband. Now around 1,600 homes have (Cisco Aironet) wireless low cost ($15/month) broadband Internet connections, as well as 17 local schools, eight UK Online community access centres and 10 public access points in libraries and other centres.
EastServe.com offers email, online chat groups, and news and information tailored to East Manchester. The portal web site www.eastserve.com is designed specifically for the local community and provides access to local services and news about the area. A Residents’ Panel of “e-journalists” provide much of this content.
The EastServe site delivers information and interactive services from the City Council, national government departments, the Police and local community networks. In spite of the concentration of low incomes, unemployment and poverty in the area broadband take-up has now reached 20% compared to 15% city-wide. Over 40 per cent of residents have now had basic ICT training because of EastServe, more than double the rate of most areas in the City.
Plans are underway to expand the Eastserve network to cover 4500 homes in the area and eventual expansion to 50,000 over the next three years is also being considered in a new city wide digital inclusion initiative.
Manchester Living Lab is member of the ENoLL Council.