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Framlingham Digital Towns Pilot

18 July 2019

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Work to get Framlingham connected starts, as the historic and picturesque town has been chosen to pilot a hi-tech new scheme to help people access the internet and make use of digital technology. 
The ‘Framlingham Digital Towns Pilot’, which is the first project to go ahead in the scheme in a partnership led by Framlingham Town Council, Framlingham Business Association and East Suffolk Council.
This will make Framlingham the first of what could be a long line of towns in East Suffolk to receive free wifi, along with a whole host of other digital and technological solutions. 
Cllr Phil Collins, Framlingham Town Council Chairman, said “As a Council we are delighted to be part of this initiative. We are looking forward to the benefits free WiFi will bring to the town. Residents, visitors and businesses will all see the advantages of the a scheme that covers a large part of the town centre.”
Victoria Perkins, Chairwoman at the Framlingham Business Association, said: “We’re looking forward to launching the Free Fram WiFi and other digital initiatives. This opportunity will encourage visitors to stay longer and explore everything Framlingham has to offer, which will benefit the businesses and our beautiful town in many ways.”
Cllr Stephen Burroughes, East Suffolk Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Operational Partnerships, said: “This initiative is the start of a digital revolution in East Suffolk. It will put Framlingham firmly on the map and hopefully be rolled out across other market towns in the District.
“The concept is very simple; take a small rural town in the heart of East Suffolk and explore what is possible in terms of using digital and other technology to help the town and its communities
“Work has now started to install the necessary equipment which will enable us to deliver the initiative. Once the work is completed, we will undergo a period of testing before going live later this summer.”
Dan Coombs, Regional Sales Director at ElephantWiFi, said: “ElephantWiFi were really pleased to receive the invite to quote and design a free public access solution for Framlingham Town Council which will help the local people gain internet access whilst visiting the town. ElephantWiFI started in business to help small towns keep up with technology and provide sophisticated yet affordable solutions and we are very proud to be working alongside Framlingham Town Council.
“Framlingham Town Council, Framlingham Business Association and East Suffolk Council have shown a great deal of insight and forward thinking in the way they have approached this project and we are really looking forward to seeing what the results of the pilot are. Framlingham is a small but very vibrant town that has very little 3G or 4G capability at present so we believe the WiFi will be a real boost to locals and visitors alike.”

Aims: The main aim of this initial pilot is to test the effectiveness of different digital technologies in strengthening the vibrancy of market towns.
This pilot will inform the approach we take towards using digital technology to help drive the economic development of East Suffolk.
A secondary objective is to consider and assess how such technologies can contribute to the Council’s social and health objectives.  For example, can we through the use of digital technology keep people healthy and out of hospital, find friends, make them feel less isolated and help them lead happy lives?
So What Are We Doing? Framlingham Town Council, Framlingham Business Association and East Suffolk Council have decided to install free wifi in the town centre, together with GeoSense technology (which tracks footfall) and a programme of business support - offering cashless payment facilities to a number of local businesses, as well as help to utilise the web and social media to improve sales and generate greater customer loyalty. 
Framlingham Town Council is the lead organisation for the delivery of the free wifi element.  It has contracted Elephant Wifi to build and maintain the necessary infrastructure. Elephant Wifi is a market leader in this field and has the recommendation of the Association of Town Centre Management. They have undertaken similar work for Newmarket and Norwich, amongst others.
To deliver the free wifi project an 80mb line into Framlingham Town Council offices will be installed, which will then link to a number of repeater nodes fitted to existing street furniture, such as lamp posts and buildings.
Users will be able to access 2-5mb of data. This will sufficient to cover average daily consumption, as well as those times when there are public events in the town.
The free wifi and geo sense terminals have been financed for 3 years, during which time the project team will collect evidence of its benefits as well as exploring the opportunity for the scheme to become self-sustaining in the longer term. 
While all this is happening, East Suffolk Council will work with partners to encourage the use and testing of a number of other technologies in Framlingham, across a number of different settings.  
Some of the benefits of digital technology:
  1. Residents and visitors will have easy access to free wifi. This would alleviate the need for users to log in and out of individual business offerings as they move around the town centre.People will be able to just log in once, to the free wifi, then won’t have to do it again. 
  2. Allow businesses to make this an additional offering to customers, encouraging repeat visits and people to spend more time in the area. 
  3. An opportunity for young people to participate and contribute to the well-being and vibrancy of the town centre. 
  4. Allow businesses to develop their offering, including providing personalised services and loyalty schemes. 
  5. Help to build a strong relationship between local government and businesses with a “can-do” outlook 
  6. Help businesses to appreciate the benefits of going cashless, as well as increased use of the web and social media, to assist business retention and development. 
  7. To provide better understanding of the footfall and movement patterns in towns in order to provide better targeted direct services to residents and visitors. 
  8. Provide an opportunity to test the Internet of Things (IoT) and other technology to address customer experiences in Framlingham. In addition, using the technological infrastructure to assist with possible issues such as dementia, inclusive communities. 
  9. Providing a “hothouse” for external agencies and businesses to test new processes, initiatives and technologies. 
The Digital Towns (Framlingham) project is now well on its way and has the potential to be the springboard for an exciting digital future in East Suffolk. 
Digital cities like Manchester, London, Singapore and Seoul are leading the way but it is equally important that our small rural towns are not left behind.  We need the ambition and drive to make towns like Framlingham fit for the future and ready to take full advantage of the huge benefits that technology can bring.