June 2015 saw the public announcement by Wiltshire Council of the role that Corsham’s Mansion House will play in delivering Corsham Institute’s Digital Corsham initiative, one which goes to the heart of our mission to be the UK Centre for the Digital Society.
Digital Corsham establishes in Corsham a living laboratory for digital innovation including Public Service Transformation, community engagement and media through Corsham TV and KIK Radio, and a comprehensive hub for education and research alongside the incubation, development and promotion of local digital SMEs.
While detailed planning is now well underway by Wiltshire Council to centre Digital Corsham in this inspiring community setting at the heart of the town, as part of the Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Strategic Economic Plan, Digital Corsham is already a multi-layered digital delivery, with a legacy of communication and cultural infrastructure going back at least 174 years this week!
On the surface, Corsham is a Wiltshire market town with a population of 11,000 residents, (though the Corsham Area Board encompasses 30,000 people), but it is also the place with the largest digital capacity in the UK. Digital Corsham is not a concept for the future, it is already delivering and bringing together companies, institutions and organisations alongside the community in the Corsham area, in the three vital areas of connectivity, content and activity.
Digital Corsham is already focused on Digital Infrastructure, including the work of the MOD, the Ark Data Centre Campus, Inter Route, BT, Cable and Wireless, Virgin, Cloud services through Skyscape; on Digital Enterprise through partners such as MDS Technologies and Aerian Studios and on Digital Learning with partners including Bath Spa University, Plymouth University, Pound Arts, Corsham School and the Corsham Institute Apprenticeship programme.
Corsham is the centre for ongoing Government and private investment of over £1.65bn initially in communications and more recently in a unique, private sector led, digital infrastructure;
- where more than 2% of worlds internet traffic routes through the Corsham area every day,
- where world leading work in IT and Digital is developed and delivered,
- where world wide MOD communications are led from,
- where phenomenal levels of cloud hosting and data storage are centred for UK Government and UK PLC.
However, it is also a place where this investment in connectivity has remained largely unknown, often due to the secure nature of much of the work, with the consequence that there has been little relevance to the local community and its full potential for the benefit of a wider society has yet to be realised. This is one of the roles that Digital Corsham will play.
The foundations of Corsham’s communications infrastructure can be traced back 174 years this week, to June 30th, 1841, with the opening of the Box Tunnel and the realisation of the vision of Isambard Kingdom Brunel for an intermodal transport system; the subsequent use of the Great Western Railway for Telex and Telegraph links to the Empire; the expansion of the excavated stone mines firstly for munitions storage and then shadow factories; the Cold War emergency seat of Government; exceptional levels of guaranteed power supply; the hub of UK wide and international telephone lines and connections for both civilian and military purposes.
This historic legacy of physical and analogue communications has now been developed into unparalleled levels of digital technology, encryption, computing and storage capacity and Digital Corsham will leverage this world-class infrastructure into the public sphere in a unique way to the benefit of the town, its population, to a wider digital community and the UK’s digital economy. Corsham’s Mansion House will become the front door to this digital empowerment of our society.
Welcoming the developments, Jane Scott, Leader of Wiltshire Council, commented;
“These are extremely exciting plans, which will put Corsham at the heart of the region’s digital skills, training, research and industry agenda, as well as providing the incubation space to offer small start-up businesses the opportunity to get on their feet in such inspirational surroundings”.
For Claire Alexander, Corsham Institute’s Chief Operating Officer, it’s time to engage with even more partners;
“As our plans for Digital Corsham evolve, it’s the right time for us to start conversations with sponsors at many levels, as well continuing to build links with advocates and ambassadors, who can be part of this unique and transformational digital project . We welcome all ideas, discussions and project outlines from potential partners and companies”.
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