Information and Communication Technology was one of the cross cutting themes of Objective One. The Task Force from its inception consulted widely across sectors and published the Task Force Strategy in December 2000. The role of the Task Force was to support potential project bidders and encourage projects that met the priorities set out in the strategy document and to identify areas of the strategy that had not yet been addressed by successful projects.
Key issues for Cornwall such as access to broadband and business
support to promote ebusiness have been addressed by the actnow project bringing ADSL to telephone exchanges throughout Cornwall.
The Task Force investigated other technologies to widen the
coverage of Broadband for small and medium sized enterprises and promoted projects to achieve this.
The Task Force was engaged with working groups, other Task Forces and sector groups to ensure that the ICT Strategy was integrated in their approach and within developing projects. The strategy contained priorities for:
||raising the competitiveness of business
||increasing access to learning opportunities
||developing community capacity
||enhancing knowledge transfer and incubation
||programme management and improved public consultation
actnow started in April 2002 and was the first
broadband partnership to be set up between the public and private
Its aims were to bring broadband to 12 Cornish communities and to sign up 3,300 businesses to broadband by April 2005.
actnow has far exceeded these targets. By the end of the Programme all 100 exchange areas had broadband access. 10,000 businesses – or approximately 50% of businesses in Cornwall – were using the technology and there were over 117,000 connections in total. During the lifetime of the Programme, broadband coverage in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly increased from 0 to 99%.
The economic impact is clear - it is estimated that nearly 1,700 jobs have been created and that Cornwall's gross domestic product has benefited by more than £20 million.
actnow's aim was to build a culture in Cornwall which
is constantly looking to exploit the latest technology breakthroughs
and which has a proactive approach towards developing skills levels
in the workforce, so as to take advantage of new ICT developments.
This will help businesses in Cornwall build and retain a competitive edge.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE PARTNERSHIP PLEASE VISIT THE actnow WEBSITE AT www.actnowcornwall.co.uk
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Businesses in Cornwall are already reaping the rewards of switching to broadband:
Frame by Frame Photographers, Looe
Elixir Health Foods, Wadebridge
Blue Fish Promotions, St Austell
Menawicket Farm, Lostwithiel
Westcountry PR Services, Falmouth
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Frame by Frame Photographers
Last year Teresa Appleton set up a photography business called Frame by Frame in Looe with her partner Michael Welsford. She runs it at the same time as studying for a degree in photography and electronic imaging.
Teresa is the first to admit that when she started Frame by Frame she was terrified of computers and really didn't know how they could be used to help further develop her business.
One of her wedding clients, a local businessman, recommended actnow so she called the actnow office and a Broadband
Adviser came to visit her.
"The service actnow offered was far more
than I anticipated. I felt that the broadband adviser had a real
feel for the business we were in and what we were about. We were
given a good insight into what was possible and what we would need
to get Frame by Frame off the ground. We found the advice was invaluable,
acted upon the recommendations and now have a system with which
we are very pleased. We would not be able to operate without broadband
or our new computer system.”
Teresa now believes that her business would not have progressed
in the same way without the investment she made in digital technology.
This has been helped by funding from the actnow accelerator service for her first PC.
"Frame by Frame is now predominately digitally based, using professional digital cameras for the majority of the business, including wedding, portraiture, maritime and corporate work. I have one important client that will only work with digital photographers because they require immediate responses. I can go to a corporate event in the morning and make sure the papers receive the work by the afternoon - our new computer and broadband has enabled us to do things so quickly.”
The actnow adviser continues to offer Teresa
assistance by phone and has recently advised on choosing a laptop
for the business. Teresa is studying website design next year and
hopes that in future actnow will advise her on
how to go about developing a Frame by Frame website.
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Elixir Health Foods
Jason Henderson and his wife Randi Henderson run Elixir Health Foods in Wadebridge. In 2003, they signed up to broadband and their Internet sales now account for 25-30% of their business. They have recently expanded their high street shop, partly so they can create a packing area for their Internet sales. They have also taken on two new members of staff to deal with the increase in Internet business.
Jason says, "Before we had broadband, maintaining our ecommerce site was excruciatingly slow and had to be completed offline. Now, editing content and putting up jpegs is so much quicker – which means more cost and time savings.
Broadband enables us to move the business forward and operate a 24/7 business even when the shop is closed. We reach out to customers in a way we could only have dreamed of before. The additional financial boost provided by eCommerce has also given us the confidence to open a new store in Bodmin this year.”
The Elixir Health Foods website not only allows customers to shop, but it also serves as an e-info site allowing customers to research health conditions and symptoms.
"Broadband was fundamental to us. Not only did it liberate the way we can update and communicate information but it has allowed us to serve our customers much more effectively.”
In 2004 Elixir Health Foods was nominated by suppliers and customers for the Regional Ecommerce Awards run by the Department of Trade and Industry. The awards are designed to recognise and reward those organisations that have demonstrated excellence through the use of the internet.
"We were thrilled to be runners up in the ebusiness start up category, especially as we were competing against the whole of the South West,” says Jason.
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Blue Fish Business Promotions
Blue Fish is a business gift house based in St Austell. The company was set up on January 1st 2003 by Matthew Franks and Marc Penn, who had met through a previous franchise venture.
Specialising in business gifts and promotional merchandise, the company has grown rapidly and now employs 8 staff.
The client list is varied, including Unilever and Royal Sun Insurance as well as local businesses such as St Austell Brewery.
Matt Franks says: "We signed up to broadband on the first day our exchange became broadband enabled in September 2003. Broadband is absolutely crucial to what we do. We need to send large files with design ideas and visuals to clients. Also being 'always on’ means that we can always respond to any queries from clients straight away.”
Through the actnow accelerator programme,
Blue Fish received £4000 towards a significant upgrade and
redesign of its website in July 2004. "The financial help from actnow allowed us to radically improve our website
much sooner than we would have been able to do otherwise,” says
Redevelopment of the existing Blue Fish website was a critical element in the overall marketing strategy.
"In March 2004, we invested in a new online campaign including Pay Per Click and Search Engine Optimisation. The impact has been stunning. I would say the success of our online marketing has been a huge factor in our growth, with the majority of new enquiries now coming from the web.”
In the year since the new online campaign has been in place, turnover has increased more than threefold!
"It has been an amazing year for us,” says Matt. "We are continuing to evolve our online marketing. For example, we are about to implement a regular email newsletter to our database of contacts. Our target for this year is to continue the growth, with plans to more than double turnover again this year.”
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Alex Stephens runs Menawicket Farm which encompasses 650 acres of arable land, sheep and potatoes near Lostwithiel. He is also a lecturer in crop agronomy and involved with the British Potato Council.
With such a busy lifestyle Alex now finds the Internet invaluable. He first started using the net about 8 years ago but found it frustratingly slow. Now he's using broadband he doesn't know how he lived without it.
"I do a huge part of my business on the internet - it’s a great time saver.”
Alex is involved in the Countryside Stewardship scheme which aims, through the payment of grants, to improve the natural beauty and diversity of the countryside. It involves a lot of mapping and measuring fields for which he uses a mapping application provided on the Defra website. The application also allows him to see where other schemes are running.
"I use broadband all the time to look up information on the Defra website and am using it more and more to download forms.”
As part of his involvement with the British Potato Council, Alex regularly accesses their website which contains all sorts of information for both consumers and growers.
"The British Potato Council always send large documents through. With broadband it’s much quicker to download them.”
Alex also uses the internet for research for his training courses. He teaches Basis courses like FACTS for fertiliser advice and Basis for agronomists using broadband both to prepare lessons and keep in touch with his students.
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Westcountry PR Services
Broadband has transformed one of Cornwall's oldest PR businesses. Former business journalist Mike Truscott has handled thousands of successful press releases for Cornish SMEs over the past 20 years.
Until comparatively recently, however, it was nothing unusual for Mike to spend several hours a week beside a photocopier, laboriously printing up his releases and stuffing them into envelopes for posting.
Email eased that burden – and then broadband saw the business take off in dramatic fashion. The distribution of press releases – no matter how many different ones to how many different outlets, is now a matter of minutes or even seconds, rather than hours.
Not only has this led to significant growth for Mike's core business, but the freeing up of his time has also enabled him to create two new businesses – a home study course for aspiring PR writers and an email-based PR service for SMEs nationwide.
He has set up the business as a limited company and, with his wife Janet now working near full-time as co-director and handling everything bar the researching and writing, has seen turnover rocket by over 30 per cent in three years.
The expansion of Westcountry PR Services has also been helped
by funding from the actnow accelerator service for purchase of IT equipment.
"Broadband is absolutely brilliant,” says Mike. "For our business, it has been a terrific boost three times over – greatly increased productivity, much faster service to clients and the press and media, and even better press releases through greatly speeded-up research on the internet for good quality background material.
"As a bonus, we have the peace of mind of knowing that actnow are there for us if we need them. On the rare occasions we have
had any problems with broadband, and have failed to solve them through
'normal channels,’ we have turned to actnow and
been hugely impressed by the quality and speed of their service.”
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