Tameside Digital Infrastructure Co-Operative (Tameside MBC)

Tameside Digital Infrastructure Co-Operative (Tameside MBC)

Digital Infrastructure

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

Tameside Council is pioneering a unique and innovative approach to digital infrastructure. The key element of this investment is the Tameside Digital Infrastructure Cooperative (TDIC). The first of its kind in the UK, TDIC is a collaborative vehicle which allows us to bring digital infrastructure into use at low cost. As well as providing affordable, superfast internet for a number of businesses and public sector organisations our digital infrastructure allows us to provide a free and open Wi-Fi service in our town centres.

A key priority for the economic future of Tameside is ensuring that all of our residents have the opportunity to acquire a solid grounding in digital and computer skills. Through partnership working with a number of volunteers, organisations and sponsors, we have launched a range of opportunities for residents of all ages to improve their digital skills.

Successful leveraging of this digital infrastructure will allow us to achieve a number of the priorities agreed in our Corporate Plan 2018-25, including; attracting inward investment and supporting local businesses to start and grow, equipping our young people with the skills to navigate a digital economy, and reducing the demand on council services.

What are the key achievements?

As well as providing internet and Wi-Fi access, the TDIC has facilitated the growth of high-technology, high-productivity businesses in the borough. Our redevelopment of the Ashton Old Baths, a disused Victorian public hygiene facility, has created 70 jobs in the digital sector. We have also in the early stages of building a Science Park in Hattersley, creating up to 200 new jobs in engineering, geosciences and environmental consulting.

A number of initiatives have also been rolled out to maintain the quality of services in the face of budget cuts. These include the Digital Health Centre, which has prevented A&E visits by allowing care home and community response to consult with medical professions remotely by Skype, and OpenPlus, a self-service function which has increased the opening hours of our libraries.

Improving online access has also opened up a number of education services. The Tameside Hack and CoderDojo provide mentoring and peer-to-peer learning for young people up to age 18. We have also created opportunities for residents of all ages to improve their skills through the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA). Since its launch in September 2018 Tameside residents have completed more than 10,000 modules.

What are the key learning points?

Our investment in digital in Tameside, both in terms of physical infrastructure and learning resources, has helped to transform our approach to economic development and lifelong learning, and improve the quality of life and skills base of our residents. The dividends of this investment are becoming apparent even at this early stage, and we believe that they will continue to bear fruit over the long-term.

The key to this success has been adopted a collaborative and cooperative approach wherever possible. Members of the TDIC join as either “users”, who pay fees to access dark fibre and rack space, “contributors” who provide assets) in return for a fee, or “investors” who provide funding for a return. Members retain ownership of any assets they contribute, and the cooperative business model, run on a one-member, one-vote basis, guarantees equality and independence.
Our learning schemes, in particular the Tameside Hack and CoderDojo, have been made possible thanks to the efforts of a number of volunteers, who plan and run the events. Sponsors provide mentoring, prizes and even careers opportunities for winners. Support has also been provided through council officers and our leisure providers, who provide space for the meetings