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5G: Bridging the gap between urban and rural

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From kids having a difficult time completing their homework to farmers struggling with age-old technology – ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, much has been made of the digital divide between the rural and the urban, especially between low-income communities and their higher-income neighbors. In fact, with new smartphones on the way amid promises of lightning-quick download speeds, the noise on 5G is most certainly stepping up a gear. However, companies – both large and small have admitted a vast digital divide between rural and urban communities. It even has the potential to cause problems as rural residents cannot perform basic tasks that their counterparts in cities can do.

Now, the question is, could 5G help rule out this digital divide? While telecom companies have touted 5G and the future of 5G rollout in cities wholeheartedly, rural communities continue to struggle to achieve the type of reliable connections that urban areas have enjoyed for the past decade. Bridging the ever-widening digital gap is necessary not just to provide rural consumers with broadband internet access, but also to contribute to the development of a smarter countryside, a more advanced rural counterpart to smart cities.

5G also has the potential to create new high-tech jobs and new employment opportunities. The aim is to help curb the sheer trend of companies choosing only cities for new headquarters and campuses. The idea is to instead make them look beyond major population centres. For instance, when Amazon was looking for potential locations for its second headquarters, it clearly emphasized the dire need for an educated workforce, strong transit, and of course, an infrastructure that could cope.

Closing or narrowing the digital divide necessitates both coverage and penetration-related measures, especially in a world where the pandemic has completely changed demand and shifted society’s objectives on three fronts: education, employment, and, most importantly, healthcare.

Remote working & technological advancements

Let’s face it – in urban areas, the transition to working from home pretty much happened overnight. Any employee with a laptop and a video conferencing app can conveniently leverage their home broadband and kick-start their work from home operations. All things considered, this transition was quite cumbersome in the rural section due to two major reasons – little or no existence of digital-based work in the rural areas. As a result, it is quite impossible to move their work to their home.

Adoption of 5G
Source: Accenture

In fact, many tech companies are also redefining their remote working policies to allow people to move from urban to rural areas while hiring workers on remote contracts. What’s best is that this trend can reverse a part of the urbanization trends going on for decades. So, rural communities must consider the role that their broadband infrastructure will play in attracting digital workers. With this in place, educated professionals can easily pursue a digital career without moving to a city in the first place.

Besides the miraculous benefits of 5G, it can also potentially revolutionize the existing scenario of rural jobs, especially when it comes to agriculture. This super-fast technology can make the agricultural process even more efficient while allowing for a quicker transfer of data to provide information regarding the weather, crops and the likes. This not only helps farmers understand more about where they operate but can also help them make more money from their yield, especially with the help of deploying internet of things (IoT) sensors.

Remote education – understanding the achievement gap

It is for a fact that ever since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, students across the world are struggling to gain access to crucial educational tools. Even teachers are often under-equipped to provide the resources that the students might need. These inequalities have contributed to a growing achievement gap between kids who do not have access to digital tools and those who do. In our current situation of remote learning, reliable connectivity has never been more crucial for students to move ahead with their education. Talented students tend to move to urban cities, driven by their ambition to get a college degree. This is precisely why rural areas have been suffering from a brain drain. This may make you wonder – can 5G help alleviate these issues?

World with 5G
Reference: McKinsey

Well, the answer is yes. In fact, STL has long been ready for the 5G technology revolution. In July 2020, the company also mentioned that it would be investing in 5G architecture to develop the 5G ecosystem. STL is also among the top companies involved in 5G technology and has set up an end-to-end 5G ecosystem with its portfolio of fibre optics and wireless technology. From machine learning and AI-enabled RAN Intelligent Controller to Orchestration and VNF solutions – STL has it all!

So, along with a vision of having 5G connections in place, forward-thinking rural towns must also take advantage of the current crisis to develop digital education capabilities for both students and instructors. That way, When kids are ready to pursue a college degree, they can either stay in their hometown and benefit from a digital college education or migrate to a city and experience an urban lifestyle.

5G as an enabler of remote healthcare

Healthcare in rural settings has always been a massive challenge, even when meeting our primary needs. These rural communities struggle to recruit well-educated doctors and medical professionals to settle down in places with few or no job options due to a lack of basic amenities, such as primary healthcare services. However, the pandemic has fundamentally transformed the supply side.

COVID-19 has forced doctors as well as medical professionals to master remote consultations overnight. This transition has opened long-term opportunities for basic primary care in the form of limited healthcare professionals locally, which is remotely supported by doctors as well as other medical specialists.

In a nutshell, the technology we need to do away with these problems does exist. STL engineers have long anticipated these needs, and hence, their 5G technology is designed to provide students and educators with the connectivity they need. Considering that the pandemic has accelerated the sheer need to address the inequities in education, healthcare, and occupation, it’s time that we leverage 5G to accelerate transformative solutions.

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