Mansfield crowdfunds town centre Wi-Fi

Nottinghamshire town seeks public funding to bring free Wi-Fi to residents and visitors

Mansfield is trying to raise £38,000 to provide free public Wi-Fi across the town centre.

The funding is being led by Mansfield’s Business Improvement District (BID) organisation, which is a partnership between the local council and business community within the town hoping to encourage more trade and enterprise.

The plan is to place Wi-Fi transmitters on lamp posts across the town centre to provide free coverage to anyone in the area, accompanied with QR codes so users can find out about local events and special deals from businesses in the town.

Sarah Nelson, manager of BID, said it could have a really positive effect on the retail sector, but other industries could see a boost from the technology’s introduction.  

"There's a lot we can achieve by bringing the community together and helping ourselves,” she said. “Clearly the web has had a massive effect on retail, but by using this to our advantage – and giving locals the chance to use free Wi-Fi – we can help drive up footfall and encourage more growth in local enterprise, whether it's through people stopping for a coffee while they check their emails or people making use of internet offers for local retailers."

BID is using the crowdfunding website so both companies and residents can contribute to the project online. It was suggested to BID by the Association of Town Centre Management in Mansfield after it had been approached by Spacehive to be one of the first places to trial the platform, having previously been a US-centric solution.

“I’m thrilled to see Mansfield embracing its digital future in this way,” said Martin Blackwell, CEO of the association. “Not only are they taking the initiative by getting the town online, they’re doing it using Spacehive. I think the idea of crowdfunding digital infrastructure for communities in this way could be very powerful.”

The funding programme was only launched six weeks ago but BID has already secured 18 pledges, along with £10,000 in government funding.

BID has set a deadline of May 2013 to raise the money, but once the tendering process has gone out, it should only take three months to install the technology, as council planning permission has already been granted.

A spokesperson from BID told Computer Weekly it hoped to use a local firm if possible, but it would depend on the best value for money and other aspects of the solution, such as security.

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