Increasing digitalisation and access to communication technologies has arguably never been more important to rural communities than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digitalisation assumes a distinct character when looked at through a rural lens, reliable and accessible digital tools and infrastructure having marked implications for the future of rural communities. This was especially pertinent during COVID-19 lockdowns, when in rural (as well as urban) communities there was a push to host local activities and services online. Restrictions to travel and face-to-face contact during COVID-19 allowed researchers to capture these changes over the course of the pandemic. Using reflections from both in-person and online research engagements with a crofting community in the North-west Highlands of Scotland, this paper reflects on how the use of digital tools can support the development of different types of social capital. Successful rural digitalisation has the potential to benefit rural crofting communities in multiple ways, e.g. by supporting rural repopulation efforts, enabling access to new digital markets to sell produce, and supporting active participation in local decision making through online meetings. Several barriers to realising digital benefits still exist in rural regions with specific digitalisation needs and challenges. The paper reflects on empirical findings and considers the future sustainability of rural crofting communities in the post COVID, digital age.
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Noble, C., Townsend, L., Currie, M., Hardy, C. & Duckett, D. 2023, 'The impacts of COVID-19 on digitalisation and social capital in crofting', Scottish Geographical Journal. https://researchonline.gcu.ac.uk/en/publications/2a5b2754-79bc-4f93-bc89-2fd729d6cc59