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Unified Communications: Connecting Remote Communities

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If you live in a big city, it may be hard to imagine a world where essential services are hard to reach, and going out to the cinema, or for an evening drink, is a project that requires a lot of planning. However, there are still many rural communities that face exactly those challenges.

Residents of rural communities often face long journeys to get to the nearest hospital, shopping centres, and social hubs. Those problems are greatly amplified for people who live on islands such as the ones in the Argyll and Bute areas of Scotland. There are 25 islands in the area, but those islands combined are home to less than 100,000 people, all of whom need essential services that are not usually available on their island.

The Ultimate in Outreach

Unified communications is a great way to communicate with people in remote areas, and can be employed to ensure that people have fast access to basic services. In Argyll and Bute, unified communications is being used for everything from council services to education. Instead of sending foreign language teachers to every island, they are using video calling to allow teachers to communicate with students on different islands.

Unified communications is no substitute for hands-on diagnosis and medical care, but it can be used for general consultations, saving time and money, and ensuring that air ambulances and other essential resources are only used when they are necessary.

Many council services – from repair requests to bill payment and citizen’s advice hotlines, are also offered via the web.

Another area that technology is helping with is socialising. People (of all ages) that live in rural communities can feel isolated and cut-off from the rest of the world. Video calling, email, instant messaging, and social networks can all help people in rural communities to socialise with like-minded people from around the world. The internet can be a lifeline, in more ways than one, to people who live in rural communities.

Unified Communications for Business

Communications technologies can save businesses a lot of time and money. Instead of remote employees having to cover the cost and time of travelling to remote sites, they can use shared whiteboards, file sharing, and conferencing tools to work together without leaving their usual home bases.

Many rural areas do not yet have the luxury of high speed broadband connections or mobile internet options. Taking advantage of unified communications in those areas may be challenging, but even basic DSL connections are good enough to support low quality video conferencing, and basic tools such as email, file sharing, and document collaboration tools.

Older infrastructures are not always as resilient as the telecommunication offerings available in big cities, and this again can lead to problems in rural areas. Extreme weather is an inconvenience in a big city, but it can cause long-term service interruptions in rural areas, and when people depend on unified communications to access essential services, those interruptions can be a serious issue.

This was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of unified communications experts, Maintel. Visit their site for more info. Image of Argyll, Scotland, by sokabs.

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