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Free public Wi-Fi to boost regeneration of Renfrewshire’s town centres and tackle digital exclusion

Renfrewshire Council is to roll-out public access Wi-Fi in three town centres.

The system will be installed in Johnstone, Paisley and Renfrew after councillors voted to approve the plans and boost efforts to regenerate the areas.

It will encourage people to visit the town centres by improving their experience.

Increasing the number of visitors and getting them to stay longer helps support the local economy by delivering more customers for businesses.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan said: “The regeneration of our town centres is a key priority for this council and free public access Wi-Fi will draw in visitors and boost local trade.

“We know that around a quarter of people would be likely to spend more time in a town centre that offers free public Wi-Fi.

“Johnstone, Paisley and Renfrew are economic centres that provide jobs and vital services for people throughout Renfrewshire, so the decision to take these plans forward is great news for the entire area.

“It shows our commitment to ensuring our towns have the infrastructure they need to thrive.”

The system will also be available within a range of public and community buildings and a range of leading public organisations are looking to sign up to the venture so that public access Wi-Fi could be available in their facilities.

Leading business representatives believe the plan will help make Renfrewshire a more appealing location to visit or do business.

Bob Grant, the chief executive of Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is good for businesses and visitors in Johnston, Paisley and Renfrew town centres.

“Digital connectivity is now expected as normal and is transforming our retail environments.

“We welcome Renfrewshire Council’s forward thinking approach in approving the installation of free public Wi-Fi – another piece in the jigsaw to reinvigorate our town centres”

The system will also help to tackle digital exclusion by providing people across Renfrewshire with free internet access.

Council Leader Macmillan explained: “Most people now use the internet for everyday tasks.

“Things like keeping in touch with others, banking, shopping, accessing benefits and applying for jobs are increasingly done online, but not everyone has the access they need.

“Sadly those most likely to be digitally excluded are already facing social inequality.

“People who are retired, unemployed, in poor health and less educationally qualified are at greatest risk of having no access to the internet, so by providing public Wi-Fi in our three town centres and in public buildings across Renfrewshire we can make a real difference.”

Alan McNiven is the chief executive of Engage Renfrewshire, an organisation working with a diverse range of groups and organisations to help make a real difference to people’s lives and improve community capacity.

He said: “This is great news for the many local groups and organisations who are involved in a range of collaborative work supporting Renfrewshire Council’s approach to increasing digital participation.

“Tackling digital exclusion is an important aspect of Renfrewshire’s Tackling Poverty Strategy and the move to implement public access Wi-Fi zones will help many more people access a wider range of digital services”