There are now 120 telecottages in the UK, according to the latest figures from the Telecottage Association. The TA was set up in 1993 to help revitalise rural economies by providing training and employment opportunities.
This activity is focused on a 'telecottage', a centre where teleworkers, community groups, individuals and small businesses can use advanced computing and communications technology.Telecottages aim to become commercially viable by offering services - to local people and organisations - which would otherwise be unavailable. The TA was originally sponsored by BT, Apple Computer, the Rural Development Commission and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which provides grants for rural developments.
They are very diverse, although they offer similar facilities. They generally include between five and 20 PCs, photocopiers, laser scanners, a PABX private exchange, high-quality printers and desktop publishing. Around 10% now have video conferencing. While only a minority of current telecottages are run by private business, the proportion is expected to grow. And while they are at present focused on rural communities, there is nothing to stop them springing up in towns where home workers, teleworkers, those made redundant and businesses might be expected to benefit from the urban telecottage.
The TA has developed a pilot scheme with BT which involves five telecottages coming to arrangements with businesses to operate a neighbourhood office for employed teleworkers. Similar schemes are currently operating in the Scottish Highlands where telecentres, staffed by teleworkers, have taken over the administration for London borough councils.