Five small technology companies have been awarded contracts to help tackle the problem of rural isolation and loneliness.
They will receive funding of up to £50,000 each under the GovTech Challenge for projects focused on Monmouthshire in south-east Wales.
Each will be given 12 weeks for research and development on the feasibility of technology platforms to match the supply and demand for transport in rural areas, as well as minimise the risk of digital exclusion among older people and those in more isolated rural areas with limited connectivity.
The five companies to win the contracts are Box Clever Digital, Enable International, GPC Systems, The Behavioural Insights Team and Zipabout.
Up to two of them will be selected for a second phase in which they will receive up to £500,000 each to develop their ideas over the following 12 months. The successful companies will retain all the intellectual property rights on their solutions.
Councillor Sara Jones, cabinet member for social justice and community development at Monmouthshire County Council, said: “The diversity of our landscape has its challenges, where journey times on public transport to local services can exceed two hours. That is why we are determined to address this issue to ensure people feel connected and part of the community.
“We are delighted to be working with innovative businesses who have developed a range of digital solutions for transport and rural isolation. Given the importance of the small business sector to the fabric of our country, it was great to see that 65% of the applications were from Welsh and UK-wide micro businesses with less than 10 employees.”
The awards are part of the £20 million Govtech Catalyst Programme, launched by the Cabinet Office in November 2017 to help innovative tech firms solve public sector challenges through innovation and emerging technologies.
The GovTech Challenge has involved a series of competitions to encourage small companies to develop solutions for public service issues.
Image by Row 17, CC BY 2.0