A crowdfunding appeal by the town of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire to raise funds for a free WiFi network in the town centre has reached its target figure of £36,363.
The aim of the project was to drive up footfall and encourage more growth in local enterprise, in line with the government's aim to improve digital inclusion throughout the UK.
Thanks in part to a £20,000 donation from Cardinal Group, which hopes to use the WiFi to develop and showcase its retail security software, Mansfield BID has hit the target and expects to install the WiFi equipment early in the new year, to be accessible by Spring.
A number of individuals and businesses also contributed to the fund, with Mansfield Town Team donating £7,000 and Mansfield District Council supporting the scheme with a £1,221 grant.
“This is fantastic news for shoppers, visitors and businesses alike and helps to put Mansfield on the technological map,” said Sarah Nelson, Mansfield BID manager. “We’re grateful to everyone who has backed the campaign and made it a real success story to be proud of.”
She added that the free WiFi service would help Mansfield to attract investors and enable local businesses to stay ahead of the competition. Stallholders, for example, could take card payments and shoppers would be able to browse the internet and stay a while longer.
Cardinal plans to use the Mansfield WiFi to showcase its next-generation tools such as “Store of the Future” (SOTF) technology, which aims to bring together the online and offline shopping experience.
SOTF includes Virtual Mirrors, which allows consumers to virtually try on clothes without entering the changing room, and Touch Foil technology, which enables retailers to use empty store windows as interactive advertising display spaces.
“This is a really exciting project for Mansfield, which has the opportunity to lead the way not only in free WiFi access but to be highlighted as the town where next-generation retail technology is installed to transform the high street,” said Jason Trigg, founder and CEO at Cardinal Group.
The £36,363 figure is slightly less than the original target figure of £38,000, because a number of large donations brought down the transaction fee on the site, meaning that less money needed to be raised overall.
Web and e-commerce specialist Dave Hartshorne, whose company Dijitul.com is based within the BID area, commented: “Internet is the way of the future and anything that helps business and customers connect, while helping to regenerate the town centre, has to be welcomed.”
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