Need for a more ambitious government to tackle UK’s poor digital infrastructure

It seems most of the British public is suffering from political fatigue after facing both an EU Referendum and snap election in such a short space of time. With such a focus on the mammoth changes our country will face, it’s likely priorities such as digital infrastructure may fall lower on the Prime Minister’s list – after all, it was Brexit bills that dominated the Government’s agenda in the Queen’s Speech.

Despite the Government’s busy agenda, it’s vital that digital infrastructure does not fall by the wayside. If anything, there is no better time than the present to address the country’s digital infrastructure.

If the UK wants to compete with other more technologically advanced countries and become a leader in Artificial Intelligence, for example, how will it do so if the UK’s network continues to progress at a snail’s pace?

>See also: The UK Government’s Transformation Strategy

In fact, last year the Trade Union Congress revealed the UK was ranked second last out of all OECD countries for ICT infrastructure. Meanwhile, Ofcom warned that a quarter of the UK’s small businesses – just under 300,000 companies – had poor broadband because they are based on non-residential, industrial parks where average broadband speeds can be notoriously slow.

As one of the richest countries in the world – and a country dubbed by Forbes as the fifth best country for business in 2017 – this is appalling.

The constant inability to modernise Britain’s network infrastructure is not just a matter of being bottom of European broadband league tables. It’s a big bottleneck to the progress of British businesses and our increasingly digital economy.

Is the Government being ambitious enough?

Every UK company relies on the internet to operate. It’s how we converse with colleagues, customers and prospects. It’s how we learn and research. And ultimately, it’s how business sales are driven. Without the internet, businesses, local authorities and governments simply cannot operate or grow.

High-speed connectivity is fundamental to providing the very best internet access for businesses. It is also the bedrock on which new cloud services are built. Such services allow organisations to launch modern, scalable and flexible business solutions. Such solutions, in turn, enable ideas to grow quickly and create a level playing field for British businesses to compete on the global stage.

>See also: The digital transformation of the UK public sector

Today, the UK’s connectivity is nowhere near where it should be. Improvements must be made now in order to make the country more competitive. In an ever evolving and changing world, we need to ensure we can challenge internationally.

A business is only as good as its network

Britain cemented its position as a world power, thanks to the scores of industrial cities set up across the country in the 18th and 19th centuries. Places like Stoke, Wolverhampton and Sunderland were industry strongholds that exported to all corners of the earth.

Today, however, such cities have been left behind as the economy shifts from a physical to a digital core. While there is a need to constantly improve network standards in London to ensure it continues to prosper, it’s vital that other parts of the country aren’t ignored.

At a time when 78% of UK businesses are based outside the capital, digital investment is needed more than ever. Just as railways and canals were built to transport textiles and coal breathed life into regional areas during the Industrial Revolution, modern network infrastructure can do the same today.

This will ensure that towns from Southampton to Seaham – which are crying out for economic investment – are given the digital foundations by which to attract it.
After all, businesses are only as good as the digital infrastructure that supports them. It forms the foundations on how they can operate.

>See also: Digital Infrastructure is key to a thriving Northern Powerhouse

Once businesses have access to solid infrastructure they are more able to invest in connectivity solutions that support communication and collaboration, regardless of geography. Without it, they don’t even have a standing start and that is when economic stagnation seeps in.

More government focus is needed

The Queen nodded to High Speed Two (HS2) in her recent speech adding that the new bill would be created to deliver its next phase. I firmly believe this massive investment is a mistake.

Despite the fact the Government estimates show that an increase in broadband penetration of just 10 per cent would yield a 0.25% increase in GDP growth – a powerful boost to the economy – they are busy prioritising ploughing £55.7 billion in building a rail service that is far from popular.

If just half this £55.7 billion was used for digital infrastructure it could improve UK networks across the country – way beyond London. Just think of the business and economic benefits that this would bring. These benefits would be far greater than those produced by HS2.

>See also: Investment in fibre optic and 5G is a welcome boost for UK business

As the Government currently negotiates our exit from the EU, Britain needs to become more efficient and productive to compete on a global stage. No other singular investment would deliver the competitive benefits of a country-wide investment into our communications infrastructure.

In order to compete with other countries post-Brexit, the UK needs a world-class network infrastructure in place to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This wouldn’t just boost business growth, it would also enable those children living in poorly connected regions, for instance, to have a decent internet connection to complete their homework.

The world is becoming increasingly digital and the UK Government must ensure that no one is left behind on this journey because of the postcode they live in.


Sourced by Lee Wade, CEO, Exponential-e


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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