London’s digital connectivity for SMEs needs to ‘get with the times’

The government and industry discussed the critical need for giving London SMEs access to the best in class digital infrastructure. Poor connectivity in London requires a new approach urgently to reach its full digital potential and become a competitive force globally.

“Digital connectivity is front and centre for London’s economic growth and a key priority for the government. Small businesses are key drivers of the economy, job creation and innovation. London can’t do without them and they must get the full support that they deserve”, said Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital.

>See also: Unlocking the key issues affecting SME productivity

The panel debate was hosted by Westminster Business Council, an organisation dedicated to the growth of business large and small across the City of Westminster. It was hoping to serve as a catalyst for London’s economic growth, focused on the key areas central to supporting SMEs: private and public sector collaboration, support for SMEs and infrastructure investment.

“London’s digital connectivity for SMEs simply isn’t good enough. It’s archaic and the hand brake is on, which stops these entrepreneurs and businesses doing what they do best: creating, innovating and growing the capital’s economy. M24Seven has already started loosening the hand brake by investing in a diverse radio network build in London. The industry and government need to start thinking differently, and act on this critical issue today – not tomorrow. ”, agreed Lee Perkins, CEO, M24Seven.

The panellists – Lee Perkins, CEO, M24Seven; Ken Wright, Managing Director, Phoenix Artist Club; Julian McGougan, Head of Technology, TechUK; Jonathan Glanz, Lead Member for Broadband and Connectivity at Westminster City Council – debated key areas of concern regarding infrastructure in the capital. So what were the panel’s recommendations?

London’s tech scene and impact on small businesses

• Improving digital connectivity for SMEs needs urgent attention and is a collective responsibility between government and private sector.
• London’s competitiveness against other global tech hub relies on the capital getting improved digital infrastructure.

>See also: Be prepared – the connected business is coming and it is here to stay

• SMEs need to better understand what digital connectivity means to them. The onus is on themselves as well as the industry to get better educated and educate on the details and benefits of digital connectivity.

Digital infrastructure investment and collaboration

• Investment in digital infrastructure needs new thinking to address areas such as London’s ‘not-spots’ and more wireless/radio roof top connectivity installations as opposed to digging up roads.
• London needs more infrastructure investment around proven initiatives such as voucher schemes, as there are still too many hurdles for SMEs.

>See also: Broadband connection speeds may not be up to standard for 6 million

• There needs to be better collaboration within councils and a more joined-up approach between public and private sectors to better understand and communicate the benefits of digital connectivity.

Regulations and policy

• The regulatory climate needs to be simplified for SMEs – too much policy creates a regulatory burden.
• Terms and conditions around key areas such contract flexibility needs to be looked at to avoid companies being locked in.

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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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