Digital Priorities: How Britannia Can Still Rule the Waves

How a change of course in terms of priority will help keep Britain on the map as a leader in the digital economy.

Believe it or not, Britain is in a good place. It could be in a great one. More investment in digital infrastructure now is the key to keeping Great Britain great, and growing a world-beating economy.

Now is the perfect time to stop and seriously consider what really constitutes the UK economy. Border control matters are front and centre of the biggest potential economic change the country has seen in decades. We are now in a service-driven economy – so we’re not talking about herding cattle across boundaries anymore – we are talking about moving bytes. Globally. The World Economic Forum estimates that technology will create £2.5 trillion in value worldwide between now and 2025. So how can Britain successfully get a bite of this action?

Without a doubt, it is technology that will help British businesses to be high performers. Research by the Bank of England shows that only 1% of firms in the British economy are classified as being high performers, but encouragingly the same research also shows that businesses using technology to their advantage are growing productivity annually by 6%, compared to an average productivity growth of 0.2% (ONS).

So, what do we need to do? One significant hurdle for many UK businesses currently is accessing productivity-improving technologies like the cloud, simply because lack of infrastructure means they can’t connect to it properly. With the global marketplace increasingly moving into the cloud, we need to connect, in order to play. It’s that simple.

Until recently, the UK has been reluctant to link high-speed connectivity to productivity, in spite of research from the USA showing that poor connectivity decreases productivity 36%. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said that UK productivity has been lower over the past decade than at any time in the 20th Century. London is the world’s most connected city and a darling of Fintech – but cities like Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Glasgow, Liverpool and Edinburgh are in the internet slow lane; with rural broadband access being on the figurative hard shoulder. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership suggests that fibre connectivity would boost this region’s economy by £47 billion. So evidently, our priority here is to upgrade our outdated infrastructure to avoid creating gaping digital divides.

Nevertheless, there is good news: the UK is a hotbed of tech talent and has created one tech unicorn a month for the last year. The UK leads the world in Fintech and employs 5% of all high-growth tech workers, globally.

To capitalise now on all the opportunities open to us, we need to review our investment priorities and give precedence to financing digital over physical infrastructure. Experts believe that nationwide full-fibre connectivity will cost £30 billion and create 30,000 jobs.  The government’s new spending review could divert funds from projects like HS2 to rolling out full-fibre. Digital infrastructure costs less, creates a similar number of jobs and connects the UK to world markets. It’s a no-brainer.

Here at DCS, our experience indicates that a fully-fibred UK would improve the country’s productivity and enable it to secure more of that £2.5 trillion. Our customers use high-speed cloud connectivity to enable advanced data analytics to provide actionable insights into productivity improvements. The technology they really need the most is Cloud, cybersecurity, worker mobility and Big Data, all of which require solid reliable infrastructure.

Andy Dunn is Commercial Sales Director for Daisy Corporate Services

This article was originally published in the Business Reporter, October 2019