With the UK’s general election just around the corner, the main political parties have outlined their plans for propelling the growth of the digital economy. As well as focusing on traditional issues such as healthcare, housing and immigration, the political leaders have recognised the increasing importance of technology to the country’s economy.
The recent Tech Nation Report showcases the growth of the UK’s digital technology clusters. These tech hotspots are testimony to the skills, ambition and innovation of tech start-ups up and down the country. Nevertheless, recent news highlighted businesses across all sectors, even close to London’s Tech City, are struggling to innovate due to poor connectivity. Although UK companies invest £16bn a year on communication technologies, many are unable to tap into superfast broadband because there isn’t enough competition in the connectivity market.
The UK’s outdated regulatory telecoms framework is a root cause of this problem, so it is encouraging that the regulator Ofcom is undertaking a major review of the sector. Never before has there been such an urgent need to re-think the delivery of critical communications infrastructure. Tablets, mobiles and wearables, mixed with cloud, analytics and social collaboration, have already begun to sweep British workplaces. By 2020, around 50 billion ‘things’ will be connected to the Internet. This offers businesses great opportunities – but at present the UK’s network infrastructure isn’t ready to support this new digital economy, putting the country’s competitiveness at risk.
The answer is more competition in the connectivity market. This will spur innovation and investment, and bring businesses in London and elsewhere the high-speed connectivity they so desperately need. At Colt we hope that the following its review, Ofcom will allow connectivity providers to access the UK’s existing civil infrastructure in areas without sufficient competition. This will accelerate the roll-out of high speed networks, and support the growth of the Tech Nation. Failure to act will result in continued foot dragging, leaving businesses unable to compete on both a national and global level.
At a time when everything is becoming increasingly digitised and interconnected, whoever wins the election will need to ensure that the UK won’t lag behind the rest of the world in the digital economy.