Local tech ecosystems need gigabit connectivity to rebalance £1 trillion sector across UK, says CEO
Local tech sectors are “hugely important” for the future prosperity of places outside London and the South East, according to a leading tech CEO. Natalie Duffield, chief executive of WeLink Communications, said digital infrastructure such as gigabit connectivity is vital for encouraging strong tech ecosystems across the UK.
She spoke out after a report from industry group techUK illustrated the varying capability and capacity of regions to allow communities and businesses to benefit from advances in technology. The Local Digital Capital Index 2022 revealed stark differences in the impact that technology has on localities and warned these are holding back economic growth.
The index ranked regions according to their ‘digital capital’ to help address challenges and show where investment should be directed. It looked at measures including skills, digital adoption, digital infrastructure, research and development, finance and investment, and trade support. London, the South East and the East of England topped the index. Wales, Northern Ireland and the North East came bottom.
Natalie, who is co-chair of techUK’s local public services committee, said: “We have one of the most vibrant and valuable tech sectors in the world but it could be more evenly distributed across the UK. As the Local Digital Capital Index shows, digital infrastructure is better in and around urban areas but patchy in rural places like Cumbria, Lincolnshire and the Highlands and Islands.
“Digital infrastructure is the foundation for strong tech ecosystems and supports the growth of local tech sectors, which are hugely important for our future prosperity. Bringing gigabit connectivity to all corners of our country will help spread the positive impacts of technology and drive job creation, economic growth and digital transformation. Wireless networks have a vital part to play in quickly reaching the places that fibre cannot.”
The Local Digital Capital Index makes a series of recommendations, notably that Project Gigabit – the £5 billion government investment programme – should reach all areas of the UK, and adds that digital infrastructure underpins much of the scoring. The report values the total local impact of the UK tech sector at £1 trillion, though much of this is skewed towards the capital.
Natalie has more than 30 years’ experience working with hardware and software solutions and managed services and as CEO of WeLink Communications has overseen the deployment of Britain’s first major wireless gigabit broadband service in Edinburgh, bringing lightning fast internet speeds to the Old and New Towns without the need to dig up streets in the World Heritage Site.