Connect to grow
I have spent a great deal of time with business communities, council chief executives, cabinets, leaders and lead councillors across the UK to set out the case for setting up superfast broadband networks. In the past two years it has become a top priority. I haven’t met anybody who has said that it is not a priority.
With the previous generation the big channel shift was to the phone, and it worked. With digital, we can now do things for pennies that used to cost pounds.
Eric Schmidt of Google says the current generation is the first that has always been connected. In Birmingham I said: “You are the ones who will benefit from the deployment of this infrastructure over the next two to four years - and because you understand social media and new technology, you’ll be able to apply it in new ways.”
Increasing digital connectivity in an area offers benefits for both businesses and councils by allowing them to work more flexibly. I worked with one county council where 100 buildings are going down to 10. To do that they are going to adopt flexible arrangements so that people can work in the office, at home or on the road, or mobile working with the general public directly. I’m hearing that all over the country.
Another authority I have been working with is Tendring DC, which realised superfast broadband was of utmost importance to local businesses.
We concentrated on public relations and awareness raising. You have to tell people, and there’s a great desire in places like Tendring to be viewed as modern and accessible. Having the latest and greatest digital infrastructure allows businesses to offer homeworking and to get off the ground more easily. Most start-ups begin at home and then gravitate to a physical space.
There’s a key role for local government - what gets printed in the local paper. If Tendring’s chief executive or local councillors get behind something, it’s in the news. Wherever we see this kind of activity it increases take-up.
All councils are having to make cost savings through transforming services. What I’m hearing constantly from county chief executives is: “I’ve got to be able to deliver adult health and care differently”. There’s a great move to teleworking trials, such as carrying out blood pressure tests at home through a digital link.
Also, as councillors contemplate service cuts and where to spend scant resources, there needs to be the political will to set up new digital networks. We’ve just entered into deals with Lancashire and Rutland CCs, where there was clear political support, clear executive engagement and both teams were on the pitch to engage with the private sector.
Bill Murphy, BT managing director of next generation access
Bill Murphy spoke at the Midlands meeting
COLUMN SPONSORED AND SUPPLIED BY BT