Digital infrastructure will enable Yorkshire to build back better

Julian David is the CEO of TechUKJulian David is the CEO of TechUK
Julian David is the CEO of TechUK
In the decades to come, 2020 will be remembered as the year Covid-19 sent seismic waves across the globe.

History books will tell of the countless businesses that were affected as society adjusted to the disruption. They will not only reflect on the unprecedented challenges, but also on how the pandemic proved to be the catalyst for the digitalisation of society.

If this year was defined by challenges, it’s my hope that in 12 months’ time we will view 2021 as a year defined by optimism – one that brought new life to our economy. Our

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

mission should not be to get back to where we were, but to build the future we need – and digital technology has a critical role to play to achieve this.

This is the issue that TechUK has been wrestling with over the past nine months. Our consultations, which were conducted across the UK, found that while each region and

nation has its own opportunities and challenges, the common thread to them all came down to one thing – the strength of an area’s Local Digital Capital.

Local Digital Capital encompasses the equipment, infrastructure, and skills required to enable individuals, companies and the public sector to interact and work more effectively. It is made up of components from an individual’s digital skills to digital adoption, and from sustained access to finance and investment to support for R&;D.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Closing the Local Digital gap could boost the UK’s economic output by £145bn and create 2.7 million jobs, according to Sage.

With Yorkshire forecast to lose 12 per cent of gross value added in 2020, it’s essential we increase Local Digital Capital and future proof the region’s economy.

It would also be remiss to overlook the more immediate effects of the pandemic across Yorkshire. Social-distancing restrictions caused the value of goods and services produced across the region to fall by £170m per day – a daily drop of 37 per cent in value – and we need to start implementing solutions to alleviate the impact.

Our research found that to achieve this goal the region needs greater levels of funding for its local incubators, accelerators, and networks, along with comprehensive digitisation programmes to help businesses adopt digital technologies.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Partnerships are the best way to drive progress, and we need to build on the work of Sheffield Digital and Barnsley Digital Campus as regional blueprints. Over time, this will

improve the digital capabilities of businesses by fostering digital skills across organisations.

The pandemic has brought the role of digital technologies into sharp focus, particular in how they’ve helped businesses stay operational. It’s become evident that businesses need to use digital resources to accelerate growth, and it’s vital that local innovators are given the opportunity to share digital solutions that can address some of the most urgent problems – from housing to healthcare. Launching innovation challenges can help achieve this, by providing entrepreneurs with the structures required to solve local challenges.

Despite a difficult year, there is lots to be optimistic about. If we all group together and use the technology we have at our fingertips, I am certain we can overcome the impact of the pandemic and build a more resilient economy.

The road to success will be paved by digital, and every effort should be made to incorporate technology solutions into Yorkshire’s recovery strategy and future economic planning.

Related topics: