Digital connectivity is revolutionising people’s quality of life. According to research commissioned by the communications regulator Ofcom, in 2017 64 per cent of people said the internet was an essential part of their day to day life.
As more of us use faster broadband and mobile services we have more choice about how and when to make voice and video calls, message friends and relatives, browse the internet, watch on-demand TV, stream music, play games, do shopping or work from home.
It is equally important for businesses too. Research by the Federation of Small Businesses found that 94 per cent of small business owners rate a reliable broadband connection as critical to the success of their business. A survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry found that 81 per cent of firms also said that they see more reliable mobile connectivity as essential.
We know that improved digital connectivity increases innovation and productivity across the economy. Increased broadband speeds alone could add £17 billion to UK output by 2024. Studies have also shown mobile broadband is associated with positive impacts nationally, such as higher GDP and increased employment.
The digitisation of public services also offers an important opportunity to support sustainable local services, especially in more remote settings with the public keen to use more services online. Of course, it is worth noting that not all residents will feel comfortable using digital services and therefore must be accommodated via other means.
Finally, better digital infrastructure can enable local government to fully utilise advances in technology and data analysis to better understand local areas and deliver services more effectively. The transformation of public sector assets such as lamp posts into “smart infrastructure” means they can now supply public access to wifi (explained later in this guide); support environmental monitoring such as air quality or flooding; or even monitor pedestrian flow or parking spaces.