Bridging UK digital gap worth £4.8bn to economy – report

techUK Local Digital Index launch Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones at the launch of the techUK Local Digital Index.

Reducing the digital divide among the UK’s nations and regions could provide a £4.8bn boost to the economy, a new report has found.

Despite digital infrastructure improvements across the UK, trade association techUK said it had found a stark gap between some nations and regions.

For the first time the Local Digital Index – now in its third year – assessed the digital gross value added (GVA) data across the UK.

It found that London led the way, with a digital GVA per person of £9,083. The UK capital is followed by the South East at £5,287.

Wales had the lowest digital sector GVA per capita at £1,348.

If the six regions with the lowest digital GVA – the South West, East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, North East, Northern Ireland and Wales – reached the UK median, this would add £4.8bn to the UK economy, techUK said.

Writing in an opinion piece for UKTN, techUK CEO Julian David said: “If we don’t get the plumbing and basics right now, that gap is likely to grow further and future indices will paint a grimmer rather than brighter picture.”

The techUK report suggests 10 recommendations to improve digital sectors across the UK. They include modernising the national curriculum, incentivising businesses to stay in the UK, and improving digital infrastructure.

“We're steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that the benefits and growth of the tech sector are felt in every corner of the country,” said Paul Scully, the minister for tech and digital economy, who spoke at the report launch at Birmingham Tech Week.

“This report not only affirms our progress so far but also demonstrates the vast potential of regional hubs like Birmingham. Building a nation where innovation thrives all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats is central to our plans to cement the UK's status as a science and technology superpower by 2030."

Labour’s Alex Davies-Jones, the shadow minister for tech and digital economy, said that the UK “needs to get the very basics right in order to get any of right”.

Speaking at Birmingham Tech Week, the MP for Pontypridd added: “Perhaps more importantly, it’s become crystal clear to me that our curriculum and skills offering for people has not managed to keep pace with the demands of our increasingly technological world.

“Our curriculum is still based on our former industrial revolution, not fit for purpose for the new tech revolution.”