How investment in digital technology will change our nation for the better
By Mike Smith, Executive Director, Virgin Media Business
March 2nd 2020
Over the last year, we’ve lived the reality of digital transformation like never before.
From mass remote working to the launch of virtual courts, online GP consultancies and the home schooling of children and students.
Years of progress seen in months, even weeks.
When it comes to the way we work and do business, organisations now have the chance to do things better than before. To take what we have learned and apply it to what we do next.
In our latest report with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), we show how continued investment in digital change will help to grow our industries and public sectors and boost the national economy over the coming decades.
We have a £232 billion opportunity ahead of us. Cebr’s research shows, in no uncertain terms, how we can power growth and positive change across the UK.
It also shows how investment in digital technology, sped up by Covid-19, will change our nation for the better. It will benefit you and your organisation, your people and customers.
And this starts with how we work.
Working becomes truly flexible
Overnight, working away from the office went from a ‘nice to have’ to a necessity. Now it’s changed from a vaunted benefit or a long-term ambition to our new everyday. Working virtually, collaborating as teams, anywhere in the UK.
The increased adoption of video conferencing and collaboration tools, cloud computing and virtualisation are all helping employees work where they want, how they want, boosting productivity in almost every sector.
Beyond the immediate effect of keeping organisations going, the benefits for employees have been revealed: increased productivity, reduced sick leave, a labour market less impacted by location, and an increased focus on people’s work-life balance and wellbeing.
That’s where truly flexible working, enabled through technology, comes in. Splitting time between the office, the home or wherever may be most productive to work is going to be something that many of us won’t want to give up.
And that’s exciting for what comes next.
Better services through digital means
Before the pandemic we were already becoming increasingly familiar with online services which were more efficient and accessible.
Covid sped this up.
For time-poor shoppers, click and collect and online delivery were already on the rise. But when the pandemic struck, delivery slots suddenly became hot currency.
The increased demand in online shopping during Covid-19 has fundamentally shifted the retail industry forward. Rapid moves were made by companies to scale up and deploy digital transformation that would keep groceries arriving at shoppers’ doors.
Retailers like Ocado are continuing to pour investment into meeting future demand, enabled by digital means.
But there has also been a switch to digital delivery through the wider economy. In healthcare, virtual appointments with consultants have been, quite literally, a life saver, allowing practitioners to assess vulnerable patients without the risks of them travelling to hospitals.
Digital services have kept our justice process running. At the height of the first lockdown, HM Courts and Tribunals Service data showed that over virtual court 500 hearings had been conducted by audio or video technology. Within a month the number of these hearings had reached almost 3,000.
These will remain in place where they can continue, providing organisations with alternatives to traditional service delivery. They’ll ensure that the most appropriate service can be offered in the most effective way, for those who need them, whether physically or digitally.
Artificial intelligence (AI) may still sound like the work of science fiction, but the reality is that analytics and smart systems, powered by rich sources of data, are already helping employees to improve service delivery.
In public services, analytics and AI-enabled systems are assisting teams working on building and city planning, analysing data around people traffic and pollution levels. In Coventry the council has recently approved a recycling facility that uses AI-powered robots, helping the city become greener and more efficient.
Covid-19 has driven organisations to make new use of these technologies. Greater Manchester Combined Authority launched a new tech platform that monitored PPE stock, staffing and Covid-19 infection rates, all in real-time, meaning that better decisions and swift action could be taken.
The financial services industry has seen steady investment in machine learning technologies. AI systems have been helping banks to deal with the high volume of customer enquiries and government-guaranteed loan applications during Covid-19, while supporting remote working among their employees.
Flexible networks and the right IT infrastructure are letting organisations rapidly shift business models and work practices to include these programmes, enabling intelligent enterprise solutions that enhance how we work and provide services.
Seizing your new everyday
We can’t afford to miss out on the once-in-a-generation moment in front of us. It will give us a national boost to productivity, and the impact will be huge.
From the hardest of years, we can now create growth in industry and valuable improvements to public services.
This means making the right kind of investment and driving outcomes through the right kind of leadership, to innovate, re-invest and empower people in how and where they work.
Read the report for yourself and share what we’ve found.
The opportunity is clear.
Now is the moment to seize it.