Northern Ireland: Striding into the Digital Age in The Land of Legends
From the Giant’s Causeway to the Mountains of Mourne, Northern Ireland is a country filled to the brim with ancient legends, tales of folk heroes and whispers of magical creatures. It’s a land imbued with so much rich myth and history, it can be easy to forget it’s also an emerging digital powerhouse, with digital firms contributing over £1 billion to the Northern Irish economy1 and over 20,000 people employed in the digital and creative sector in Belfast alone. With wild, beautiful scenery that attracts critically acclaimed TV shows like Game of Thrones and a capital investing in the smart cities revolution, Northern Ireland is poised to fulfil its digital potential.
Digital transformation is built on a strong foundation of connectivity, with the infrastructure that connects thousands of people, businesses and cities across Northern Ireland. At any one time we’re building to approximately 150k premises with around 400 crews. Already, 69,000 businesses in Belfast alone are reaping the benefits of secure, high speed broadband thanks to Project Lightning and we intend to continue delivering this kind of quality connectivity, ensuring that every business, from startups to the public sector, have a solid foundation on which to build their digital future.
These numbers only tell one half of the story however. Digital transformation can and should be measured by the benefit it delivers to the people who live and work in the region, something encapsulated in the digital agenda of Belfast city council. Living up to council motto, “In return for so much, what shall we give back?”, their strategy for developing the city focuses on using digital to build on the city’s existing strengths, like tourism, which contributed £2.5m per day in 2018 to the economy2. The plan to introduce new technology like ultrafast public WiFi and 5G to areas of Belfast like the Titanic Quarter will not only deliver an immersive, connected experience for tourists visiting the city, but will also lay the foundations for smart urban infrastructure. In turn, this means there’s also huge potential for growth in these smart districts as businesses, attracted by the technology on offer, look to build their own platform for success in the city.
The importance of great connectivity to a successful smart city strategy cannot be overstated and from the moment you touch down at Belfast City Airport, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Thanks to Virgin Media Business, the airport delivers superfast, secure public WiFi to every person that passes through, enabling them to work, play and explore the city the moment their plane touches down. It’s not just visitors that are benefitting from our ultrafast connectivity either. From film production studios, who saved significant time and money each month thanks to our stable, resilient connections, to Kennedy Recruitment, whose business broadband connection is now 13 times faster than previously, investing in digital solutions and smart technology should be for the benefit of every single person who lives, works or visits Northern Ireland.
It’s not only the private sector that can benefit from investment in smart digital solutions. Public sector organisations across Northern Ireland are already delivering a more connected, more efficient service to their patients and employees thanks to better connectivity. VMB are ideally placed to help healthcare providers across the region embrace digital innovation and provide them a cost effective, safe and reliable solution. With a network capable of supporting digital solutions like cloud collaboration and secure data sharing between departments, vital human factors like employee satisfaction and patient care could improve dramatically.
Creating a brighter digital future for Northern Ireland will require a collaborative approach that spans every industry and sector; from delivering mobile first solutions to the ambitious startups and entrepreneurs, to creating smarter, connected networks for healthcare trusts, schools and public services. These solutions will need to be delivered by councils and governing bodies working in partnership with providers who are not simply invested in the technology they provide, but in the people and businesses of Northern Ireland who will benefit from it. We believe we can help achieve this, not only through the strength of our solutions and our network, but also due to the fact that we deliver them through a dedicated local network of offices and employees committed to the future success of the region.
1 Northern Ireland is among the best in the UK for digital tech output. Belfast Telegraph,12/02/2016. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/northern-ireland-is-among-the-best-in-uk-for-digital-tech-output-34445461.html
2 Invest In Belfast: https://investinbelfast.com/key-sectors/tourism/