Digital transformation is now at the top of the agenda for organisations across the UK, according to Virgin Media’s managing director of direct business, Mike Smith. “Together, we’ve made years of progress in months, even weeks,” he says. “Now, we have the chance to do things better than before. To improve people’s wellbeing through flexible working, offer customers better services using digital tools, and make more informed decisions with precise data. This is a fantastic opportunity for our industries, public sectors, and the UK economy – one which leaders must seize through continued digital investment.”
Smith is not alone in this thinking. In fact, there’s a Covid-driven digital dividend worth £232 billion to the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery, and it’s ripe for the plucking. That’s how much value could be added to the nation’s economy by 2040 – equivalent to 6.9 per cent of GDP – provided we continue to invest in growing the digital technologies that have played such a vital role in all our lives over the past year. That’s a lot of money however you look at it – and it represents a huge opportunity. But although the figure is substantial it is grounded in reality, not conjured from the air – it’s based on solid research conducted by Virgin Media Business and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) and takes in the UK economy as a whole.
It’s also right at our feet and has the potential to yield big results, fast: £74 billion of that £232 billion could be realised in the next four years. That’s a much quicker return than we’d get from building new physical infrastructure such as motorways, tunnels or rail links. Nor does it rely on the benefits of yet-to-be-invented tech that might never happen. The same kind of tried and tested technology that has helped save lives, save jobs and kept us entertained and informed through the rigours of lockdown will also be the key to accessing this post-pandemic digital dividend.
The three main factors identified in the report – the flexible working boom; the explosion of businesses offering “digital first” products and services; and smarter use of better data to make winning decisions – have all become very familiar in recent months. We know that they work, in every sector. Digitising health and social care could account for £33 billion in extra GDP by 2040; doing the same for the justice system and central and local government could bring in £32 billion; with professional services and construction contributing a further £40 billion.