Digital economy is vital for UK SMEs

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the Parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, recently said that the digital economy is vital for UK small businesses.

Digital SMEs

Speaking at economic and social forum Politeia’s ‘Small Business, Intellectual Property & The Digital Economy’ event, the Baroness discussed Whitehall’s efforts to strengthen the UK’s digital economy. She noted that small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have a vital role to play in ensuring this country capitalises on the rapid advent of digital technologies to boost its economy.

She was quoted by SME Insider saying: “1.46 million people are employed in digital tech companies in the UK. 50% of these have been formed since 2008, and 15% alone in 2013 to 2014. 98% of these are small businesses. And this will be news to most of you, three quarters of digital tech companies are based outside London.”

Helping SMEs develop

Explaining how Whitehall plans to help digital SMEs develop, the Baroness said: “The companies in this digital world are pivotal to the UK economy and indeed to continued small business creation and growth. I ought to add, that government realises this very well. We made this clear in the Autumn Statement.

“We are, for example, investing £1.8 billion in digital technology and transformation projects across the public sector over the next four years. We have also established the concept of ‘Digital Catapults’ – these help our SMEs to innovate speedily and with minimum risk, so that new digital products and services can be accelerated to market.” 

Access to broadband

She went on to note that “a fundamental part of support for digital is ensuring access to broadband.” According to the BBC, 83% of British homes and businesses currently have access to a superfast broadband speed of 24Mbps. However Neville-Rolfe said that the UK needs to provide better broadband to compete with digital world leaders such as South Korea and Japan.

Elaborating, she revealed: “By the end of 2017 superfast broadband will be available to 95% of homes and businesses in the UK. And the Prime Minister has announced a Universal Service Obligation of ten megabytes from 2020 in recognition of the fact that broadband is in effect now a fourth utility, and a disruptive one at that.”

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