Business experts at the University of Essex have welcomed plans for further investment which will see the Tendring district reach 100% superfast broadband coverage. However, they stress that businesses need to consider their internal skills and processes if this is to guarantee growth in the Tendring area.
On 11 November Superfast Essex reported that the Tendring district, in north-east Essex, would become one of the first districts in the UK with near 100% superfast broadband access. With 5,500 premises due to be connected in the latest phase of Superfast Essex homeowners and businesses alike will benefit from faster and more reliable broadband connections by 2019.
Professor Vania Sena from Essex Business School is Director of the Business and Local Government Data Research Centre (BLGDRC). The Centre is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and helps businesses and local government to make more effective use of their data for the benefit of society as well as carrying out research about the factors which contribute to, or hinder, local economic growth.
Professor Sena said, “This is welcome news for a district which has suffered from under-investment for a long time. As well as large rural areas with very poor connections there are also big gaps in the urban superfast broadband coverage and I’m pleased to see this latest investment commitment is set to address both the urban and rural gaps. Superfast broadband is now considered a general purpose technology which benefits all economic sectors and can boost labour productivity up to 10%. In short superfast broadband can make a big difference to businesses and is what they have come to expect.
“However, the existence of this infrastructure alone does not guarantee success. In order for the related economic growth to be sustained many businesses will find the existing skills of the workforce and their management practices need to be addressed. There is a well-known IT skills gap which affects the whole of the UK and this challenge is one that needs to be tackled hand in hand with using the latest technologies to improve infrastructure.
“At BLGDRC, we are collecting data on management practices among businesses that have access to superfast broadband and among businesses that do not have access to the same infrastructure. The findings show that there are stark differences between the two groups of companies. These range from the structure of the company to the personnel policies and the management of the supply chain.
It also isn’t just the broadband connection to a business’ own premises which is important to consider. Local economic growth also relies on the quality of broadband available in peoples’ homes as this can affect their ability to work from home, or set up businesses at home, and therefore the desirability of the area.”
The Business and Local Government Data Research Centre is based at the University of Essex. The Centre offers training, webinars, innovation vouchers and other collaborative projects to share the expertise of its researchers with local businesses.
Published on 17 November 2016