Investment in UK digital infrastructure could add £70 billion to UK GDP over the next five years.

UK Digital Infrastructure

The UK ranked 8th amongst OECD countries in the Digital Connectivity Index. Investment in full-fibre and mobile connectivity could unlock more than 500,000 jobs by 2026 and help tackle inequality according to new research from Virgin Media O2 and economic modelling experts Oxford Analytica.

The findings are revealed in the first-ever Digital Connectivity Index which uses thousands of OECD data points to measure how individuals and organisations can connect with one another and the rest of the world through high-quality internet access. The Index assesses the quality of connectivity infrastructure across OECD countries and finds the UK is currently ranked joint 8th out of 24 OECD countries just ahead of Germany, Portugal and Ireland.

The Digital Connectivity Index also reveals how upgrading mobile and broadband networks can support economic growth and help the country to level up. If the UK were to become the OECD leader, it could unlock £69.78 billion in extra GDP between now and 2026.

Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media O2, said: “The importance of digital connectivity to the UK’s future couldn’t be clearer, and the role we play as an industry more profound.“

Scott Urban, Senior Advisor at Oxford Analytica, said:

“The Digital Connectivity Index shows telecom’s key contribution to levelling-up through spurring higher growth and creating new jobs.”

The research has been commissioned by Virgin Media O2, as part of its mission to upgrade the UK. The company has committed to investing at least £10 billion over the next five years, with plans to expand 5G coverage to cover 50% of the population by 2023 and upgrade its entire fixed network to full-fibre to the premises by 2028.

The findings reveal that people living in more deprived areas of the country, in rural areas and lower-income households are most at risk of digital exclusion. As many as 1 in 10 of those with a household income of £15,000 a year or less do not have an internet connection at home, whilst those living in rural areas are twice as likely to report suffering from poor internet connections as those living in urban areas.

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