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Why digital technologies will be crucial to our post Covid-19 economic recovery
29 June 2020
As the UK works together to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s sobering to take a moment to reflect on just how big an impact the crisis has had on both our home and working lives.
BT Group has seen a significant rise in demand on both our fixed and mobile networks, as people stayed at home during the lockdown and millions of people migrated towards working from home. To give some context, in the last week of April alone, BT’s core network transmitted 103.3 Petabytes of data in a single day — the largest total since our records began. When you consider that one Petabyte is the equivalent of 13 years of HD video, you’ll really appreciate how much data we’ve all been consuming.
Our networks have stood up well to this challenge and have been extremely resilient, but the predicament we all find ourselves in has prompted questions about what the ‘new normal’ might look like when we emerge from this pandemic.
A recent survey by BT Skills for Tomorrow and Small Business Britain found that more businesses in London and the South East are increasingly moving services online for survival. Almost half (44 per cent) of small businesses in the region have moved online due to the pandemic; and 39 per cent now view digital skills and tools as a key focus area.
Over 40 per cent of the region’s small businesses have drastically cut operational costs, with the need for physical offices and other traditional ways of working now increasingly being re-thought.
Looking to the future, 39 per cent are planning for less face to face contact and more than a quarter (27 per cent) expect working from home to continue.
Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on businesses, society and economy and is likely to significantly accelerate the shift to digital and the pace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From virtual meetings to automated factories, online orders to drone delivery, digital services are growing in importance, permeating an increasing number of sectors and activities.
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly seen many businesses change their business models to adapt to the current situation which could have a beneficial impact on recovery.
However, there will still be challenges. Even before the pandemic the UK was facing an alarming digital skills gap, which has only been exacerbated by this crisis. Millions of people and a significant number of businesses lack the essential digital skills they need, which risks widening social divides and already has an estimated £63bnannual impact on the UK’s competitiveness.
Through our Skills for Tomorrow programme we will help 10m people, families and businesses across the UK get the skills they need by 2025. But the task ahead is significant.
The Covid-19 pandemic will have an accelerating impact on the widespread adoption of digital technologies including IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and full fibre broadband. Left unchecked, this has the potential to further widen socio-economic inequality, with those underequipped to exploit the new technology being placed at a disadvantage.
The key challenge is how we can work together through and beyond the Covid-19 crisis to create a more productive economy, tackle climate change and build a healthy and more equal society.
By working with others we are committed to helping the country navigate through this to build a better digital future — one where collaboration and innovation can provide the solutions to the challenges we face and, in doing so, ensuring that no-one is left behind in the transformation to a digital society.