In 2017, according to ONS data, only 9% of all UK adults had never used the internet, and this figure has continued to fall. In an increasingly connected environment, digital networks allow businesses to meet a larger, more dynamic customer base. So, the government promised to “ensure that consumers and businesses can access the digital infrastructure they need to succeed”.
The (not insignificant) challenge with this promise is that we don’t have any agreed definition of what consumers and businesses need – and the government hasn’t put forward their understanding of those needs either.
However, as a starting point, we do have a list of other manifesto policies that appear to support this overall objective. We can use these as indicators of progress, and we can also look for evidence from independent surveys and reports to understand how consumers and businesses feel about the ‘digital infrastructure’ they have access to.
So firstly the related policies, which are in different stages of completion (so not yet all delivered).
- 19 out of 20 premises will have access to superfast broadband in 2017
- Ensure that by 2020 every home and every business in Britain has access to high speed broadband
- Gigaspeed connectivity to as many businesses and homes as possible
- Full fibre connection voucher for companies across the country by 2018
- Major fibre spines in over a hundred towns and cities
- Begin roll-out of a new 5G network
To understand how satisfied business are, we can turn to a 2019 YouGov survey on 1,000 small and medium enterprises, revealing that 79% were satisfied with their internet connection. About 70% of decision-makers felt their business had a clear understanding of its technology capabilities, with costs and complexity acting as the main barriers to the adoption of new technologies.
This promise is difficult to measure, but we can see the government has taken steps to improve digital infrastructure across the UK through other related pledges. We can also see that not all of those pledges are complete, and there is no clear sign that all consumers and businesses have access to “the digital infrastructure they need to succeed”. We are therefore marking this as ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for updates.
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