Better digital infrastructure and technology in 30 towns across the UK could result in an additional £1.5 billion entering the British economy by 2020, according to a new report by O2.
The mobile operator's 'Rebalancing Britain: Inspiring thriving Digital Communities' claims that technology can transform towns outside of London and the South East and rebalance the current North-South economic divide.
The report is a projection of its Digital Communities pilot, conducted in partnership with St Helens Council between October and December last year. In it, technology was used to tackle poor productivity levels among local businesses, address digital skills shortages and improve access to connectivity.
The report says the measures used in the pilot could inject an additional £46.3 million to the St Helens economy by 2020, driven by increased job creation, enhanced workforce productivity and supply chain multiplier effects.
O2 believes that replicating the pilot in just eight towns in the North of England could boost the region's economy by an additional £410 million by 2020, while rolling out to 30 towns and cities could result in huge economic gains.
"This report is a stark reminder that digital plays a crucial role in delivering future economic growth and rebalancing the chronic North-South economic divide currently gripping our economy," commented Ben Dowd, O2's business director.
"Now it's time to ensure that no matter where you live or run your business, you can make the most of digital technology and its benefits. That's why today we are releasing a Digital Communities Blueprint to call on other businesses and government to help more towns to follow in St Helen's footsteps and be part of a truly digital Britain."
The Blueprint recommends that every local authority has a digital strategy and for Local Enterprise Partnerships to appoint digital 'champions' to ensure that local authorities and businesses are not neglecting the skills requirements which enable the digital economy to flourish.