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Investments in skills, infrastructure and SMEs needed to help UK data economy hit new heights

The UK data economy may struggle to reach its full growth potential between now and 2025 unless action is taken, suggests research commissioned by datacentre operator Digital Realty

The UK data economy could miss out on a £7bn boost in its value between now and 2025 unless a number of significant barriers to its continued success are lifted, suggests Digital Realty research.

The datacentre operator commissioned consultancy Development Economics to investigate and quantify the role business data plays in the economic growth of the UK, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands, to ascertain the size of the “data economy” operating in each of these territories.

The Data Economy Report said the UK is the country with the largest digital economy out of the four, with an estimated annual value of £73.3bn, before going on to flag 15 or so areas that could hamper its future growth potential.

It warned: “While it is expected that the value of the data economy will continue to grow strongly, there is a danger that unless significant constraints and barriers are not addressed, a large proportion of the potential value of the data economy will remain unrealised.”

Such constraints include user distrust of organisations that want access to their data and getting businesses to realise the value of the data they hold and do more with it.

Other recommendations include getting enterprises to work with the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) community to help small business owners tap into the latest innovations in data analytics from an infrastructure and analytics perspective, so they can do more with the data they have too.

“There is an opportunity for large businesses to provide support for SMEs who are members of their supply chain by defining standards and sharing best practice and expertise,” said the report.

“Peak industry bodies should pool resources to campaign for greater awareness of the value of data among businesses large and small.”

Read more about Digital Realty

The report added that the government could also do more to promote the data economy as a “career destination for young people”, and make changes to the national curriculum to “enhance the quality” of teaching in related subjects, such as mathematics, statistics and computer science.

It said: “Government also has a potentially important role in in helping to retain older workers (including those who have had a period of absence from the workforce) and in providing incentives for smaller businesses to invest in workforce training.”

According to the report, if the growth of the UK’s data economy continues at its current rate, it will be worth £94.6bn by 2025. However, if the aforementioned areas are addressed, it could be worth around £101.6bn by then – an increase of £7bn.

Digital Catapult CEO Jeremy Silver, whose organisation promotes the acceleration of technology adoption in the business industry, said the report’s findings set out how the UK can achieve its goal of becoming a world leader in technology.

The Data Economy Report provides a clear roadmap for businesses, suggesting that by investing in the right foundations, technology innovations and partners, they will grab a significant dividend,” he added.

Investing in the infrastructure the data economy needs to run on is also flagged in the report as an area the business community must address, with particular emphasis on telecommunications.

“It is vital the telecommunications infrastructure providers continue to invest in telecoms infrastructure, both in terms of ultrafast broadband and in the emerging fifth generation of mobile phone networks,” it stated.

Digital Realty Europe managing director Rob Coupland said the important role infrastructure plays in keeping the digital economy ticking over is often underestimated.

“With The Data Economy Report, infrastructure’s worth to businesses and the wider economy is apparent,” he said.

 “We urge British businesses to invest in the right tools, infrastructure and partners to get more value out of data and take a piece of a £101.6bn national opportunity.”

Read more on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

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