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The pandemic has seen the internet become more valued than ever before and Cisco’s latest Broadband Index has revealed that not only does the new paradigm of hybrid work depend on the quality and availability of the internet, but also that economic and societal growth will not happen without quality connectivity.
In the UK, Cisco found that 70% of UK workers believe broadband services need to dramatically improve to support this new way of working.
The company’s global survey took the view of almost 60,000 workers across 30 countries about their home broadband access, quality and usage. Almost three-quarters of those workers said broadband reliability and quality was important to them.
Dependence on high-performance internet access was underlined by the fact that 84% of respondents actively use their broadband at home for four hours or more each day. Meanwhile, three or more people use the internet at the same time in 57% of households.
Cisco believes a new digital business environment has emerged where ambitious entrepreneurs and startups can prosper, fostering innovation across industries. The research revealed that 44% of workers now rely on their home internet to work from home or run their own business. This was regarded as especially critical for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that do not have the same resources and IT infrastructure as larger enterprises.
Yet the study showed that teleworkers needed more than a basic level of connectivity to support their livelihoods. To address the demands on their broadband connection, over a third of those surveyed (36%) were planning to upgrade their internet service in the next 12 months. As of January 2021, 75% of UK businesses were sole traders and over 99% of businesses were SMEs employing up to 249 people. Broadband was seen as able to play a key role in the growth and evolution of this core business category.
Beyond the business world, improving the quality of access to the internet has a far broader impact on the economy and society. Over two-thirds (71%) of UK respondents said having access to fast and reliable internet was critical to future economic growth and a well-educated population. A similar share (71%) said everyone should be able to securely connect to fast and reliable internet, regardless of location.
Another vital issue flagged was security. Cisco noted that to work from anywhere, employees need to connect to their company’s networks and applications from outside the office, accessing private data across multiple locations, through multiple devices, via public and private networks.
Workers were found to be increasingly aware that safety and security, as well as speed and reliability, were vital to the success of hybrid working. More than half of people who work remotely full time or hybrid would pay more to ensure they have a safe broadband connection.
Another key area addressed by the survey was the growing digital divide in broadband access. The Cisco Broadband Index found 60% of UK respondents regarded access to affordable and reliable broadband as a major issue, as connectivity becomes even more vital for access to employment and educational opportunities.
Nearly half (46%) said they were unable to access critical services such as online medical appointments, online education, social care and utility services during Covid lockdowns, due to an unreliable broadband connection. As a consequence, two-thirds of UK respondents said they would like to see the government accelerate plans to ensure high-speed and reliable internet is available to everyone.
As a solution, Cisco suggested governments establish broadband policies and programmes that encourage competition, drive internet investment and expand its reach. It added that employers could support their workforce by adopting the right technology for their particular hybrid work model. Cisco also said service providers could partner with governments to develop programmes that address the needs of the unserved or underserved and adopt new ways of networking to power the “internet for the future” that would meet demand.
Commenting on the trends revealed in the report, Guy Diedrich, senior vice-president and global innovation officer at Cisco, said: “As of today, nearly half of the world remains unconnected. The inability to connect those roughly 3.4 billion people over the next 10 years risks the effects of the digital divide becoming unrecoverable. As business leaders and technologists, we must help the rising tide of the digital age lift all ships – time is of the essence.”
Jonathan Davidson, executive vice-president and general manager, mass-scale infrastructure group, at Cisco, added: “Secure, high-quality, reliable internet is critical to make hybrid work successful. We are working closely with our global service provider customers to change the economics of the internet and help them reimagine internet infrastructure to make it better and more accessible to connect more people and businesses who rely on it.”
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