On 15 February 2021, Centre for Cities published a report exploring the successes and challenges of the UK’s digital infrastructure.
According to the article, the UK is currently a world-leader in digital infrastructure. OECD data shows that across the country, more people have access to a quality connection than in any other large country.
Centre for Cities further exhibits the strength of the UK network using data from the Ofcom International Broadband Scorecard 2020. This shows that the average UK resident consumes more GBs of data per capita each year than nearly anywhere else in the world.
Ofcom Connecting Cities data shows that the quality connection gap between the worst and best-connected cities is closing. Centre for Cities illustrates the closing gap with the following Ofcom statistics:
- ‘The two cities with the lowest share of high speed fixed connections in 2016, Hull and Aberdeen, have more than doubled or even trebled take-up since.
- ‘Cities with the highest take-up rates in 2016, Cambridge and Crawley, starting from a higher base have grown much more slowly.
- ‘But both of these figures top out at around 80 per cent – still well below the almost 100 per cent coverage of these cities. This is an issue of demand, rather than supply.’
Centre for Cities attributes the shortfall in demand to two factors:
- Low incomes: Ofcom data shows that nearly half of the poorest households with children do not have home access to the internet.
- Low skill and awareness levels: This forms a particularly pervasive barrier to connection uptake among the elderly and disabled.
Centre for Cities suggests that the solution to closing the digital divide is to increase the incomes of the working poor, and to provide digital skills support for those who need it.