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What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of an organisation or place, fundamentally changing how it operates. It is not merely a technology challenge but also a people challenge. In broad terms, there are three main areas which affect digital transformation:

  1. Digital infrastructure
  2. Digital skills and inclusion
  3. Digital transformation for businesses

We're working to address challenges in each area to support digital transformation in the West of England.

Digital infrastructure

Improving digital infrastructure in our region is crucial to our region's future success. We're working to reduce the barriers which make it hard for residents and businesses to benefit from digital transformation. These include:

Connectivity

High-speed connectivity for everyone is not yet a reality, but it will be increasingly important for our future and the success of our local businesses. We’re reviewing connectivity across our region to identify areas with poor coverage and create a plan to improve infrastructure.

Cost

Even in areas with good broadband coverage, we’re aware that the cost of accessing digital services and devices can make it difficult for people (also known as digital poverty). We would like to see this changed.

Access

We believe that everyone should be able to access high-quality digital resources and benefit from fast, reliable broadband coverage – irrespective of their location or income.

Digital skills and inclusion

A deficit in digital skills and capabilities slows down progress, for both the economy and society as a whole. It also contributes to the exclusion of communities.

There is currently a shortage of advanced digital skills in the workforce. We're working with local schools, colleges and businesses to ensure the current and future workforce is digital-ready, and that SMEs can access new technology and upskill their employees.

4.9% of people aged 16 years or over last used the internet over 3 months ago, or have never used it.

ONS 2020 data

Digital transformation for business

Digital transformation brings great advantages for businesses, and is built on cultural and behavioural change.

Adoption of digital ways of working can be limited by:

  • A lack of innovation culture: some small to medium-sized businesses – as well as some larger ones – simply don't have a culture that encourages digital transformation.
  • A lack of understanding: some businesses might not be aware of the benefits, or might be unsure of how to choose the most relevant services for their needs.
  • Fears about productivity: some businesses have concerns that digital transformation will harm productivity. The past year has shown this is not the case, with businesses working in an agile and efficient way – irrespective of location.

The Combined Authority supports SMEs to increase their digital skills and knowledge with through a range of tailored support programmes.

Man using sound system Workforce for the Future
Woman and man using design software Tech for Growth
People in a meetintg West of England Growth Hub
Digital graphic of cities

The strategic nature of digital connectivity in supporting the economy is as critical to all sectors as for example the public transport network.

Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce: Topic Paper 3