Wales is in the midst of a radical technological transformation which has the potential to provide a step-change in the way we live our daily lives and boost our economy.
Heavy industry and manufacturing has declined while new industries have begun to emerge.What we are witnessing now in Wales, as we embrace an increasingly digitally connected economy, will also pave the way for new opportunities.
It’s important that potential investors know how good our digital capability is in skills and infrastructure. Despite its geography and immense technologic challenges, Wales is among the European leaders in digital performance and connectivity.
More than 90% of Welsh homes and businesses now have access to fibre broadband speeds, thanks to a combination of commercial investment and the Superfast Cymru partnership. The latter, led by the Welsh Government and delivered by Openreach engineers is a huge civil engineering project.
According to independent industry experts Thinkbroadband, more than 92% of premises are able to connect to superfast broadband at speeds greater than 30Mbps. In reaching beyond our cities and towns to remote communities, from Holyhead and Aberdaron to Llangollen and Prestatyn, Welsh engineering know-how has shown the world what it can do.
With around a third of homes and businesses having upgraded to fibre already, there’s plenty of potential for more families and businesses in Wales to benefit from the advantages the faster speeds bring. That people in towns like Wrexham, Bangor and Pwllheli can order the same fibre-based services and speeds at the same cost as those living and working in central London is a fantastic digital leveller.
Meanwhile, any business or organisation with more significant bandwidth demands can buy dedicated ultrafast services from services providers at a range of gigabit speeds. We work with businesses to deliver what they need, where they need it most - not just in parts of city centres.
With these high-speed networks widely available, and further investment in ultrafast technologies happening now, it’s time that our national debate shifted to how we can best exploit our digital capacities.
As people increasingly expect to communicate online, from booking appointments to reporting problems or even having a video call with their doctor, it’s vital that as a nation we’re ready to support that demand.
Increasing our productivity and working smarter will also help close the digital skills divide. In schools, digital smart boards and tablets are an increasingly common part of lessons.
History has shown us how advancements in technology can bring about not just economic change but social change, helping people to reach their potential in life. By taking hold of what we’ve already achieved and pushing the boundaries even further, Wales is well placed to be a world-leading digital economy.
Ed Hunt is regional director for Openreach