UK Competitiveness Threatened by Digital Divide

The UK sits at the top for e-commerce and is among the top five countries for technology availability. However, when it comes to embracing digital technology on a company level the results of research conducted by IBM, the multinational technology and consulting firm, are surprising: only just over 50% of UK organisations are digitising their business at the same rates as their European counterparts and overseas peers.

Digital adoption comes with concerns about security and connectivity that seem to be preventing UK companies from entering digitalisation at full speed. But almost half the firms have an unclear ROI strategy and lack the necessary skills within their business. It’s interesting that almost all companies strongly believe in the profound impact that digital technology can have on the business landscape. They appear to be advocates of digitalisation and think that it can drive productivity and growth, as well as provide customers with an excellent experience that boosts consumer satisfaction, among other benefits.   

The largest business group in the UK, the CBI, gives tips to firms so that they can benefit from digital technology. The CBI’s Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, mentions that businesses around the world are taking advantage of the digital ‘revolution’ that’s skyrocketing productivity and creating a new generation of pioneering, elite firms. Unfortunately, it’s a revolution that 50% of UK companies are currently just observing from afar. The constantly increasing digital divide is causing UK products and services to fall behind, becoming less and less competitive by the day.

According to the CBI, businesses in all sectors can reverse this situation by implementing the following measures:

  • Understand the true potential of digital technology and humanise digital by appointing a Chief Digital Officer to the senior executive team. That will help to build and execute long-term digital strategies.
  • Harness the expertise of digital natives in order to make sound investments for their future. It’s no coincidence that almost 30% of pioneering firms have already invested in cognitive technologies and artificial intelligence in the last 12 months, and 16% of businesses on the other side are planning to do so in 2017.
  • Promote idea-sharing. This means that businesses will have to work more closely with each other (i.e. those digitally advanced can offer coaching services to those in need).
  • Increase the advertisers’ and boards’ diversity in both skills and ages.

Undeniably, today’s business leaders must seriously reconsider their vision of modern enterprise and enter the game dynamically so that they grab the colossal opportunities that will allow their businesses to work in effective and pioneering ways, says the Chief Executive of IBM Ireland & UK, David Strokes.

Research by both the CBI and IBM suggests that the UK leads the world in e-commerce. However, British firms are called upon to find ways of rising to the challenge and not only sustain but also grow their position. It seems that we are ready to seize digital opportunities and become part of the digital revolution, changing the face of today’s business landscape.

James Leighton Davis is a Digital Transformation & Business Growth Consultant; Interim Chief Digital Officer, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Commercial Officer; and an Angel Investor in digital, science and tech-based innovations.  Get in touch, here.


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