So the votes have been counted and we should now know – or at least have a good idea of – who will form our next government.
Now that the excitement is over, the fear will start to kick in as businesses and consumers alike mull where our new leaders will focus and where they may wield the axe.
Cuts have been a theme of the run-up to this election. The plans of all the major parties imply further austerity over the next parliament, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, as they all vie to balance the books.
The easiest place to start cutting is usually capex. In the wake of the 2010 election, major projects like Building Schools for the Future and the Severn Barrage bit the bullet when the new coalition government was faced with empty coffers.
Easy, but wrong. The Government shouldn’t rob investment in tomorrow to fund today’s spending. And there’s one capex project the Government must keep on the agenda – bringing our digital infrastructure into the 21st century.
“Digital connectivity has not just changed the way we shop, it’s changed how we communicate. Yet our outdated infrastructure is disenfranchising people.”
Alex Baldock, Shop Direct
All major parties have wisely recognised and committed to making wi-fi access for all a reality. But these are pledges we’ve heard from previous governments, yet we’re still waiting.
However, the UK desperately needs this. A fifth of the population has no access to wi-fi, broadband or mobile phone coverage either, for that matter. As a regular traveller on the West Coast train line I can testify to this.
Digital connectivity has not just changed the way we shop, it’s changed how we communicate, how we learn, how we work and how we live. Yet our outdated infrastructure is disenfranchising people.
Many other countries have already declared broadband a basic utility akin to electricity, water and transportation. Estonia and Finland have made internet access a human right – a sentiment every teenager will agree with.
Digital is also a driving force of our economy. Despite having the odds stacked against us, we’ve emerged as a global digital leader.
Brits have embraced ecommerce with almost £1 in every £4 spent online – more than any other country.
Retailers have been quick to invest, to give consumers what they want, but shoppers’ expectations are rising – and rightly so – and we’re being constrained by the UK’s inadequate infrastructure.
How many times have you given up waiting when faced with the spinning wheel of doom?
Britain must prioritise digital development for ecommerce to thrive
We’re in danger of losing our lead in global ecommerce. Yes, we’ve heard promises of ‘superfast’ broadband becoming the norm in the next few years, but with broadband speeds in Paris already three times faster than those in London, ‘superfast’ might not be fast enough.
We need to lead the world in terms of connectivity and digital development.
It’s not just infrastructure but digital skills that the new government must prioritise for our digital economy to thrive.
We’re one of many UK businesses that are forced to look overseas for the expertise we need to drive digital innovation.
The world is changing faster than our education system. The jobs of not just the future, but the here and now, need digital-savvy people.
We need to build a workforce armed with the skills to drive our digital economy.
This means not just computer science in curriculums but ensuring our youngsters are prepared to work in this fast-paced, collaborative, enterprising world.
Of course, we’re not sitting around relying on the government to solve all our recruitment problems.
We’re taking action and partnering with schools, universities and online experts to help us fulfil our online ambitions.
We know digital is our future and it’s clear that it’s going to be immensely important to this country.
That’s why we need sustained investment in digital infrastructure to keep our lead.
- Alex Baldock is group chief executive of Shop Direct