Virgin Media Business - Helping the UK and Northern Ireland grasp the £232 billion opportunity

Helping the UK and Northern Ireland grasp the £232 billion opportunity By Seamus McCorry, Regional Director, Northern Ireland, Virgin Media

The last year has been transformative for organisations across Northern Ireland.

They have rapidly set up remote online working and invested in digital services to meet online customer demand, helping them survive and stabilise.

Digital technology has been at the centre of this transformation. It has enabled businesses to keep going and public sector organisations to empower employees, improve and even save lives.

While we find ourselves in another lockdown, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccination rollout brings hope that a return to normality is in sight.

Northern Ireland’s organisations shouldn’t try to go back to how things were. They must seize this moment to make things better than before and improve the lives of employees, customers and society at large. We partnered with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) to understand how investing in digital technology can help them do just that.

Our study revealed that by investing in digital transformation, we can add £232bn to the economy by 2040. This is equivalent to adding an economy the size of Finland or South Africa’s to UK GDP.

Seizing this opportunity would unlock billions of pounds of growth in some of Northern Ireland’s biggest sectors. The professional services, construction and retail sectors alone could grow by £40 billion over the next two decades.

Within the public sector, too, continuing to roll out transformational digital technology across health, government and education, could add £75bn to the economy by 2040.

Across Northern Ireland, this digital investment has the potential to create opportunities for public services and private enterprise and create a more dynamic and prosperous economy.

And influential leaders are already recognising its potential.

We spoke to Dr Jayne Brady MBE, Digital Information Commissioner at Belfast City Council, about the impact digital transformation could have on Northern Ireland’s public sector.

She said: “Every £1 in public sector funding for R&D and innovation typically returns £7. Short-term interventions around digital transformation provide the city with long-term benefits.

“Digital is absolutely critical. We work hand-in-glove with local enterprises, councils, universities and commercial partners to deliver the right strategies”. To help the private sector, the government-backed Invest Northern Ireland scheme has expanded its Innovation Voucher scheme, committing £4.65 million to helping businesses set up digital projects – helping them adapt and thrive.

Across Northern Ireland, Covid-19 has done incalculable damage to people’s lives, communities and businesses.

This harm can’t be undone, but if we make the right changes now, we have the chance to not simply support an economic rebound, but continue transforming public services and creating new opportunities for people across Northern Ireland.

Now we must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a better society, a stronger economy and revolutionise the everyday for everyone who lives and works here.

Read our report here.