Bridging the digital divide in the North-East
Throughout June we’ve been focusing on the North East’s digital capabilities as part of our Great Reasons campaign. Here, our Partner members Pulsant explain how the traditional North-South technology divide is beginning to close as businesses in the North start to move more rapidly than those in the South.
A common perception is that the North-South divide creates challenges for businesses in the North East of England. This is particularly the case with digital transformation, with businesses closer to technology hubs in the South often at an advantage. However, with strong signs of regional resurgence and the emergence of UK-wide edge networks, businesses are poised to break down barriers of location and accelerate their growth plans.
A growing economic opportunity
Much has been reported on the worsening North-South divide in England, driven by an array of social, cultural and economic differences. While many perceptions persist of the South benefitting from location, the North East is bucking the trend, achieving a sharp increase in private sector activity during May. The NatWest North East Business Activity Index, which measures the output of the region’s manufacturing and service sectors, rose from 55.2 in April to 63.6 in May. The data also shows that new business grew for the third month in a row and private sector firms’ optimism about the year ahead rose to its highest level since March 2016. Increasingly, innovation is also making its home in the North East, with 13 of the Northern Tech Top 100 businesses now situated in the area.
The acceleration of digital transformation
Digital transformation is crucial to that growth but all too often businesses in the North of England have lost out on a competitive advantage to those in the South, due to their closer proximity to highly connected technology hubs such as London. According to new research from Pulsant, 61% of organisations in the South East and London say their location is advantageous to their digital transformation ambitions compared to just 41% in the rest of England.
However, the North is now moving ahead quicker than the rest of England, with 82% of businesses in the region saying the pandemic has accelerated digitalisation compared to 71% in the South. Pulsant’s research also found that when it comes to accelerating transformation, businesses in the North are deploying new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications (67%), migrating traditional workloads and data into the cloud (65%), and creating their own cloud-native applications (65%) faster than any other region, including the South.
The emerging edge opportunity
What’s clear is that the North East holds huge potential for growth and this is reflected in the region’s growing appetite for digital transformation. A crucial driver of that continued growth will be the emergence of UK-wide edge networks that bring connections closer to those regional businesses and end users.
Delivering services to end users relies on performing analysis on data as close as possible to the location where it is generated. The challenge with traditional data centre deployments in hubs such as London is that, for businesses in the North East, they are too far away from these sources.
In response to this challenge, Pulsant has made a significant investment in a new national network enabling edge computing. Our partnership with Zayo will see our 10 data centres across the UK, including Newcastle East and Newcastle Central, connected via Zayo’s high-performance fibre network to build a unique digital ecosystem. As a result, businesses in the North East can remove any pre-existing hurdles around location and benefit from high-capacity, low latency and agile connections to the edge.
A foundation for future growth
Advancing innovation and digital transformation has been at the forefront of our plans for many years – with our opening of the technology centre of excellence in the North East in 2019 one example of our work in regions. We’ve supporting 1000 clients in the North East region and as a partner member of the North East England Chamber of Commerce we’ve been a vocal advocate for digital transformation growth in the area.
While the North-South divide might continue to present challenges, there are clear and positive signs that businesses in the North East are bridging the digital divide to capitalise on the region’s economic opportunities. Continued innovations, particularly around the availability of edge networks, will be crucial in truly levelling the playing field, enabling every business to become a digital business and reach their true potential – regardless of where they are based.
Simon Michie, Chief Technology Officer at Pulsant