UK's Digital High Street Advisory Board unveils five-year strategy
On Monday morning, the British Digital High Street Advisory Board released its Digital High Street Report 2020. The board sets out four major digital initiatives to reinvigorate UK high streets.
The board was formed in April 2014 and is chaired by John C Walden, the Chief Executive of Home Retail Group PLC. He said: "Over the next five years, digital technology will continue to redefine the interactions among our citizens, commercial businesses, public services and charities - indeed, every component of a high street community."
The board's four digital strategies are:
1. Raise infrastructure and connectivity standards for 2020, including universal fixed connectivity of not less than 24 Mbps, high-speed mobile data coverage with 4G available to 98% of the population, and clear public access WiFi standards for consumer experiences.
2. Eliminate the current gap in digital skills by 2020 to ensure that all digitally capable residents of our communities have basic digital skills.
3. High Street Digital Lab - to provide the UK’s 1,200 towns and their High Street businesses with ready-to-use digital capabilities and dedicated town-by-town digital skills training, leveraging a network of digital apprenticeships for every UK town centre in the UK.
4. High Street Digital Health Index: an interactive benchmark for towns and local authorities to drive assessment and change across the key measures of digital health – infrastructure, basic digital skills, High Street attraction and digital engagement.
The report states that "the importance of the digital economy is clear," with internet retail volumes growing by more than 6 times between 2003 and 2012, from £4.8 billion to £31.1bn, and the information economy sector contributing around £58bn to Gross Value Added in 2011 (at current prices).
The average UK consumer spends £1,083 per head online per annum, and by 2016, people in the UK will buy £221bn of goods and services a year online. More than £150bn of retail sales is influenced by digital.
John Walden said: "The digital revolution is arguably the most disruptive factor affecting our communities, but its effects are not often considered central to high street revitalisation. Many members of UK town centres are struggling to keep up with consumers in terms of their digital capabilities, and given the pace of digital growth many towns lack sufficient infrastructure and basic digital skills. I believe that the business-oriented Board has provided recommendations that, taken together, can restore our High Streets to vibrancy in a digital future, into 2020 and beyond."
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