New digital inclusivity to put county at leading edge of UK connectivity


04-11-2021

Communities, businesses, and public services who relied on digital technology as a lifeline during Covid will now benefit from Combined Authority plans to make digital connectivity inclusive so people across Cambridgeshire towns, cities and rural areas have better and more equal access to healthcare, education and jobs.

The Combined Authority has set out a new Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Strategy for the next four years to help give the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough region the digital infrastructure local businesses and communities need if they are to thrive and not be left behind.

The new infrastructure strategy for 2021-2025 -  approved yesterday (Weds) by the Combined Authority’s Housing and Communities Committee - focuses on delivering next-generation broadband and mobile coverage, using ‘Smart’ technologies to take pressure off the environment, extend free public access Wifi, and push towards true digital inclusion.

It moves forward the ongoing work of the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme, hosted by Cambridgeshire County Council, and led by the Combined Authority.  Connecting Cambridgeshire has established a national reputation for collaborative working at the forefront of innovation, attracting public and private sector funding to invest in future-facing digital infrastructure.

In January the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Board earmarked funding of £6.3m as part of the Medium-Term Financial Plan to 2025 to support the next stages of the digital connectivity programme

The new strategy sets fresh and challenging targets for the different aspects of digital connectivity and advanced technology, so that:

  • All businesses can access the leading-edge digital connectivity they need to help them grow and succeed in a strong and sustainable local economy

  • Communities are digitally connected allowing residents to access education, jobs, health, social care and other public services, wherever they live

  • Digital connectivity supports home working and remote training contributing to reduced commuting, less traffic congestion, and more flexible and inclusive job opportunities

  • ‘Smart’ technology – including ‘Internet of Things’ based connectivity – is used to provide access to real-time transport information for journey planning, and environmental monitoring, such as flooding sensors.

The Combined Authority has ambitious targets to tackle the digital divide by levelling up access and reducing inequality in health and access to education, jobs and public services, including improving connectivity for social housing residents. Recent research by Lloyds Bank, shows that manual workers with high digital engagement, earn £421 more per month than less digitally engaged people in the same roles.

Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough: “Digital connectivity is hugely important for meeting some of the key challenges we face – from sustainable growth to climate change mitigation and the management of scarce resources including water and energy.

“Reliance on connectivity accelerated in an unprecedented manner during the Covid pandemic and is still incredibly important as we move towards recovery. However, at a time when access to healthcare, education and jobs has become increasingly dependent on digital connectivity it has also highlighted inequality of access and the need for us to show compassion by supporting digital inclusion.

“This updated digital infrastructure strategy builds on the past success of our collaborative work with local councils, government and commercial providers, and sets new challenging targets to help ensure that we remain at the leading edge and well positioned to take full advantage of current and emerging technology advances.

“I want Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to have a future-facing digital connectivity infrastructure that reflects the ambitions and aspirations of our area, shaped by our core values of compassion, co-operation, community, and tackling climate change.”

 

The Combined Authority is made up of eight founding members across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Each partner is represented by their leader at Combined Authority meetings.

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority