Fuelling the UK’s digital economy
Ed Stainton, Director of Major Government at BT, on accelerating initiatives to drive growth through responsible, inclusive, and sustainable technology
Driven by increasingly advanced technology, change is accelerating all around us at an incredible pace. In the UK, we have been successful in anticipating these shifts in technology but it is vital that we continue to invest in the digital economy to build a thriving and prosperous country for everyone.
Together, the public and private sectors must commit to growth through responsible, cyber-secure, inclusive, and sustainable innovation. We have to harness the power of technology for good. To enable this, having the right partners is key.
BT’s new Charter aims to provide our business and public sector customers with a springboard for growth. The commitments include a greater focus on purpose-driven goals, innovation, world-class cyber security, a new suite of digital services, and customer service improvements.
BT touches the lives of nearly every person in the UK in some way. That’s why it’s important that we make the most of the opportunities that new technologies bring. We reinvest heavily in our business, with annual capital expenditure of £4.8bn across the BT Group – and that includes our once-in-a-generation investments in upgrading the UK’s fixed network to full fibre, as well as our 4G and 5G mobile network build programmes.
To support the pace of innovation across the UK, we’re also investing almost £100 million over the next three years to develop solutions which integrate technologies like 5G, IoT, Edge Computing, Cloud and AI. This will transform and modernise key industries, making the country stand out on the global stage and fuel the UK economy by driving productivity and business growth.
That said, we’re doing so responsibly. That’s why we’re accelerating initiatives across our whole organisation to drive growth through responsible, inclusive, and sustainable technology. Security and peace of mind are vital, too. With over 3,000 dedicated cyber specialists providing around the clock, 365 days a year service, BT ensures that thousands of cyber-attacks are prevented before our partners and customers can be impacted. That’s why we have been awarded a CREST accreditation for our Cyber Threat Intelligence Services.
Our professionalism and expertise is a major reason why we are trusted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the NHS, the country’s 999 service and to build the Emergency Services Network (ESN). What’s more, we can be depended on to innovate and collaborate with cutting-edge companies, delivering excellent products and services.
Take quantum as an example. After years of collaboration, BT and Toshiba Europe Ltd recently announced the UK’s first industrial deployment of a quantum-secure network. The brand-new network will connect sites in London’s Docklands, the City and the M4 Corridor, and can be used to secure data traffic between industrial sites where security is of paramount importance. It uses Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) – an un-hackable, cutting-edge technique for sharing encryption keys. Encryption keys are a string of numbers or letters created explicitly for scrambling and unscrambling data. They are designed with algorithms intended to ensure that every key is unpredictable and unique. BT’s innovation with Toshiba provides a further layer of security for personal and sensitive data.
Connecting for good
Over several decades, BT has built a strong position underpinning the UK’s critical public services, serving 1.2 million corporate and public sector customers ranging from microbusinesses and SMEs, through to large corporates, central government, and local government bodies.
Throughout all of this, our core purpose – ‘to Connect for Good,’ still guides us. From improving the lives of our customers, to ensuring that our footprint across the country is as sensitive and sustainable as it can be.
The UK is a diverse country with different political, social and economic challenges. It’s a core Government policy to try and ‘level up’ and make opportunity for growth and success available to everyone, not only those in London and other parts of the South East.
We are aware of what BT’s presence means locally and how our actions can be a force for positive and lasting change. We work with local authorities to boost connectivity to homes and businesses across the UK. The Leeds Full Fibre Programme, for example, is designed to make Leeds the largest gigabit and ‘5G-capable’ city outside of London. From 2023, BT’s multi-network infrastructure will support the rollout of 5G mobile coverage to 70 per cent of the city.
And it’s not just the infrastructure investment. We continue to upskill and empower people with new capabilities through our championing of digital skills. Our Skills for Tomorrow initiative is just one of many actions we are taking. Almost 600,000 small business owners and employees have received free digital skills training through our Skills for Tomorrow programme, and by March 2023, we’ll reach a further 350,000 small firms. Our new target is to reach 25 million people by the end of March 2026.
Making sustainability matter
As a major employer of over 80,000 people, and a partner to over 300,000 others, we are deeply conscious of our environmental impact in all the work we undertake. This is a serious endeavour and we have already committed to over delivering on the governments ambition for ‘Net Zero’ by 2045.
We were one of the first companies to pledge to be a net zero business by 2030. We already use 100 per cent renewable electricity, and we’ve committed to transitioning most of our commercial fleet (the second largest in the UK) to electric or zero emission vehicles by 2030. Our technology works towards our sustainability goals, as well. By enabling full fibre, 5G, cloud computing, and IoT technologies, we’re aiming to help customers avoid 60 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030.
We take this responsibility seriously and will continue to play a critical part in enabling a prosperous and resilient UK for today and tomorrow.