Connecting businesses is a key part of meeting Vision 2030 aims
DESPITE an uncertain political climate, there are reasons to be optimistic about Northern Ireland’s economic future.
Latest official figures show continued growth, while unemployment has hit a record low. In September, leading local businesses met with the Prime Minister to launch Vision 2030, a plan to bring 65,000 new jobs to the region and build a high-growth economy, transforming it into an “ecosystem of innovation”.
Achieving the ambitious goals of Vision 2030 will require the region to invest in the future-proof infrastructure needed to position the province for long-term success. As Belfast City Council has realised with its investment in local full fibre networks – which we are immensely proud to be delivering – connectivity must be at the heart of efforts to bring prosperity to Northern Ireland and help businesses of all sizes reach their potential.
Across the UK, productivity remains a significant challenge. According to the latest ONS figures, it fell at its fastest annual pace in five years between April and June this year. Addressing the problem is admittedly complex, but enterprise and public sector organisations have a role to play in identifying where they can improve their infrastructure, processes and ways of working to support growth.
As some Northern Irish businesses have learned, connectivity can be an important part of overcoming the productivity crisis. SHS Group, one of the largest private sector employers in the region, recently made the decision to revitalise its internet access and connectivity services, upgrading its infrastructure in a way that is scalable, secure and flexible. This is already creating new opportunities for staff to collaborate on projects as well as enabling a better work-life balance by supporting remote working.
Banks have a fundamental role in driving Northern Ireland’s economic growth by lending to people and businesses, thereby helping make Vision 2030 a reality. Again, digitisation and connectivity have a vital role to play in allowing them to achieve this.
Danske Bank is an excellent example of a financial institution embracing innovation to transform customer experiences. The bank recently introduced an account aggregation feature for customers in Northern Ireland, which allows them to view multiple bank accounts from different financial service providers in one place, without having to leave its app—an important example of adapting its core service to meet modern consumer needs.
On top of this, it has partnered with Virgin Media Business to help drive through a wider transformation agenda, highlighting the importance of connectivity in achieving its vision of contributing to wider society and its employees.
To meet the goals of Vision 2030, businesses in Northern Ireland need to follow these examples and assess the capacity of their existing digital infrastructure to deliver innovative solutions for customers and employees.
Fortunately, local authorities are recognising the importance of connectivity to local prosperity. Belfast Council’s new full-fibre network will connect more than 200 council sites across Belfast and will dramatically improve broadband provision for Belfast businesses—boosting efficiency, productivity and investment.
Connecting businesses is a vital part of meeting the aims of Vision 2030 - and with upgraded infrastructure, there’s no reason why the region can’t reach its potential as an “ecosystem of innovation”.
:: Rob Orr is executive director of Virgin Media Business