The Northern digital revolution and Southern divide

The Northern digital revolution and Southern divide

​The United Kingdom is one of the world leaders in the digital sector, in main part thanks to the North and Greater Manchester in particular. It is estimated that the digital sector contributes around £4.1bn to the regional economy in Manchester alone, without taking into account the various other Northern cities such as Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds etc.

Over the past few years the region has solidified itself as a digital hotspot, with tech firms and media companies eager to set up offices in the North. Greater Manchester’s MediaCityUK is just one example of a digital environment that is enabling people to gain the necessary skills needed as we enter a digital revolution, and truly giving the North the competitive edge.

A key part of the Northern digital revolution is ‘The Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint’. With the region already being home to the largest digital and creative sector outside of the capital, the blueprint sets out to invest heavily in digital infrastructure, connectivity and transport in order to offer a depth of expertise across digital and creative services, ecommerce, technology hardware and software. The blueprint will focus on empowering people to ensure they can benefit from the opportunities digital brings; enabling innovative public services to best serve the needs of Greater Manchester’s people; digitally enabling all business in the area by offering help and advice on digitization; encouraging and supporting digital businesses to start, grow or move to Greater Manchester to continue the digital expansion and finally make Greater Manchester a global digital influencer, known across the world for digital innovation and world-class capabilities in health innovation and creative media.

The Northern Powerhouse initiative is another form of investment that was expected to boost the Northern economy as a whole. The proposal was set to drive forward the biggest investment in the North for a generation, with part of the improvements including rolling out superfast broadband to deliver improvements that the region needs for the long term. Despite the government backing the proposal, every single region included in the Northern Powerhouse throughout 2016 had less spend than the national average. The North is on the cusp of being a cutting-edge digital player, not just in the UK but worldwide, and the Northern Powerhouse initiative could have bolstered this claim in recent years, however it has been failed by a lack of investment from the government in recent times. The economic wealth distribution throughout the UK is heavily skewed towards those in Southern regions surrounding the capital and has been for some time.

The North is suffering thanks to the lack of government vision for the region and in turn lack of funding and unfortunately, it is very unlikely any of this will change until Whitehall finally step up and take notice of the Northern regions, recognising that for the UK economy to grow, devolution is the only way forward, and there is no better place to start than the North.

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