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Digital technology is changing the way business is done

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Tom Thackray is head of Enterprise policy at the CBI

Digital technology is changing the way that business is done

Digital technology is transforming the way that businesses are doing their business in the UK. It’s absolutely transforming the business consumer relationship and the business to business relationship.

If you just think about five years ago, the amount of people who had smart phones was about less than 10 per cent of people. Now it’s about two thirds of people, so that kind of communication with your customer has to change. That’s not just about the digital or tech sector either. That’s across all industries.

So your farmer is using GPS technology to get the most yield out of his crops. Diabetics have got contact lenses or wearing a watch which tells them about their blood sugar levels in real time and you’ve got the use of robotics in the automotive sector which is just transforming their efficiency.So it’s across the board.

There’s a massive opportunity for businesses in the UK and particularly for small businesses who can reach a much wider market through digital technology.

If you look at the proportion of small businesses selling online, it’s about 14 per cent in the UK, which is a good number but it doesn’t quite match the 30 per cent that Norwegian small businesses are doing.

So what do we need to do that? The simple thing is we need to get more businesses access digital technology and particularly to the Internet. That means access to superfast broadband, and actually it’s available to small businesses but some of them don’t invest in it because they don’t see the return or they think it’s going to be really expensive.

Actually there’s things like the government’s broadband voucher schemes which can make it much more affordable, so we just need to make more small businesses aware of these type of initiatives.

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