Bold ideas and a brighter future: How COVID-driven digital change could transform the UK economy

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Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
19 February 2021

Challenging times can spur innovation and transformation – and 2020 was no exception. A new report from Virgin Media Business looks at the value of innovation from the last year, with the COVID-19 crisis pushing forward a wave of online development.

Going into lockdown sparked an overnight shift in our working and lifestyle habits, forcing digital change across the UK in almost every industry. For some, this meant rolling out technologies and systems that were planned. But for many, it was unchartered territory, which meant organisations had to rise to the challenge. Ultimately, it led to a decade’s worth of progress in just a few months.

Virgin Media Business teamed up with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) to explore the value of this progress and how it impacts the economy as a whole.

The numbers tell a simple, powerful story. 

GDP could increase to £74 billion above the baseline scenario by 2025, thanks to boosted investment and fast adoption of post-COVID digital transformation. 

By 2040, that figure could be £232 billion – a 6.9% increase in the UK’s national GDP.

To understand the digital opportunity across different industries, Cebr analysed new online growth trends in six public and private sub-sectors across the UK:

  • Construction

  • Professional services

  • Specialised and digital retail

  • Health and social care

  • Education

  • Local and central government and blue-light services

The report found that digital transformation, accelerated by COVID, will grow the UK’s private sectors and the UK economy more widely in the coming years. The biggest uplift in economic impact is expected to come from retail, which could generate £11 billion in growth by 2030, growing to £21 billion by 2040 as the sector embraces online shopping.

On the public sector side, investment is needed across technologies, skills and digital infrastructure. The uplift from digital transformation will create cost-savings and efficiencies, which can be reinvested to boost the wider economy.

There’s a great potential for digital upscaling in the public sector, particularly in health and social care, education, local and central government, and justice. This could see the emergence of bold new tech innovations that enhance services, save employee time and amp up productivity.

Want to find out more about the tectonic shifts taking place in the UK’s digital sphere? Download the eye-opening new report from Virgin Media Business.