Digital investment could create more than 500,000 new UK jobs

Virgin Media O2 signage
Virgin Media O2
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
15 November 2021

Investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure could create 510,000 new jobs and add £70 billion to the UK GDP over the next five years, according to new research from Virgin Media O2 and economic modelling experts Oxford Analytica.

The findings are revealed in the first ever Digital Connectivity Index, which uses thousands of data points from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to measure how individuals and organisations can connect with one another and the rest of the world through high-quality internet access. The Index is the first of its kind and assesses the quality of connectivity infrastructure across 24 OECD countries, ranking the UK joint 8th – just ahead of Germany, Portugal and the Republic of Ireland.

A female Virgin Media engineer
Virgin Media

The Digital Connectivity Index also reveals how upgrading mobile and broadband networks can support economic growth and help the country to level up. If the UK were to become the OECD leader, it may unlock:

  • £79.78 billion in extra GDP between now and 2026

  • 510,000 new jobs between now and 2026

  • Consistently high economic growth rates every year 

All UK regions would benefit, with more than 85% of the new jobs created outside of London. The North West could see as many as 56,000 new jobs created, while the Midlands and Scotland could benefit from an additional 82,000 and 42,000 roles, respectively. Small and medium sized businesses could be amongst the main winners, creating most of the new roles.

Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media O2, said: “The importance of digital connectivity to the UK’s future couldn’t be clearer, and the role we play as an industry more profound.

“With economic growth, new jobs and a fairer society at stake, we’re already taking a lead with a commitment to invest £10 billion over the next five years.

“We’re turning up the dial on the national recovery and helping the country to climb up the international connectivity league tables to create a brighter, more prosperous future for every corner of the UK.”

Virgin Media O2's first electric van
Virgin Media O2

The research was commissioned by Virgin Media O2 as part of its mission to upgrade the UK. The company has plans to expand 5G coverage to cover 50% of the population by 2023 and upgrade its entire fixed network to full fibre to the premises by 2028. This is alongside the company’s continued gigabit rollout, which will see 1.1Gbps speeds delivered across its entire broadband network before the end of the year.

Addressing the digital divide

While the research shows that the UK has improved its level of digital connectivity well above the OECD average between 2011 and 2019, there is still a significant digital divide in the UK. 

People living in more deprived areas of the country, in rural areas and lower income households are most at risk of digital exclusion. As many of one in 10 of those with a household income of £15,000 a year or less do not have an internet connection. And those living in rural areas are twice as likely to report suffering from poor internet connections as those living in urban areas.

Virgin Media O2 is looking to address these issues with the national rollout of the National Databank. This will provide free mobile data to people in need.

Visit Virgin Media O2 to find out more.