‘Digital divide’ is holding back the UK economy

A new study highlights a “digital divide” that is opening up across the British economy, with just over half (55%) of businesses adopting digital technologies and processes, while the other half (45%) are falling behind.

The research by business group the CBI and technology firm IBM showed that many companies in the UK are struggling to digitise their businesses at the rate of peers in other countries.

And the authors warned that businesses from retail to manufacturing must understand what digital technology can do for them in order to thrive.

To make the most of digital technology, the CBI recommends that businesses appoint a chief digital or technology officer to the senior executive team to drive digital strategy and execution. It also says that firms should expand the age and skills diversity of boards and board advisers, drawing on the expertise of a new generation of ‘digital natives’.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said:

“Businesses globally are in the throes of an extraordinary digital revolution that is transforming productivity and creating a new generation of winning companies. But in the UK, too many firms are being left behind. While pioneering firms are seizing digital opportunities, nearly half are struggling — a growing digital divide that is threatening UK competitiveness.

“It’s vital that businesses in all sectors — from manufacturing to retail — truly understand digital technology’s potential, from the boardroom to the shop or factory floor. Giving digital a human face by appointing a Chief Technology Officer will help businesses build the long-term digital strategies that will be critical to their futures.

“And by harnessing the expertise of the generation at the heart of the digital revolution, firms will be better able to make the right investments for their digital future.”

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