The UK data economy is already the largest in Europe – with an estimated annual value of £73.3bn – and is predicted to grow to £94.6bn by 2025, but it could grow at an even faster rate and unlock an extra £7bn if a number of major issues are addressed.
So says a new report by datacentre operator Digital Realty, which commissioned consultancy Development Economics to investigate and quantify the role business data plays in the economic growth of the UK, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands.
The Data Economy Report said the UK is the country with the largest data economy out of the four, before going on to highlight key areas of improvement.
The report states: “While it is expected that the value of the data economy will continue to grow strongly, there is a danger that unless significant constraints and barriers are not addressed, a large proportion of the potential value of the data economy will remain unrealised.”
Among the key measures that the report recommends is getting companies to increase consumer trust over how their data is handled, and getting businesses to realise the value of the data they hold and do more with it.
Other recommendations include getting larger companies to work with SMEs to help them tap into the latest innovations in data analytics, so they can do more with the data they have too.
“There is an opportunity for large businesses to provide support for SMEs who are members of their supply chain by defining standards and sharing best practice and expertise,” said the report. “Industry bodies should pool resources to campaign for greater awareness of the value of data among businesses large and small.”
The report added that the Government could also do more to promote the data economy as a “career destination for young people”, and make changes to the National Curriculum to “enhance the quality” of teaching in related subjects, such as mathematics, statistics and computer science.
It said: “The Government has a potentially important role in helping to retain older workers (including those who have had a period of absence from the workforce) and in providing incentives for smaller businesses to invest in workforce training.”
According to the report, if the growth of the UK’s data economy continues at its current rate, it will be worth £94.6bn by 2025. However, if the aforementioned areas are addressed, it could be worth around £101.6bn by then – an increase of £7bn.
Investing in the infrastructure the data economy needs to run on is also flagged in the report as an area the business community must address, with particular emphasis on telecoms.
“It is vital the telecoms infrastructure providers continue to invest in telecoms infrastructure, both in terms of ultrafast broadband and in the emerging fifth generation of mobile phone networks,” it stated.
Digital Realty Europe managing director Rob Coupland said the important role infrastructure plays in keeping the digital economy ticking over is often underestimated. “We urge British businesses to invest in the right tools, infrastructure and partners to get more value out of data and take a piece of a £101.6bn national opportunity.”
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