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Welsh Government Publish New Digital Strategy for Wales

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021 (5:37 pm) - Score 1,440
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The Welsh Government (WG) has today published a new Digital Strategy for Wales, which among other things sets out how they will use the levers at their disposal to support the public sector, businesses and homes in Wales to receive the broadband and mobile connectivity they need. But at this stage it’s all still a bit vague.

The government claims to have taken somewhat of an “innovative crowdsourcing approach” to gather ideas and opinions for the strategy, not least by encouraging people, businesses and organisations throughout Wales to have their say and “make it as good as it can be.” The aim of the strategy, says the WG, is to “ensure digital improves the lives of everyone in Wales and helps the economy grow.”

In terms of broadband, the WG’s existing £52.5m Phase 2 Superfast Cymru contract with BT (Openreach), which is currently extending gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology to another 39,000 premises by June 2022 (c.15,000 premises have already completed), is already in-progress.

Likewise, the WG has various supporting voucher schemes and will no doubt benefit from a slice of the £5bn that the UK Government has allocated to their new Project Gigabit programme, which aims to help extend 1Gbps capable broadband to reach at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025 (focused on supporting those in the final 20% of predominantly rural premises).

The question thus becomes, what does the new Digital Strategy bring to the table and on that point we get more sound bites than constructive detail, as well as some echoing of existing approaches (e.g. the reinvestment of clawback from earlier BT contracts to improve future broadband coverage).

Mission 5: digital connectivity

Services are supported by fast and reliable infrastructure

Critical to the delivery of this whole strategy is the underlying infrastructure. This infrastructure is the foundation on which we build good quality digital connectivity to support everything we do digitally.

Digital connectivity and telecommunications policy is the responsibility of the UK Government. These are still reserved matters for which the Welsh Government is not responsible and receives no devolved funding.

This does not change our mission to underpin good quality infrastructure across Wales to support our ambitions. We will invest to support service delivery where there is a case for it, however, we must also focus on ensuring that the UK Government fulfils its responsibilities in Wales.

While the vast majority of homes and businesses across Wales have access to good quality digital connectivity, there are those that continue to struggle with even the most basic of connections. Addressing these issues can take time and be expensive, particularly in rural areas where the terrain is more challenging and the population more sparsely distributed. We also recognise that the affordability of connection can be a barrier to digital inclusion and we need to explore how this issue can be addressed, as outlined in Mission 2 on Digital Inclusion.

Some parts of Wales cannot access superfast broadband while elsewhere the commercial roll out of gigabit broadband is already gathering pace. We will use the levers at our disposal to support the public sector, businesses and homes in Wales receive the connectivity they need to engage in digital activities.

Together, we will:

  • work with the UK Government to invest in Wales as a priority
  • re-invest funding returned through our superfast roll-out to improve digital connectivity targeted infrastructure interventions
  • build on our Access Cymru Broadband and Local Broadband Fund [voucher schemes] approaches to step in to a non-devolved area and provide fast broadband connectivity to properties with low internet speeds
  • create the right conditions for investment and innovation in broadband and mobile infrastructure
  • explore opportunities to drive innovation through a focus on internet of things technologies including through wireless network technologies and 5G
  • support the connectivity needs of the public sector and public service delivery in Wales through a collaboration and aggregation of demand to drive best value

Outcomes:

  • residents in Wales will be able to access fast and reliable digital connectivity that enables them to work from home, use public services, learn online, stay in touch with friends and family and enjoy entertainment
  • businesses in Wales will be able to benefit from fast and reliable digital connectivity to gain new customers, sell their products, drive efficiency and innovate
  • the public sector in Wales will be able to use fast and reliable digital connectivity to deliver effective digital public services, enable remote working, drive efficiency and innovation

The WG has also published a delivery plan alongside this, but that doesn’t really add much to the above area, except to say that they will “establish a taskforce to support digital connectivity investment and roll out” and “establish protocols and processes with UK Government to support the UK schemes like the Shared Rural Network and the Gigabit Broadband Programme.”

Deputy Minister for Economy, Lee Waters, said: “Digital and tech is going to play an even bigger role in our lives in the future and it’s crucial we fully embrace the opportunities that come with it. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the development of our strategy, but this is only the start of a conversation with people, communities, organisations and businesses as we build a truly digital Wales.”

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. David Jones says:

    What a load of tosh. Thats not a strategy let alone a digital strategy.
    How much money was wasted putting this going nowhere plan together?
    I think Lee Waters got all his digital skills from watching the IT Crowd!

    1. FTTP4RuralWales says:

      Agreed, there needs to be more substantive communications coming out from the WG, with actual tangible goals, not just this kind of sound byte filled garbage. The WG needs to up their game when it comes to rural & West Wales. Anything outside of the “Cardiff bubble” it seems are mearly after thoughts, this here update is just reiterating what the UK. gov have already stated in their own project gigabit report I read just the other day. As for infrastructure, yes, we despritly need better telecommunications infrastructure here in Wales, especially in rural. The time for talking is over, just get a move on and start implementing. Drake Ford and waters need to drive down the M4 and have a sit-down with BoJo (or upto Leeds to the new infrastructure bank) and hash out a fair proportion of the available 5bn digital infrastructure pot and get it allocated to Wales. Then get on with spending it on FTTP. It’s about time the WG became a bit more agile in terms of infrastructure projects. To me it seems like they are dragging their feet.
      Price up the works, allocate the Lots, draft up contracts, get the works fulfilled, rinse & repeat. Don’t need reports ontop of reports, get on with things!

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