CBI and KPMG give UK's digital infrastructure thumbs up

By Derek du Preez
12 Sep 2011 View Comments
Fibre optic broadband

The UK's digital infrastructure has seen an improvement in recent years and is fairing well compared with other sectors, according to a survey of 477 firms carried out by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and KPMG.

When assessing infrastructure as a whole, which includes road, rail, waste and energy, 58 per cent of companies rate the UK as worse than other EU countries, when judged on quality, value for money and reliability.

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Only 26 per cent of firms saw the UK as a favourable destination for infrastructure investment, and last year's World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report placed the UK as 33rd for quality of infrastructure.

This puts the UK alongside Slovenia, and behind Tunisia and Cyprus.

However, 73 per cent of UK firms saw improvement in broadband networks in the past five years, suggesting the digital economy is making good headway.

The government pledged £530m last November to ensure that 90 per cent of households in each local authority could access super-fast broadband as part of its Comprehensive Spending Review.

The first wave of the government's funding was agreed in October 2010 for four UK-based pilot projects – in North Yorkshire, Herefordshire, Cumbria and the Highlands – to establish a model for broadband provision in rural areas. Each project was allocated between £5m and £10m.

Further projects in Devon and Somerset, Wiltshire and Norfolk were unveiled in May 2011.

"This survey paints a disturbing picture. Firms across the country say the infrastructure they depend on every working day is just not good enough and stifling growth. High-quality infrastructure swings boardroom decisions when companies are looking where to invest, and pays dividends in terms of future jobs and growth," said John Cridland, CBI director-general.

Cridland called for the government to make investment in the UK's infrastructure its priority.

"The UK is still a long way down the international infrastructure league table and languishes behind key competitors. So, if we are serious about boosting exports - especially in emerging markets - and achieving sustainable growth, the government must put infrastructure investment firmly at the top of its agenda."

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