Britain's economy could be boosted by £1.5bn by 2020 if as few as 30 towns across the country are given access to better digital infrastructure and technology, according to a new report released today by O2. Hayley Platt reports.
St Helens in North West England was once a thriving coal mining town. These days its high streets looks much like any other. But behind closed doors a digital revolution is bubbling. Telefonica's O2 chose St Helens as the location for a study into how technology can increase growth. SOUNDBITE (English) BEN DOWD, BUSINESS DIRECTOR, TELEFÓNICA O2 UK, SAYING: "What we saw was potentially a £46 million increase in terms of the gross value add that a community like St Helens can drive." Repeat that across 30 similar regions and O2 says the UK could see a £1.5 billion boost to the economy over the next four years, assuming there's sufficient broadband capacity. SOUNDBITE (English) BEN DOWD, BUSINESS DIRECTOR, TELEFÓNICA O2 UK, SAYING: "The UK lags behind the G7 in terms of the productivity of workers in the UK. Our research and all of the insight that we have from businesses who embrace digital is that they are the ones that are the most successful." The 2008 global crisis hit UK high streets hard. Consumer confidence collapsed, remaining subbornly slow for the next five years. It's picking up now, Sara Parr opened Zsa Zsa Flowers in St Helens four years ago. SOUNDBITE (English) SARA PARR, OWNER OF ZSA ZSA FLOWERS, SAYING: "We've become quite busy and we have a lot of paper work so we're looking at a more efficient way of running the business and giving a better more clear service to our customers." The online revolution has damaged many bricks and mortar shops. But O2 says their study is proof businesses can fight back using the same technology that's threatening them.