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IBM warns of digital divide in British economy

May 05
Tags: IBM
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IBM warns of digital divide in British economy

Image credit: iStockphoto/anilakkus

A clear divide is emerging in the British economy between forward-looking firms embracing digitisation and those that are slower to adjust to the latest innovations.

That's according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and IBM, which released a study showing that just over half (55 per cent) of businesses are rapidly adopting digital technologies and processes, while the remaining 45 per cent are being left behind.

The study noted that the UK ranks 14th in the world for company-level uptake of digital technology, suggesting that many British firms are struggling to digitise their operations at the same rate as their foreign counterparts.

This is despite the UK being the leading market for e-commerce and in fifth place for the availability of technology.

More than four out of ten organisations (42 per cent) said their digital transformation efforts were held back by a lack of appropriate skills within their enterprise, while a third (33 per cent) said the return on investment was unclear.

Connectivity challenges and concerns over security were also identified as barriers to digital adoption.

According to the CBI, one of the key steps companies should be taking to make the most of digital technology and opportunities is appointing a chief digital or technology officer to the senior executive team.

The business group also recommended increasing the age and skills diversity of boards and board advisers, so organisations can exploit the skills and knowledge of a new generation of "digital natives".

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: "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."

David Stokes, chief executive of IBM UK and Ireland, commented: "As one of the leading digital economies in the world, the UK finds itself with a tremendous opportunity and responsibility for business leaders to sustain and grow our leadership in the world.

"This is an opportunity that we in the business community should be hugely excited to face together."

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