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Improved Digital Connectivity

By 2030, 5G will be available to 90% of the UK population, with 6G launching in some cities. The digital divide will narrow as low-cost access is delivered as a common ambition. Questions on data transparency, value and control will however remain.

The move to 5G will provide the promised higher speed and increased capacity, and will drive up to 3% net GDP growth. Focused on key infrastructure links and urban areas, multiple new services will emerge. However, access is not universal, and those living in remote, rural locations will continue to lag behind. Despite having access to faster connectivity, for some communities, the digital divide will remain. Poverty, poor digital literacy and lack of opportunity will all constrain take up. Although the digital divide will narrow as low-cost access is delivered, without parallel investment in skills development and cross-country incentivisation for the continued digital transition, key segments of society will fail to benefit from the wider transformation impacting the majority. Questions on data transparency, value and control will remain, and will be areas of continued advocacy and emergent policy focus.

The prospect of 5G connectivity has the potential to provide multiple opportunities for transitioning Service personnel. In line with all those with the relevant skills, on a personal level it means that where transitioning Service men and women choose to live may no longer be tied to where they work. As the Future Accommodation Model is rolled out across the country, this may help to mitigate the double shock of having to change home and career at the same time. Also, given the main challenge from the new digital landscape is the management of the myriad devices which will have control over critical assets and crucial data, there will be an increasing number of organisations keen to harness the defence expertise developed by some of those in the Armed Forces. “There is a huge need for veteran technical talent. These talents spread right across the Armed Forces; we produce people with different skills, different characteristics and who are particularly well trained, we are welcomed into BAE, QinetiQ, Cobham and many others.”

Equally, at a time when many expect the pressures on health and social care to escalate, those in need of support may find that they can more easily access appropriate services digitally. A combination of 5G, AI and automated technology will increase capacity, reduce latency and increase the speed of service delivery. This will open the door to greater personalisation of services. For example, video consultations mean patients are not limited to a GP surgery. Remote technology will enable virtual reality assisted diagnostics, and with the individual’s permission, real time data sharing will allow different health and social care providers to align more efficiently, thus reducing the risk of vital information being “lost” in the system. These are of course early days, and it is possible that budgetary constraints will mean this move will take longer to embed into health and social care systems than others, but many are hugely optimistic about the future.

Example Implication: Personalised automated support services will enable more targeted, real time advice for those who are vulnerable during transition, but coverage will not be ubiquitous, and systems may take time to adapt, limiting support in some locations.

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