At the Cambridgeshire Digital Awards we are lucky to be supported by many organisations at the beating heart of the county including Connecting Cambridgeshire.
The organisation – part of Cambridgeshire County Council – is tasked with developing the digital infrastructure across the area allowing businesses, community organisations and residents to enjoy better internet connections and a brighter future.
We caught up with Noelle Godfrey, Programme Director of Connecting Cambridgeshire and Head of Digital Infrastructure at Cambridgeshire County Council.
Noelle will be a guest speaker at the CDA2015 Presentation Evening on November 19, at Burgess Hall, St Ives. Tickets available here http://cda2015.eventbrite.co.uk
Q: What is the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme?
Connecting Cambridgeshire is a partnership programme improving the digital infrastructure across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough so that our businesses, residents and public services can make the most of online opportunities.
There are lots of different strands to the programme but a big one is rolling out superfast fibre broadband to thousands of homes and businesses that would not be able to get it otherwise. We’ll have reached over 97,000 premises by the end of 2015 and we’ll be tackling harder to reach areas over the next couple of years.
Q: Why is improving digital connectivity so important to businesses and the local economy?
We know fast, reliable Internet connections are vital for economic growth because it means businesses can thrive and compete in a global economy. Cambridgeshire is one of the fastest growing counties in the country and we need to innovate to keep pace.
Increasing numbers of people work flexibly from home and better broadband means they can keep connected without having to spend time and money travelling. We’re also working to extend wifi and mobile coverage, which is important for businesspeople on the move.
Q: How has it helped businesses to get connected and make the most of digital technology?
Our Destination Digital business support project has had a big impact – helping companies to get Government grants to install superfast broadband, buy the latest equipment such as 3D printers, and improve their skills in using digital technology. It has also helped to businesses to start-up, create and safeguard jobs, make efficiency savings, and drive innovation.
Over the last two years, we’ve given out £1.27m in European funding grants to 578 businesses which is estimated to have an economic impact for Cambridgeshire as high as £8.3m. We’ve also allocated over £820,000 in Government Connection Vouchers to help more than 800 businesses install superfast broadband to their offices.
Q: What advice and support is available to help businesses to improve their digital skills?
Both grant schemes are now closed, but we’ve built up a wide network of businesses, who are keen to share their successes and new-found skills through our website, LinkedIn group and Twitter. It’s pleasing to see that many of them have been short-listed for the first Cambridgeshire Digital Awards.
We’ve also got some extra funding for a Women and Broadband roadshow to tour the county providing advice and practical hand-on support for women running companies and starting up businesses or returning to work, so look out for details on the www.destinationdigital.info website.
Q: How do you see the county’s digital future?
Cambridgeshire’s digital future looks bright. Take-up of superfast broadband is already amongst the highest in the country, which shows why our investment in becoming a digital county is so important.
We want to make sure we are at the forefront of digital innovation so the county can continue to grow. We’re exploring new and emerging technologies to support public service delivery across the county, make smart use of IT and data, and improve digital skills to underpin economic growth.