ESSEX: Superfast Essex Backs EDAs For Third Year

Superfast Essex, Essex County Council’s broadband improvement programme, is pleased to be sponsoring the Essex Digital Awards for the third year whilst continuing to extend faster broadband to over 120,000 premises in the county by 2019.

The Superfast Essex programme is to sponsor the “Online Retailer” category with the winners of all 16 categories being presented with their awards at the EDA17 Presentation Evening at Boreham House, Chelmsford, on May 18.

Superfast broadband is benefitting homes and businesses across the county and transforming the way Essex businesses operate, from enabling global enterprise to reducing costs and increasing efficiency with cloud-based services.

Superfast Essex is part of the Government’s national Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme to increase superfast broadband connectivity across the UK, led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The programme is delivering improved broadband in phases.

Phase 1 was completed three months ahead of schedule in June 2016 and saw 65,000 premises provided with access to better connectivity.

Phase 2 is currently being rolled out and so far the total number of homes and businesses able to achieve internet speeds of 24Mbps and above is 73,000.

The programme is aiming for 120,000 Essex premises to be connected to superfast broadband through their current plans with an additional Phase 3 being planned to extend broadband coverage even further.

More information about where the next phase of work will be rolled out will be announced in Spring/Summer 2017.

David Wilde, Essex County Council’s Executive Director for Place Operations and Chief Information Officer, who is also on the judging panel for EDA17, said: “The benefits of faster broadband shouldn’t be reserved for only large businesses.

“The Superfast Essex programme aims to bring improved connectivity to businesses of all sizes around Essex, helping them to make positive advancements and changes to the running of their business.

“Teaming up with the Essex Digital Awards is a natural choice for the programme and I look forward to finding out more about the nominated businesses in each category this year.”

Robin Bailey, Chairman of the Judging Panel at the Essex Digital Awards, said: “A fast broadband connection is vital to the tens of thousands of businesses based in Essex and we are delighted to be working, once again, with Superfast Essex who are rolling our broadband across the county.

“Superfast Essex is a brilliant and essential project and we are proud to be involved with it.”

In addition to providing information and tools associated with the programme rollout, the Superfast Essex website also hosts an online toolkit to help small businesses improve their digital know-how.

The Digital Toolkit contains a series of business blogs, vlogs and webinars on a range of topics including increasing online sales, attracting new customers, social media, blogging and the importance of cloud-based systems.

It also includes a Digital Health Check, to identify any areas where businesses can improve their digital expertise, and a ‘Fast Tips’ download which provides information and advice around a range of digital developments, such as cloud-based Services, Search Engine Optimisation and Social Media Marketing.

To view the Digital Toolkit and for more information on business broadband, including a short film with David Bell, Essex Chair of The Federation of Small Businesses, and Essex County Councillor Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Infrastructure and Partnerships, on broadband improvements in Essex, visit www.superfastessex.org/forbusiness.

 Find out the latest broadband rollout information for your area at www.superfastessex.org/maps. Anyone not covered by the Superfast Essex programme can check if they are eligible for inclusion in Phase 3 at www.superfastessex.org/whatshappeningnext and can register their demand for superfast broadband by completing the Make the Connection Survey at www.superfastessex.org/registerdemand.

A Few Minutes With… Essex County Council’s David Wilde

A Few Minutes With…. with a regular feature at the Essex Digital Awards when we discuss a hot topic from the digital world with an expert or influential big wig from around the county.

We recently caught up with David Wilde, an EDA 2015 judge and the Director of Information Services at Essex County Council to get his thoughts on how they use social media at the local authority.

Could you describe your organisation’s activity on social networks?
We’re very active on Twitter, it’s great for alerts on services.  Facebook is great for keeping in touch with some of the people we support and LinkedIn really good for engaging with businesses across Essex. ECC also has its own YouTube channel and is increasingly using videos to share information with people in Essex alongside using it extensively for internal training and communications. We also do a lot on collaboration sites and colleagues in Libraries, Visit Essex and Essex Records Office are active with our residents across social media.

On big projects social media offers a smart and easy way of linking up with external partners and organisations to work together. Superfast Essex is a good example of a countywide project doing just that. It’s building up presence across all these social media channels to reach both residents and businesses and gaining support from other local authorities, the Government, and our commercial partners, BT and Openreach, through a simple retweet, or Facebook tag.

 

  • The first ECC social media account was set up in December 2008 – the corporate Twitter account (@Essex_CC). There are now 28 active Twitter accounts. (Superfast Essex (@SuperfastEssex) was set up only last year.)
  • The current active ECC social media accounts have:
    • Over 2,065 Facebook likes
    • 80,700 Twitter followers
  • The most popular tweet in 2014 was “#tweetyourfeet” for the Domestic Abuse campaign

Are there elements of your organisation now that would not have been possible without social media?
It isn’t about social media doing something totally new, but it is about being able to connect much more easily, quickly and informally with residents, visitors to Essex and businesses. I think we have only scratched the surface though, the more we get into collaboration with communities the more exciting social media will get.

How has your relationship with your customers/clients changed with the dawn of social media?
Hugely. Response times are much quicker, people will not wait a week for an answer and why should they? Also,  two way engagement can be much more effective. The darker side however is the speed with which misinformation can be spread and of course safeguarding our vulnerable residents is tougher in this environment.
Which social media campaigns or accounts have really caught your eye recently?
The Orange and O2 flash mobs were great and a lot of the netmums stuff is really good.
What have you found to be the most positive and negative aspects of using social media for your business?
Most positive has to be better engagement, most negative is misinformation.
What advice would you give to businesses or other organisations looking to improve their social media activity?
Be really clear who your target audiences are, pick the right media to reach them,  don’t  overdo it and humour only works in some contexts so be careful!!