Driving digital transformation: all roads lead to Wales

Technology innovations are constantly driving the need for change in organisations – for example, in the way they communicate with both their customers and employees.

It’s becoming a given that organisations must capitalise on the opportunities presented by digital technologies to better serve and engage their audiences, whoever they may be. So how far has Wales come in the journey towards digital transformation?

A digital opportunity

The Welsh economy, particularly South Wales, has historically been reliant on industry such as coal and steel, with a substantial number of its people employed in industrial or public services. Over the past 20 years, however, this economy, particularly in the Welsh Valleys, is gradually transforming into a digital variant. 

We’ve seen the Welsh Government support the digital transformation of businesses through funding initiatives such as the Digital Development Fund. This Fund has been created to assist in supporting creative businesses and help drive and develop new business markets in the global digital economy through emerging digital technologies. The Government has also taken the bold step of appointing its first chief digital officer to oversee the transformation of the Welsh public sector based around open data.

I’m from Ebbw Vale so have seen the transformation first-hand. The steelworks and coal mines have been replaced with a vibrant Learning Zone campus offering cutting edge facilities. The Learning Zone lies at the heart of the regeneration and redevelopment of the former steelworks site and the largest regeneration project in Wales. As a result of this innovation, new digital agencies are springing up, with clients across Wales and beyond. Along with my colleagues at Box UK, I firmly believe Wales can prosper in this new digital age.

Why digital is important

Historically, Wales has had poor transport infrastructure, in part because of its mountainous terrain making it time consuming and expensive to travel. Digital transformation, such as video conferencing and document sharing, has helped Welsh businesses communicate far more effectively but most importantly reach out to businesses outside Wales.

The telecoms infrastructure has also given us the stable platform to run digital businesses – in fact, Wales now has the highest availability of superfast broadband of any of the devolved nations. Ofcom also announced earlier this month that Wales had the highest take-up of broadband services, demonstrating the desire of its people and businesses to take advantage of digital technology.

Using technology complements traditional forms of business collaboration and communication. We’re now seeing more Welsh companies competing for business opportunities across the UK and overseas. Take our recent work with TBC Bank, for example, a leading Georgian bank for whom we have produced a five-star rated iPad app. This helped the bank to grow its customer base to over one million and double the number of its active mobile users.

Don’t stop us now

Of course, no transformation occurs without hiccups, and I believe there are still some areas in need of improvement. Although we’ve seen a giant leap in the broadband/fibre infrastructure across Wales, it remains an issue in remote parts of the country. Both the British and Welsh Governments must continue to work with providers such as Vodafone to offer 100 per cent 4G coverage.

Wales has made great strides towards fully adopting digital transformation. But the time to do more is definitely now. With continued government funding to help organisations utilise technology and key technological skills being encouraged and strengthened in higher education across the country, there’s no doubt that digital transformation in Wales will be the key to the future success of the nation.

Gavin Harris is a senior user experience consultant at Box UK, specialising in user centred design, usability testing and optimising e-commerce ROI. He has worked with the likes of Virgin Holidays, Orange, Unilever, Land Rover, Principality Building Society and the UK Government. 

Image credit: Steve Johnson