Last week witnessed the first of the Digital Leaders West Midlands (DLWM) salon meetings. Digital Leaders is a national programme aimed at informing and inspiring innovative digital transformation, by creating local, open, free and independent groups to provide a focal point for engagement of resources.
The aim of DLWM is to ‘provoke digital adoption in the West Midlands’. The need for this was apparent when attendees at the meeting heard representatives from Lloyds Bank present the findings of its UK Business Digital Index 2015.
This showed that within the region, the digital divide remained static during the last year; with the percentage of SMEs and charities without basic digital skills in the West Midlands identified as 31% (set against a UK average of 30%). Charities are lagging further behind in the digital adoption stakes, but 23% of SMEs are identified as being without basic digital skills. The significance of this for the economy is that 44% of high maturity digital adopters reported increased turnover, against 32% for low maturity adopters – perhaps worryingly, a quarter of the latter group saw digital as ‘irrelevant’ to them.
Birmingham is one of the youngest cities in Europe; our take-up of smart phones leads the way. It may be that the new 18,000 companies formed last year do demonstrate a greater degree of digital savviness than the more established SMEs, but it would appear there is much more to do. In a world where digital technologies impact all aspects of our lives, and social media is an ever growing presence, we need to build trust and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the opportunity offered by digital technologies.
The DLWM will convene and coordinate open salon meetings, to connect people to address challenges, rate limiting factors deriving from skills shortages, access to infrastructure, attitudes and culture.
For more information about DLWM and to get involved visit http://digitalleaders.co.uk/dl-west-midlands.