From education to employment

Connectivity supports equipping everyone with skills for the future

John Bailey, UK Director of Higher Education & Research Institutions, Dell Technologies

How will evolving connectivity impact the future of work? The first in a 2-part series:

The Government’s levelling up plan has the potential to rebalance the UK and is critical to how we recover from the pandemic and seek to create a resilient, fair and future-facing economy.  Connectivity, much like further education, is key to unlocking the promise of levelling up.

As connectivity advances, it will drive pandemic recovery and put in place the building blocks for a future-facing economy. Broadband is no longer a luxury in a digitally connected world. Instead, connectivity should be viewed as an economic opportunity as essential as any other utility.

Post-pandemic, we know that we can work and learn from anywhere. If we can ensure better connectivity is rolled out everywhere, we can level the playing field so that everyone can benefit. And, as connectivity advances, the next generation of wireless technology will make significant changes to every sector. Just as businesses are starting to prepare for the 5G era, we must also prepare everyone for the future world of work.

How has the professional landscape changed since the pandemic?

The pandemic threw into stark relief our need for better connectivity. Many of us needed to work or learn from home during lockdown, fuelling the demand for high-quality connectivity. According to the OECD, operators experienced a 60% jump in Internet traffic during the pandemic. Many employers now expect people to be able to work from anywhere. As we recover from the pandemic, we need to build a flexible and resilient future-facing society. The basis of this will be the ability to work and learn from anywhere – underpinned by faster connectivity.

We are already well on our way to achieving this. The Shared Rural Network has committed to take 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025. Initiatives like this will ensure consistent and deep availability of services and support the rollout of 5G beyond the UK’s cities and larger towns, allowing rural areas to enjoy access to 5G technologies. 

Affordable 5G phones present a new opportunity to expand coverage to rural and unconnected areas of the country, allowing more people to experience the advantages of fast and reliable coverage. If we can improve accessibility through 5G rollouts, we can maximise the benefits of a more inclusive digital transformation. 

The take-up of technology also rose during the pandemic, and this goes hand-in-hand with connectivity. As we increasingly rely on technology, people who understand tech will have obvious advantages in the job market. And those who don’t will lose out. Globally, economies are in the process of rapidly improving connectivity to support this increased use of tech. Many countries in the OECD are embracing high-capacity fixed networks (Gigabit networks) and 5G. And as of June 2020, 22 OECD countries offered 5G commercial services in selected locations. This rollout is significant and necessary as the underlying connectivity to enable advanced technologies like AI and IoT.

Rapidly expanding connectivity has altered the professional landscape, making tech skills increasingly valuable. Therefore, it is up to all across the public and private sector to support everyone as we transition to a more connected and technology-driven future.

How advanced is connectivity now?

Businesses and Government are working together to provide the technology needed to advance connectivity. Since we know that we are building critical national infrastructure that will be around for 15-20 years, our focus is on ensuring that these networks are fit for the future. At Dell Technologies, we invest about 1b dollars per year in IoT, because we know expanding connectivity capacity along the edge of networks will be important in the future.

One key component of future-facing connectivity is Open-Radio Access Networks (OpenRAN). OpenRAN can level the playing field in the telecoms network equipment market and ensure the UK remains at the forefront of innovation. This is because OpenRAN opens up opportunities to small businesses, including start-ups and scale-ups. By working with all types of partners, we can be agile in getting connectivity to all areas.

We urgently need more advanced connectivity. Simply put, WiFi has run out of steam. If everyone wants to stream simultaneously in one place, WiFi can’t take it. More and more business applications are relying on better, quicker, more reliable connectivity. And new tech demands the low latency that only 5G can offer. Edge computing is a growing application being taken up country-wide by consumers, businesses and public services. For that, advanced connectivity is critical. AI needs learning data to effectively function, and this requires a massive amount of data collection, which depends on 5G.

5G will transform all sectors.

It’s happening now; Manufacturing, for example, is modernising through connectivity and tech adoption. Manufacturers are under intense pressure to compete in a global economy with a shrinking workforce. To tackle this challenge, many are transforming manufacturing through leveraging data from the factory floor: creating 5G-powered smart factories that harness edge computing and even smart robots.

These robots learn from their environment to improve their own efficiency while helping to make workers safer and giving them more time to do tasks that require human intelligence. It’s easy to see just through this one example how much we will need new skills and industries in the near future.

The future of work will be entirely different and require new skills.

If we’re serious about building back better, we need to invest in universal connectivity and empowering everyone to operate successfully.

John Bailey, UK Director of Higher Education & Research Institutions, Dell Technologies

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