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The UK: Leading the World on the Internet

Published on March 23, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

We have long been aware that the UK as a whole is a big fan of the internet. The country is the leading e-retail economy in Europe, with online sales hitting record levels in the past few years despite struggling businesses elsewhere. Now we know, however, just how addicted to the internet we are as a country.

Figures from the Boston Consulting Group suggest that the United Kingdom is more dependent on the World Wide Web for its economy than any other major country in the G20. In fact, around 8.3% of the country’s economy is down to the internet. This means that in 2010, the internet contributed around £121bn to the UK’s economy.

Also, the rate at which the country’s internet economy grows continues to speed ahead. The same study from BCG suggests that the UK internet economy will grow at a rate of 11% for the next four years. This is more than double the speed at which the US internet economy is expected to grow, and is significantly faster even than China.

This helps to demonstrate just how tech-reliant our lives are becoming and how much we rely on the internet not just for social media and Wikipedia, but for our businesses as well. Thousands of businesses are now focusing all of their work online, which is surely good news for web designers and developers who will be needed to created high quality, responsive sites for all of those companies.

It isn’t just business, either. We have discussed before about how much UK consumers spend online each year (according to IMRG figures, it was about £68.2bn in 2011). Figures vary as to the percentage of purchases we make online as opposed to offline, but most estimates put the amount safely in the double figures – and this is on the rise, too.

So what is the impact of all of this for the country? There has been concern for some time now that the UK’s existing infrastructure cannot handle what is being asked of it, and broadband speeds in some areas of the country are notably slow. This will undoubtedly continue to be a challenge, particularly as more people move towards the web. As a specific challenge, it is thought that the UK’s internet could struggle to handle the increased load it’s expected to be asked to bear during the 2012 Olympics, which suggests that it must currently be operating almost to capacity.

On this note, one of the measures that the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his budget on 21st March 2012 was £100m aimed at connecting cities so they could access up to 100Mbps internet speeds. A further £50m was allocated for smaller cities, which suggests that the infrastructure issue is currently being addressed. There is a slight worry that the cities and other areas of the country that were not included in the funding might fall behind the major, connected urban hotspots in terms of development, but it’s still a welcome boost to reflect the importance of the tech industry to the UK economy.

Whatever the challenges may be in getting the country up to speed and providing sufficient measures to ensure the security of the internet economy, we cannot deny just how important all of this is and the benefits it can bring – and not just to web designers in London. Our internet economy is expected to be worth £220billion by 2016. And, while the UK might be out in front on this issue, the rest of the world is not exactly lagging behind, either. In four years’ time, the G20 internet economy is predicted to be worth $4.2 trillion – almost double what it’s worth now.

If we compare that to the countries of the world, it means that the internet would be in the top 5 globally. It would be bigger than Germany. Of course, the internet and countries might be hugely interconnected, but they are very different and so it’s hard to make a proper comparison between the sizes of their respective economies. However, it serves to highlight just how much the internet economy has grown and just how much it is worth, not just to the UK but to countries right around the world.

There might still be infrastructure issues to overcome, but as it stands, our country’s internet economy is well on the way to becoming a genuine world leader.

By Chelsey Evans

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