10 May 2022

Building Mobile Britain: The Case for Local Authority Digital Champions

Mobile UK is calling on the UK Government to fund Digital Champions for local authorities to help coordinate and prioritise digital connectivity to better enable mobile infrastructure deployment and to assist with the Government’s ambitions to address digital exclusion as part of its Levelling Up agenda.

The call is made by Mobile UK, the representative body of the UK’s four mobile network operators, EE, Three, Virgin Media O2, and Vodafone, and comes as it publishes a new report highlighting the urgent need for Digital Champions to help coordinate mobile infrastructure rollout. The report calls on the UK Government to fund these roles, recognising the financial restraints of local authorities and the importance of digital connectivity whilst alleviating a lack of awareness and understanding about mobile infrastructure in order to improve resources and smooth the rollout of digital connectivity across the UK.

The report, published on 10 May, titled Building Mobile Britain: The Case for Local Authority Digital Champions, showcases how local authorities who have already embedded a focused digital strategy are streets ahead of those who have yet to create a plan. It seeks to highlight how Digital Champions, funded by the central government, put in place to coordinate local authorities’ digital strategies and relationships with the industry, can have hugely positive outcomes in the smooth deployment of mobile networks and in building more effective relationships both within councils and with telecommunications providers.

The report outlines five minimum key attributes needed for a successful Digital Champion role:

  1. Should be fully funded
  2. Held at a senior level
  3. Have political responsibility (be supported by cabinet-level elected representatives)
  4. Have demonstrable skills and experience
  5. Focused on tangible outcomes, not outputs

Commenting on the campaign for Digital Champions, Director of Policy and Communications at Mobile UK, Gareth Elliott says:

The Government has placed enormous emphasis in its Levelling Up agenda on improving digital connectivity, particularly to reduce digital poverty and exclusion, but to achieve these goals it is important to understand the need to assist local authorities in helping to prioritise and coordinate mobile infrastructure deployment. Our report highlights the role and dramatic impact a Government-funded Digital Champion can have on a council’s ability to play a positive role in the rollout of digital connectivity and to support the UK realise its goal of 5G rollout."

The report cites research highlighting that where councils have a dedicated and funded Digital Champion, they are four times more likely to deliver a smooth rollout of vital mobile telecommunications infrastructure. The report also explains that without adequate focus and funding the UK will continue to face barriers in meeting its 2030 target for the majority of households to be connected to 5G.

You can download the full report here.