25 Mar 2021

The convergence of connectivity and skills is more important than ever

The fifth generation of wireless technology (5G), will supercharge the take up of a host of technologies and applications, from autonomous vehicles to smart cities and virtual reality. Countries that rapidly deploy 5G stand to gain billions in revenue accompanied by substantial job creation, and leadership in technology innovation.  

Over the past year, we have seen the acceleration of the adoption of technology in ways that have transformed society and the economy. Numerous businesses and schools have transferred operations online. Events have been a catalyst for innovators all over the country to use digital and data to find new business models and opportunities. Last year, we commissioned an academic review on competitiveness and digital growth, which showed how the ability of companies to seize the opportunities presented by technology was of growing importance and that the UK economy could secure a £48 billion boost if companies embrace new models. 

These trends have magnified the importance of two critical ingredients to our digital future: connectivity and skills. In both cases there is a huge opportunity for the country to embrace the possibilities – but there are also risks, that the digital divide could be further magnified and made all the more problematic for those left unconnected or lacking digital skills.  

5G powered applications

At present, several industry segments from manufacturing to retail, logistics to healthcare, are exploring the use of 5G to create a new class of Edge and AI-powered applications. At Microsoft, we are fully committed to getting behind 5G in the UK; investing, innovating, and building partnerships. We believe that it is important to these efforts to develop the support mechanisms to test, validate and scale new concepts and approaches. Fostering a vibrant and healthy ecosystem will translate into new jobs, drive local economic development, and create new avenues for growth. Our efforts at Microsoft are spearheaded by our Azure for Operators initiative. This brings the power of the Azure hybrid cloud coupled with Microsoft’s rich portfolio of cloud services to operators. It is a commitment to work with operators. Indeed, our partnership with operators is key to connect the intelligent edge with the intelligent cloud and to creating new transformative experiences for people and organizations everywhere, across every industry. This in itself can serve as the catalyst to spur economic development, enhance productivity and foster new employment avenues. 

Addressing the 5G skills gap

Connectivity, and the opportunity presented by 5G, will be at the heart of the recovery of the economy and to future resilience of the country. Countries and companies trying to realise the potential of 5G face some key challenges, however, and skilling for the future is one of these challenges. 

The UK does not have the number of digitally skilled workers it needs to take advantage of the technologies that are currently being developed and will be utilised by businesses in the near future. Microsoft estimates that the economy could have the capacity for 3 million new technology jobs by 2025, but will likely lack people with the right skills to fill them. This is why Microsoft launched our skills campaign, Get On 2021, to help 1.5 million people build careers in technology and help 300,000 connect to tech job opportunities. 

5G has the potential to create new opportunities by powering the connectivity of the country at large. And the deployment of 5G networks itself will create a need for a growing skilled workforce - skills that span not only tower techs and telecom crews but also datacenter technicians, cloud systems administrators, cybersecurity experts and other workers with the skills to advance virtualisation of 5G networks.  

Guest blog by Glen Robinson, National Technology Officer at Microsoft

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