How BT is helping local authorities ‘build back stronger’ post-pandemic

Susi Marston
PSBA Marketing and Communications Lead | BT plc
15th June 2021
Member roleInitiative member

BT is seeking more partnerships with local authorities, as it aims to build on its role as a critical national enabler for the country by using its technology to regenerate our towns, cities and villages, rebooting Britain's economy post-pandemic.

The telecommunications and technology company plans to create a ‘digital fabric’ for the next generation of public services, which will support inclusive growth and is reusable, scalable, flexible and future-proofed to deliver any outcome.

What BT means by a ‘digital fabric’ is the foundation of converged connectivity i.e. 4G and 5G mobile and fixed networks such as full-fibre, with an overlay of devices, data, skills and applications. This digital fabric can help drive better social and economic outcomes, such as inclusive growth, productivity, green recovery, and supporting better access to health services and the wellbeing of citizens.

BT has already seen how smart connectivity and 5G enabled technology can dramatically transform industries. From healthcare to education and manufacturing and agriculture, the technology solutions BT provides is a key enabler in positive change.

For example, 5G enabled technology has already benefited regional locations. It has boosted the manufacturing sector in the West Midlands, supported school children through immersive classrooms in North Lanarkshire, and created a 5G-connected driverless pod at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground.

But BT wants to do more, especially in a world that is facing new challenges.

Supporting local authorities

Traditionally, local governments have identified one problem and solved it with a single solution, but a digital fabric has the power of using interconnected 5G-led technology which brings data together from an array of different sources to solve social and economic challenges.

Therefore, this interconnected ecosystem can improve local connectivity and digital infrastructure to create economic growth and job creation, better social and health care, stronger communities and greener places.

Technology and connectivity will be at the core of BT’s plan, but for it to be a success it needs collaboration between various stakeholders, such as councils working with the private sector.

Dean Terry, MD corporate and private sector at BT, explained: “This past year has proven a remarkable reminder of the huge burden of responsibility placed on local authorities and businesses; both critical to the delivery of essential services, protection of public health, and provision of support to local communities facing Covid-19.

“However, local authorities’ dwindling resources and stretched capacity continue to grow, which is why at BT we want to support local authorities with the evidence, confidence and partnership needed to build back stronger and use technology to do so. Together, we can make the delivery of critical public services like education, healthcare and transport faster, smarter and more sustainable."

Last year, BT collaborated with almost two-thirds of councils nationwide and engaged in conversations with hundreds of public sector organisations, as it believes it has a big role to play in making a difference over the next few years.

But this isn't new for BT, as over the last few years it has been at the forefront of exciting pilots that have demonstrated how technology can support local authorities and the public.

Making Leeds the largest ‘5G capable’ city outside of London

BT has been working with Leeds City Council to launch the Leeds Full Fibre Programme as part of a £20.3m partnership.

This programme means council and health service buildings across Leeds will be upgraded to full-fibre connectivity and it aims to reach every school in the district, giving 285 sites access to the best possible connectivity. The technology powering this network will also be installed at 293 council-owned buildings, 156 NHS buildings and council housing across the city.

This exciting programme will make Leeds the largest gigabit and ‘5G capable’ city outside of London.

Tom Riordan CBE, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said: “We are committed to combating the digital divide experienced across the city, and recognise the importance of getting the right technology and infrastructure in achieving this. We are therefore pleased to collaborate with BT, with plans of a wide-reaching, future-proofed 5G eco-system to improve digital connectivity.

“By helping to accelerate the wider roll-out of full-fibre networks across the city, we will be encouraging major organisations and businesses to continue to see Leeds as an extremely attractive location for inward investment.”

Immersive classroom

Similarly, BT recently partnered with North Lanarkshire Council to deliver an immersive classroom experience powered by EE’s 5G network. The technology enabled students to experience what it’s like to be in outer space, under the ocean or on a First World War battlefield. The 360-degree room created a digital projection that used all four classroom walls and the ceiling to bring the real world into an immersive experience for students. The concept aims to push beyond traditional methods of teaching to create an inclusive digital experience that helps explain abstract and challenging concepts through a 3D model. It will also have the potential to support students with learning difficulties in developing imagination, creative and critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Rob Shuter, CEO of BT’s Enterprise Unit, said: “By harnessing the power of 5G, we’ve been able to help transform education for students in North Lanarkshire. We know that technology can help to make education richer and more accessible for young people.

"This is vital for both students and teachers; a blended learning approach can engage and support pupils better than traditional methods only. We’re really excited to be partnering with the council to use our ultrafast 5G network to provide a UK-first in education.”

What’s next?

BT has shown through its partnerships that when 5G integrates with other technology such as full-fibre, AI, IoT, cloud, edge computing and big data analytics, it creates endless possibilities and has the power to transform the way we live and work. Such partnerships are also delivering better outcomes for local authorities who use public services.

Plus, the post-pandemic recovery now offers the public sector a unique opportunity to harness this technology, so that it can become stronger and continue to deliver its essential services.

To make this a reality, BT is on hand to help local authorities navigate through the next few years - and beyond.

Find out more about how BT is helping local authorities by visiting the website.

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