Assistant Director of Digital and Customer Service, at Sunderland City Council, Liz St Louis, discusses her thoughts around the importance of good digital connectivity, enabling technologies and the ability to adapt to new ways of working to deliver digital transformation across the city’s diverse business sectors.

Thanks to advances in improved internet speeds and reliability as well as enhanced workforce applications and digital literacy levels, employees in an increasing number of professions can work just about anywhere, at any time.

With the current health and economic crisis, brought about by COVID-19, concepts of business continuity and flexible methods of operating are becoming increasingly merged and pressure on both individuals and businesses to perform effectively in extraordinary circumstances is disrupting the very essence of our day-to-day lives and providing significant opportunities to accelerate digital adoption and the benefits this brings.

Here at the council, as with countless other Sunderland-based organisations adapting to navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19, we are utilising and embracing a whole host of digital technologies to enable dispersed teams to connect, communicate and succeed and ensure we can continue to support the businesses and residents of Sunderland.

Newly adopted practices that have been implemented in response to the current crisis across a range of organisations will set the blueprint for flexible expectations of working life and business operating methods, with employees choosing their loyalties to existing and attraction to new employers based upon some of these extended flexible working capabilities.

Continued digital innovation and the implementation of digital tools will enable the realisation of the blueprint with virtual reality (VR) and other mixed reality technologies, alongside augmented connectivity such as fifth generation (5G) wireless communication technologies exponentially faster connection speeds, latency and capacity; enabling a wide range of innovative new products and services across our city and beyond to the mutual benefit of businesses and individuals alike.

Our Smart City Programme and approach to date has proven our motivation and commitment to enable this new digital landscape, critical to the success of the city’s future. We will deliver ubiquitous high-speed connectivity both wirelessly through 5G and wired through fibre and support the delivery of a range of use cases to transform the lives of the people and businesses of Sunderland through improving health, care and opportunities for enterprise.

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