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Regional welcome for £55 million digital infrastructure programme

L-R: Lucy Cohen, Rob Jones, Cllr David Simpson

Business and political leaders throughout the Swansea Bay City Region have welcomed recent progress for a £55 million digital infrastructure programme.

Following its approval at the Swansea Bay City Deal’s Joint Committee, the programme will now be submitted to the UK Government and Welsh Government for final sign-off.

It’s among a number of major programmes and projects forming part of the £1.3 billion City Deal portfolio.

The City Deal digital infrastructure programme will benefit residents and businesses in all parts of the City Region, which includes Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea.

Led by Carmarthenshire County Council, the digital infrastructure programme will help to ensure the region’s cities, towns and business parks have competitive access to full-fibre connectivity. This will help pave the way for the region to benefit from 5G and internet of things innovation, which includes smart homes, smart manufacturing, smart agriculture and virtual reality, as well as wearable technology that will support healthcare, assisted living and other sectors.

The programme will also focus on improving access to broadband in the region’s rural communities, while stimulating the market to create competition between digital providers for the benefit of consumers.

Lucy Cohen, co-founder of Mazuma, is a member of the City Deal’s private sector led Economic Strategy Board.

She said: “Mazuma provides online accountancy services for thousands of micro-businesses across the UK, using a cutting edge combination of people and technology to deliver our service.

“Like so many businesses, strong digital connections are absolutely essential to Mazuma, not just in terms of speed and efficiency for our clients, but also in terms of being able to communicate instantly with our clients wherever they are in the UK or beyond.

“Digital connectivity and technologies have evolved and matured so much in recent years, and that will no doubt continue to be the case in future. With that in mind, it’s essential that the Swansea Bay City Region has the digital infrastructure to keep pace with these developments both for the benefit of existing businesses and to help attract more businesses here in coming years, which will lead to job creation for local people.

“The Swansea Bay City Deal’s digital infrastructure programme will act as a springboard for the transformation of the City Region into a super connected destination for businesses and residents, helping retain local talent while encouraging entrepreneurship and enterprise.”

Cllr Rob Jones, Neath Port Talbot Council Leader, said: “It’s vital that Neath Port Talbot has access to the very best digital connectivity to compete with other more affluent parts of the UK, so this programme is a major step in the right direction for our residents and businesses – and for the Swansea Bay City Region as a whole.

“High quality digital infrastructure that will future-proof the City Region for coming decades is essential to enable innovation and support enterprise, while also helping to attract further inward investment and well-paid jobs.

“This programme will also support City Deal projects being led by Neath Port Talbot Council, which include a Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth programme of projects that will further decarbonise our economy while safeguarding the future of the steel and metals industry.”

Cllr David Simpson, Pembrokeshire County Council Leader, said: “The regional Swansea Bay City Deal digital infrastructure programme will have benefits for residents and businesses across the whole City Region – including Pembrokeshire – so Joint Committee’s approval for the submission of the business case to both governments for final sign-off is very welcome.

“Digital connectivity underpins most aspects of daily life nowadays, and this programme will build on all the work we’re already carrying out in Pembrokeshire to improve connectivity here.

“Once the digital infrastructure programme secures final approval, we look forward to working with our partners across the City Region to ensure our residents and businesses have opportunities to access the quality of connectivity they need and deserve.

“As digital capabilities and mobile technologies continue to develop, top quality digital infrastructure will also be important to ensure Pembrokeshire and the Swansea Bay City Region have the digital foundations in place to benefit from future innovation.”

Funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the public sector and the private sector, the Swansea Bay City Deal is being led by Carmarthenshire County Council, Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire Council and Swansea Council, in partnership with Swansea University, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea Bay University Health Board and Hywel Dda University Health Board.