Many thanks to all of those who joined us in Liverpool this week for discussions around our preliminary findings on the economic impacts of broadband. Over 30 representatives from various institutions covering the public and private sector came to St George’s Hall to give us feedback on our evidence review so far.
We began by explaining the process by which the What Works Centre sifts through a vast array of evidence to find the most robust quantitative evaluations. This review represents the smallest one for the Centre so far, with an initial evidence base of over 1,000 evaluations sifted down to just 14; however the good news is that we can report some positive findings (with caveats attached of course).
The key patterns that have come out of the results are that broadband seems to have positive effects upon a number of key areas important to us at the Centre when examining economic growth indicators. These include (on business outcomes) higher profits and higher levels of employment. Broadband also seemingly has a magnetic pull with higher levels of migration reported, indicating that broadband attracts people to the area. The picture is more mixed though in regards to wider economic growth, particularly within labour markets and across different business sectors. The overarching message was clear – broadband generally provides positive economic outcomes, but there are winners and losers.
Our discussions were broad and covered a range of themes. Of particular interest were the results related to rural versus urban outcomes, and the lack of evidence around the effectiveness of the way in which broadband is used once adopted. Our review also uncovers the general lack of robust evaluations of the effects of broadband, and the discussions highlighted the need for more robust methods of evaluation with common metrics which can be built into broadband programmes from their inception.
The report will be published on our website at the end of February.