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Essex County Council emphasises connectivity in digital strategy


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Essex County Council has set a number of goals for connectivity in its newly published digital strategy.

It has also related this to giving the public better access to digital services, with specific reference to the development of primary care networks.

In a strategy document that emphasises the importance of connectivity to economic growth and levelling up in Essex, the council has highlighted four goals that it wants to see reached by 2025.

These are to make superfast broadband speeds available at all premises in Essex, and gigabit capable services available at more than 85%.

Along with these are efforts to make 4G services available across 99% of the county, and 5G at all key employment locations and in identified priority areas.

Gigabit speeds

This reflects the ongoing Superfast Essex programme, which is scheduled for completion in 2023 and is now focused on providing gigabit speeds from full fibre connections and the development local full fibre networks to connect public sector buildings in Colchester and the south and west of the county.

In addition, the council says it is working on a local grant scheme using government funding and its own reinvestment to bring gigabit-capable broadband to the Braintree area to address inequalities.

While the document places a strong emphasis on connectivity, it also makes a series of references to this providing better access to digital public services, and points to the development of primary care networks for joined up care provision.

It says these will link primary care organisations with community, mental health, social care, pharmacy, hospital and voluntary services, with a virtual desktop solution for staff and support for remote working and shared workspaces.

It also highlights the ambition of Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow to become the most digitally enabled hospital in the UK.

The document adds that there will be digital inclusion initiatives to ensure people have access to affordable equipment and connectivity.

Levelling up priority

Cllr Lesley Wagland, the council’s cabinet member for economic renewal, infrastructure and planning, said: “Providing Essex residents and businesses with access to excellent digital connectivity is at the top of my list of priorities and a key foundation for levelling up Essex.

“The digital strategy will build upon driving not only infrastructure rollouts for gigabit-capable broadband and mobile connectivity but will also focus on providing opportunities and access to digital technologies. We want to make sure no one is left behind when it comes to the digital revolution.”

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