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Millennials worry for the South West’s digital future

From its scenic, rolling hillsides to its tireless community spirit, the South West of England is a great place to live. If you’re reading this blog, you probably know this already. One of our region’s biggest selling points is the promise of a more measured pace of life compared to the anxiety-inducing freneticism of city living, something that increasingly appeals to both younger and older people alike.

However, while this may make for a higher quality of life in many respects, it does not make for a high quality digital existence. We want a measured pace of life, supported by a relentlessly-paced internet connection. This is the way of the world; it is particularly true of young people, for whom digital connectivity impacts upon pretty much every aspect of their lives. And concerningly, our region risks turning away a great many young people if we fail to give them the connectivity they require

Research we carried out late last year revealed that 25% of those aged between 16-24 claim that poor regional connectivity is negatively affecting their own quality of life. Aside from the obvious, such as educational troubles (which we spoke about on a blog post here), a digital disadvantage makes it extremely difficult for today’s entrepreneurially-minded young talent to set up a business, or even to work from home. Not only is this bad for the local economy but it also means workers spending longer hours in the office, leading to a tired and frustrated workforce.

Equally important, many of our young people - particularly those in harder-to-reach rural areas - are missing out on the social benefits that the internet brings to our lives. 90% of the young people we spoke to in the South West said that they relied on fast internet connectivity in their leisure time, for keeping in touch with their friends, lifestyles and the demands of popular culture. It may sound alien to anyone brought up in the age of terrestrial television and VHS, but for young people today, YouTube and Netflix are their primary sources of relaxation and entertainment.

Sadly, 77% of young people in the region experience broadband connectivity problems regularly, such as difficulty loading web pages, an inability to stream videos and in some cases complete broadband outages. All of which explains why nearly half of 16-24 year olds said that better connectivity would make the South West a more desirable place for them to live, and why, if our region fails to improve its connectivity, our young people will turn away from its green pastures in favour of concrete jungles.

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