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UK Government approves £55 million regional digital programme for Swansea Bay

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A £55 million programme that will help equip the Swansea Bay City Region with world class digital infrastructure has been approved by the UK Government and Welsh Government.

Estimated to be worth £318 million to the region in coming years, the Swansea Bay City Deal’s Digital Infrastructure programme will benefit residents and businesses throughout Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea.

The programme aims to ensure the region’s cities, towns and business parks have competitive access to full-fibre connectivity, while also improving access to broadband in the region’s rural communities. It also focuses on next generation wireless, paving the way for the region to benefit from 5G and ‘Internet of Things’ innovation.

Government approval means the Digital Infrastructure programme can now start drawing down on a City Deal contribution of £25 million in coming years.

The Programme Manager is currently recruiting a team of professionals to deliver the three elements of the programme in partnership with key regional stakeholders, suppliers, Welsh Government and UK Government.

In the next 12 months, anchor tenants will be sought to stimulate fibre investment in Swansea and other urban parts of the region, including Neath Port Talbot. A strategic programme partner will also be appointed, alongside work to help regional local authorities boost take-up of broadband voucher schemes and other funding to improve connectivity in rural areas.

Further programme plans for the next year include working alongside the mobile industry to generate improved mobile coverage in the region. A long-range, open access wireless network will also be deployed to make the most of the ‘Internet of Things’ by connecting home, business and mobile devices to the internet, which will enable better decisions and improved efficiencies. This includes smart home, smart agriculture and smart manufacturing technology, as well as wearable technology in the healthcare and assisted living sectors.

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Cllr Emlyn Dole, Carmarthenshire County Council Leader, said: “The importance of high-quality digital connectivity can’t be overstated. Digital connectivity underpins so much of daily life nowadays, whether it’s people going online to check their social media accounts or businesses liaising with customers or sending and receiving information.

“Approval of this programme is fantastic news for the Swansea Bay City Region because what’s planned will help future-proof our digital infrastructure for many years. This is vital because as well as benefiting residents and businesses now, it will also lay the foundations for the region to benefit from digital innovation of the future in what’s such a fast-moving landscape.

“Both urban and rural workstreams are planned as part of the programme to ensure all parts of the City Region have opportunities for better digital connectivity.

“This will encourage our businesses to stay within the region, while also helping attract further investment and job opportunities throughout Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea.

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“Along with other projects and programmes being part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal, this will accelerate our region’s economic recovery from Covid-19.”

Vaughan Gething, Welsh Government Minister for the Economy, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the power and importance of digital in how we live and work.

“Investing in digital is crucial for our future success and this programme will be a real boost to the Swansea Bay City Region and vital in connecting people and places throughout the area. It will also help address connectivity issues in rural areas and attract inward investment.

“I am excited to see how this important initiative will benefit businesses and residents as we work to return to the economic growth we were seeing before the coronavirus pandemic.”

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Wales Office Minister David TC Davies said: “Lightning-fast digital connectivity and strong mobile coverage across Wales is hugely important for our economy, bringing significant benefits to individuals and businesses.

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“Improving our digital infrastructure is a priority for the UK Government as we pursue one of the fastest broadband rollouts in Europe. As we build back better from the pandemic, we continue to support growth, jobs, investment and innovation.”

An investment of up to £1.3 billion in nine programmes and projects in the Swansea Bay City Region, the Swansea Bay City Deal is worth over 9,000 jobs and at least £1.8 billion to the regional economy in coming years,

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.

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