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Digital Technology: Northern Ireland

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN HL2877, tabled on 25 October 2022

To ask His Majesty's Government what recent steps they have taken to promote the digital economy in Northern Ireland.

Answered on

8 November 2022

In 2021, His Majesty’s Government and the Northern Ireland Executive signed the first ever City Deal for Northern Ireland. The Belfast Region City Deal unlocks £1 billion of transformative joint investment which will deliver more than 20 highly ambitious projects and programmes, create up to 20,000 new and better jobs, and help make the region a global centre of innovation.

Northern Ireland has 86% gigabit-capable coverage*, the best connectivity out of all the home nations of the UK, which will likely improve with the £5 billion investment in Project Gigabit. Additionally, our work with the Department for the Economy on Project Stratum has improved broadband connectivity for 50% of target premises as of September. The Northern Ireland Gigabit Open Market Review is scheduled to launch in early Autumn 2022.

BDUK has worked with the Department for Economy and the Local Authorities on Full Fibre Northern Ireland to deliver connectivity to over 887 buildings with investment of over £24 million from His Majesty’s Government. Connectivity upgrades to 199 buildings were achieved by Belfast City Council with a grant of £9.3 million.

His Majesty’s Government is committed to investing in the skills of people of Northern Ireland and promoting Northern Ireland’s potential as a leader in innovative technologies. The Cyber Explorers scheme supports 11–14 year-olds to boost their understanding and interest in a career in cyber. In addition, Cyber Runway provides business skills, product development, connections and mentoring to UK cyber companies at three stages of the business lifecycle: Launch, Grow and Scale. Cyber Runway is delivered in partnership with the Centre for Secure Information Technologies in Belfast and an event will be held in the city in November 2023 to support the local economy.

DCMS is supporting businesses across the UK through investment. The £12 million Digital Growth Grant will support companies across the UK to access finance and business advice through tailored growth programmes and events. In addition, the £2.6 billion UKSPF fund encourages areas across the UK to consider interventions to support and grow their local tech ecosystems.

The creative industries are also major players in the digital economy, with inward investment reaching nearly £1 billion in 2020. To help support these businesses, DCMS is providing nearly £50 million in support for the creative industries across the UK, including the £8 million UK Games Fund (UKGF) and £21 million UK Global Screen Fund that will promote investment in innovative creative businesses. The UKGF provides grant support to early-game stage games development companies across the UK, including in Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Creative Clusters Programme supports local businesses in the Northern Ireland screen sector to innovate and drive investment. It is called Future Screens Northern Ireland and is run by a consortium of higher education institutes, industry partners, and public organisations.

*(ThinkBroadband, August 2022)