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Northumberland County Council – Broadband and Digital Connectivity

The challenge

Northumberland is the most rural county in England and has major broadband connectivity and digital inclusion challenges. DigitalFirst built and led a team of internal/external staff to deliver a major partnership procurement for superfast broadband, a digital inclusion programme for social housing, satellite and wireless broadband loans scheme and ERDF funded digital business economy programme.

What we did

We established strong working relationship across government agencies and departments including DCMS and its delivery agency BDUK, DEFRA and DCLG to build Northumberland’s case for moving forward its digital and broadband agenda. In doing so another £15m of grants funding was secured for the programme.

Key to its success was engaging local politicians to buy-in and then advocate for Northumberland to access further funding and support. The connection between broadband access and delivering the economic growth and social inclusion agenda of Northumberland has since been well made and the Council established a strong branding and web presence for its programme – www.iNorthumberland.org.uk. We then inspired the Council to establish a digital arms lengths company ArchDigital to manage broadband and mobile roll-out, digital change and network management across the County as part of a £30m programme to deliver economic and social outcomes.

This ambitious strategy enabled Northumberland, alongside its Digital Economy ERDF funding, to support its SME businesses and jobs growth within the digital economy, build a digital workforce and tackle issues of digital exclusion.

What we achieved

We led the establishment of an innovative commercial Digital Company (ArchDigital) for Northumberland and led the transition and start-up of the company. We secured £15m of EDRF and DEFRA funding to support SMEs embrace the digital economy potentially creating up to 2000 jobs.

We advised and led the prospectus development and soft market testing for the council’s Partnership of Place PPP, managing specialist resources and defining the procurement strategy for member consideration. We established the corporate programme office for the council’s transformation programmes of change introducing leading edge PPM methodologies and tools.

Northumberland now has one the the best super fast broadband coverage for a rural county across the UK

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