I’m not involved in the Digital Durham programme as much as I used to be, at least not in the direct provision of broadband. This is testament to the great work that the team is doing back at World Headquarters. They don’t need me to poke my nose in.
I was reminded at the board meeting how well the programme has done. Contract one has now closed with over ninety six per cent of properties having access to effective broadband now, up from the low twenties when we started. This will rise to ninety eight per cent by the end of contract tow, towards the back end of next year. Take-up continues to grow with a third of the properties eligible in contract one availing themselves. The second contract is only a few months old but it’s already over eleven percent. Again this has very little to do with me. Both the team and the market have taken over. This is a great achievement.
My focus is now on the other strategic issues that face the county and the regions, such as mobile coverage, digital skills and using the technologies to enable communities. These are the issues that I discussed at the Enterprise and Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee: getting young people into the market; talking about the opportunities and; coalescing communities into collective action. These are the areas where I could do with political support and these are the wider issues for the Digital Durham programme.
There is one thing that pleased me however from the board. Finally, the powers that be have recognised that we cannot separate the public intervention from the private sector activity. Digital is no one-trick pony. It remains of team effort, with all players. It is a quadruple helix. It has only taken five years of nagging but I finally got there. Clearly you cannot rush these things.