Views and announcements

BT: Embracing digital

  • Paul Murnaghan, Regional Director for BT’s Enterprise division in Northern Ireland explains how digital upskilling and development in online safety can help NI’s future despite current uncertainties

    The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we all use technology and how we do business, highlighting the importance of digital transformation for economic survival.

    The long-term impact of the virus means that many people across Northern Ireland are having to contemplate a future of working from home for an extended period. Many successful businesses – especially sole traders and SMEs - now find themselves facing immense challenges in order to stay trading. 

    Working from home for the first time could be very daunting for many, especially if you’re used to a busy, bustling workplace. For sole traders, SMEs, as well as large organisations in the public and private sectors, being able to adapt their business model and move their offer online is and continues to be absolutely essential.

    As a critical enabler and investor in Northern Ireland, that has generated £592 million total GVA impact locally, BT Group is working hard to help keep Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK up and running during this difficult time. Our priorities have been to our people and customers, keeping our colleagues safe and helping our customers stay connected.

    BT supports thousands of SMEs locally and around one million across the UK. As connectivity is more important than ever, we’re helping businesses to stay operational during this period by providing them with a range of support and technology solutions.

    Ensuring the network resilience to enable Northern Ireland to stay connected, our networks are critical and we’re monitoring them closely to ensure that everyone, where possible, can effectively work remotely. We’ve seen weekday daytime traffic increase 35-60% but this is still nowhere near the large capacity that our networks can handle. 

    BT is also working closely with Governments and public sector organisations to enable emergency responses as well as supporting Account NI, the finance arm of the Civil Service in getting crucial payments dispersed to small businesses. To date, the total value of these payments is over £152 million. 

    Digital Skills

    As working from home continues to become our ‘new normal,’ and businesses need to become digital in order to succeed – they also need support to build their digital skills – and that’s where BT Skills for Tomorrow comes in. BT is supporting people by giving them access to the best technology, flexible options and training to help them navigate through this challenging period.

    BT Skills for Tomorrow offers free sessions as part of a major new programme, temporarily being moved online, designed to empower 10 million people across the UK by giving them the skills they need to flourish for the digital future. BT has collaborated with leading digital skills organisations to collate the best courses and information, in one easy to navigate place. Everyone is included - from school children to older people; from young adults looking for employment; to SMEs and larger public and private businesses looking for growth.

    Working with Google Digital Garage, Small Business Britain, and LinkedIn Learning, we’ve created numerous useful guides on how to do business online and develop effective digital skills. We’re also supporting small businesses via several webinars, to help with things like online presence, digital marketing, data analytics, social media and collaboration tools.  

    Digital skills are important because Northern Ireland faces a digital skills gap, which is having a profound impact on us. The rapid pace of change is leaving people behind – as many as 11.3m UK adults and 10% of the UK workforce lack basic digital skills. This digital skills gap is costing the UK economy an estimated £63bn a year, according to BT’s latest Digital Impact and Sustainability Report.

    Some of the forthcoming free webinars will cover the best collaborative tools to support remote working, how businesses can connect with customers online and alternative business models using digital approaches. 

    Staying Safe Online

    At BT, we’re also committed to ensuring that our business customers have the security solutions and knowledge necessary to stay safe online. 

    With many SMEs and larger businesses working remotely, this can also pose security considerations in response to the ever growing threat from profit-orientated and highly organised cybercriminal enterprises.

    With cybercrime continuing to escalate, a new approach to digital risk is crucial. Businesses need to not only defend against cyberattacks in this ‘new normal’ working environment, but also disrupt the criminal organisations that launch these attacks. 

    Companies’ need to help their employees to understand the potential risks. Security solutions that apply granular controls on what apps and data users can access based on who they are, where they are, and what device they’re using, could make all the difference to an organisation’s future - as hackers and scammers look to exploit these new ways of working. 

    BT is at the forefront of driving technology change and securing the UK’s digital infrastructure. We invested £632m in innovation last year, and we have around 3,000 cyber experts based around the world, focussed on protecting BT’s networks and those of our customers. This is a vital component in securing our business against increasingly sophisticated criminal gangs, who are supported by a highly developed and rapidly evolving black market.

    Risks to both large and small businesses across Northern Ireland are evident in a variety of forms. This includes various types of malware or phishing attacks, high-end targeted assaults on finance systems, as well as more regular attacks on business information and on high net worth individuals within organisations. Criminal attacks are often used with the intent of fraud, extortion or theft of hard intellectual property.

    As a trusted service provider and advisor to private and public sector businesses across Northern Ireland, BT’s local specialist team works in conjunction with external experts to develop and provide advice -  as well as a whole portfolio of security solutions to look after and manage cyber security risks for our customers. 

    At BT, we also have a ringside view of the latest attack landscape across cyberspace as a result of our work across global networks – and we’re using these capabilities and knowledge to help protect our customers. Our expertise can identify and stop the latest cyber security threats before they reach us, and we offer the same unique expertise to our customers. 

    Cyber security needs to become a focus for all of us and our businesses. It’s essential that companies adopt a change in mindset and to regard security not simply as a defence exercise – particularly in this new digital world of homeworking. It is, in fact, the enabler that facilitates digital innovation and ultimately drives business growth. 

    The global pandemic that we are faced with has created a ‘new normal’ both in our working environments and home lives. BT has and continues to support all of its customers through these changes and will continue to adapt as our customers and the world around us does. 

    This article first appeared in the summer edition of the Sync NI magazine and it can be found here. 

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