Go. Digital.Newcastle.LaunchNewcastle today launched plans to become one of the UK’s first super-connected cities in a scheme to boost the city’s economy by a predicted £150 million.

Go Digital Newcastle, a government scheme delivered by Newcastle City Council, will see 97% of Newcastle given access to superfast fibre broadband by 2015, free Wi-Fi in Newcastle city centre, a cloud computing centre, business connection vouchers and a business support programme.

The UK Broadband Impact Study published this year by analysts SQW concluded for every £1 invested in broadband by government the UK economy will benefit by £20.

Council leader Cllr Nick Forbes said: “The economic benefits to the city will be significant and further cement Newcastle’s reputation as an exciting place to live and work.

“Go Digital Newcastle will boost the local economy and help create and protect local jobs.”

Newcastle is one of 22 super-connected cities where small businesses (SMEs), charities and social enterprises can apply for connection vouchers worth up to £3,000 to get connected to high speed/high grade broadband with one of nearly two hundred registered suppliers.

Digital pioneer Herb Kim, who is behind the annual Thinking Digital Conference held in Gatesead, said he’d seen example after example about the positive impact that broadband connectivity has made all around the world.

“And in the case of broadband speed and capacity, faster is definitely better.

“Faster broadband means our businesses can be more competitive, our research more intensive and our collaboration made all the easier. It is the fundamental foundation for a 21st Century economy.”

Alongside the improvement to business, tourists and local residents will also benefit.

Visitors to the city and people needing internet access while on the move will have access to free Wi-Fi across the city and in public buildings, in high streets and there are plans to take it onto the Metro. Newcastle householders can choose to upgrade to fibre broadband at home.

Around £9m of public funding is being put into Go Digital Newcastle with funding coming from:

  • The Local/Rural Broadband Programme, co-funded by the Council, the Government and BT. BT is investing £1.89m, with the Council investing £970,000 plus £970,000 from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) Local/Rural Broadband Programme fund.
  • The Government’s Super Connected Cities Programme, covers the Broadband Connection Voucher scheme, Wi-Fi in the city and on the Metro and the Cloud Innovation Centre.
  • ERDF and the Council are funding the Business Support programme of training and masterclasses.

Department for Culture Media and Sport communications minister Ed Vaizey said: “The UK already does more business online than any other European country and Government’s investment in superconnected cities, like Newcastle, will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.”