When facing a rapidly growing challenge like COVID-19, every day matters. On 23rd March – just as the UK was going into lockdown – digital health company Babylon was already offering a new dedicated COVID-19 Care Assistant, providing a continually updated symptom tracker, virtual consultations and rapid referral to hospital care when needed.

A rare silver lining of this crisis has been that it revealed, for all we tend to worry about our economy’s long term productivity challenges, some parts of the economy are as agile as ever. Babylon was far from the only company to reconfigure its offering at astonishing speed. From global video chat services seeing an order of magnitude increase in traffic, to small businesses switching to delivery or virtual classes, we have seen clear examples of innovation across the economy.

One reason that many organisations were able to rapidly pivot, or scale what they were offering, was that their core business infrastructure was built on top of the cloud. First pioneered with the invention of Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2006, cloud computing makes it much easier for small companies to combine the flexibility of a start-up with all the computing power and security of the world’s leading technology companies. Instead of committing to expensive purchases of IT equipment up front, companies have the ability to flex up and down their computing resources to match their exact needs from day to day – or even hour to hour.

The flexibility of the cloud not only allows for companies to react to the unexpected – a historic global pandemic, say – but it also makes possible entirely new types of business. It means online education tools like Firefly can ramp up their resources during exam season, or a fantasy sports platform like FanDuel can meet the rush of a game day. It allows a visual effects company like Milk to access enough raw computing power to simulate an ocean, or support AI specialists Faculty in solving the problems of clients from the BBC to the NHS.

The cloud acts as a catalyst for four of the main drivers of growth: technology, human capital, entrepreneurship and market competition. On average, using cloud services is a significantly more cost effective and more flexible solution for organisations, boosting their productivity. By reducing the start-up costs needed to get into a particular sector, the cloud helps drive innovative new business models and increases competition in existing sectors. Finally, by making it easier to build online tools and share data, the cloud supports greater worker collaboration and more flexible forms of work.

The lockdown world has shown us the power of the internet and cloud computing. Now, in the post-COVID world, as this research highlights, there is an opportunity to use that same technology to boost productivity, wages and living standards, right across the UK.

For more information, please visit: https://awsimpactreport.publicfirst.co.uk/