A new report released today reveals that UK micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) which embrace cloud-enabled technologies can unlock up to £6.9 billion in annual productivity gains and drive an additional two million jobs in key sectors such as education and health by 2030.
The “Realising a Cloud-enabled Economy: How Micro, Small, and Medium Sized Businesses Drive Economic Growth and Societal Impact” report was commissioned by Amazon Web Services (AWS), and examines the potential benefits of moving to the cloud for MSMEs (defined as businesses with less than 250 employees) and the societal issues that could be addressed through such a shift. Conducted by global professional services firm, Accenture, the report uses the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data on adoption for different cloud technologies by country to estimate a cloud-enabled economy in 2030, where 90% of all businesses adopt at least a basic level of cloud technology.
The findings show that if cloud adoption levels continue at the rate forecast, MSMEs could contribute considerably to key societal challenges in the UK. These contributions could include facilitating 58 million remote health consultations, enabling four million students to access online education, and could support up to two million jobs across the UK economy. Cloud-enabled MSMEs are also heavily involved with developing solutions to transition the economy towards a more sustainable future and designing digital finance solutions (through ‘fintechs’) that are helping to support better financial inclusion and wellbeing.
Unlocking the potential of generative artificial intelligence
According to the OECD, the UK is one of the largest cloud technology regions in Europe, with an estimated 53% of all businesses purchasing cloud services. The country has seen a notable acceleration of cloud adoption, with rates doubling since 2014, however, adoption of more advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) remains low at approximately 13%.
Among the cloud-enabled technologies available, AI has shown the most potential to transform industries. 75% of the MSMEs surveyed in the new report identified AI (including generative AI) and ML, as the technologies likely to drive the most societal impact by 2030.
Generative AI is a type of AI that can create new content and ideas including conversations, stories, images, videos and music. Like all AI, generative AI is powered by ML models – very large models that are pre-trained on vast amounts of data. These ML models can be used by MSMEs across different industries to improve productivity such as assisting medical professionals to analyse test results to make more informed decisions, through to helping educators review curricula to produce practice exam questions.
Improving access to digital services across education, healthcare and financial services
MSMEs using the cloud to digitise their businesses marks the first step towards unlocking a range of economic and societal benefits for the UK.
Cloud-enabled MSMEs are helping to overcome barriers to healthcare among underserved UK communities, enabling better remote access points and improved monitoring of health conditions. Cloud technology is also providing support for medical research. One example is Akrivia Health, which helps to fast-track medical research and trials for dementia and mental health using AI. The majority of health records are free-form text that can’t be analysed at scale, representing a significantly underutilised source of data. Akrivia uses cloud-based natural language processing to capture, decipher, consolidate and arrange de-identified patient data covering medical history, symptoms and medications.
In education, cloud-enabled MSMEs are advancing access to engaging and personalised education pathways, improving students’ educational attainment and reducing time spent on tasks. By 2030, the report predicts that 11 million adults will access education via cloud-enabled MSMEs, a 175% increase from current rates. The report also outlines by 2030 an estimated four million primary to high school students will have access to online education via cloud-enabled MSMEs. One example is BibliU, which provides students with an alternative and more cost-effective option to traditional textbooks. With an eTextbook digital platform using AWS Cloud, students are able to access learning digitally with affordable content on their own devices.
In the financial services sector, cloud-enabled MSMEs provide secure methods for people to access and engage with their personal banking information, enhancing financial literacy. The report predicts that by 2030, one in four people will be using financial services supported by cloud-enabled MSMEs. One example is Snoop, an app that helps users track spending, cut bills and take control of their finances. With Open Banking technology, Snoop is able to analyse a user’s spending, and present that data to them in an accessible way through the app, helping them to make better financial decisions.
Achieving a cloud-enabled economy with MSMEs
The UK's journey towards a cloud-enabled economy needs both individual business technology integration and continued government focus. While the UK is making good progress, the report highlights barriers to cloud adoption by small businesses, such as concerns about cyber and data security, impact on organisational culture, limited access to the necessary IT infrastructure and a need for increased digital skills.
The report identifies where MSMEs can adopt internal policies and actions to integrate cloud solutions to overcome these barriers. MSMEs can accelerate cloud maturity by identifying cloud solutions and partners that strategically align with the business, upskilling employees and offering training, and evaluating costs, benefits and alternatives to select the solution with the greatest net benefit. With the UK’s rapid acceleration of cloud adoption in part attributed to strong cloud leadership, the UK Government’s focus can be a leading example of how to equip businesses with a cloud-first policy.
AWS is helping MSMEs to seize opportunities in the digital economy and transform their business models using cloud technologies. AWS Activate helps early-stage startups to grow and scale their business. Since 2019, the programme has provided more than $2 billion in AWS credits to help startups manage costs, get technical expertise, and access training and business mentorship. AWS also offers accelerator programmes to bolster the growth of MSMEs in key sectors, such as the AWS Generative AI Accelerator, the AWS Global FinTech Accelerator, as well as the AWS Healthcare Accelerator and AWS Emerging Technologies Accelerator in the UK. AWS also runs the small and medium business (SMB) Digital Innovation Programme with curated on-demand sessions to educate, inform and train leaders in leveraging cloud capabilities to transform their businesses.
At AWS, we are proud of our history supporting businesses of all sizes and enabling them to make the significant contributions they can to economic and societal impact. The new research reveals that by adopting the cloud, businesses can make an even greater impact on communities across the UK. AWS will continue to work with governments, educators and industries to empower businesses all over the world to transition to the cloud, to unlock productivity and create a brighter future.
Learn more about the “Realising a Cloud-enabled Economy: How Micro, Small, and Medium Sized Businesses Drive Economic Growth and Societal Impact” report.