Digital high streets – the role of digital technology and joined up thinking in revitalising our town centres

Since the dawn of civilisation thousands of years ago, we have always come together at the centre of our communities, to trade, socialise and seek enlightenment. In the 1870’s due to increased urbanisation people no longer grew produce for themselves, and market stalls became shops, and the high street was born.

For over a hundred years, the high street primarily catered for our essential need to ‘pop to the shops’. However, according to a recent LGA report, our reasons to visit the high street have changed, from primarily retail and functional, to latterly social and experiential. This has also come against a backdrop of increased ‘Internet’ shopping, which according to the ONS rose from 2% in 2000 to over 40% during the pandemic in 2021, reducing to less than 25% today.

It would be easy to conclude therefore that anything ‘Digital’ or ‘Internet’ related is a threat to traditional retail and the high street. As with any new disruptive technology, the reality is far more nuanced. Just because we can stream our favourite band, doesn’t get anywhere near seeing them live, and watching our beloved sports team on the television, is nothing like being in the stadium cheering them on (depending on your team of course).

New technology always comes along, and it is those people, organisations, cities, regions, towns and villages that can embrace and harness it that will benefit the most. Attracting visitors, increasing footfall, optimising parking, promoting offers, improving air quality and place shaping is central to all local policy objectives, but how to deliver, measure and predict relating outcomes is another question entirely.

And this is where digital infrastructure and solutions can help. Whether it is enriching visitor experience, supporting retailers, attracting flexible workers, enhancing public safety or even helping us park more easily, digital technology increasingly underpins all of it. The ability to create an engaging and cohesive visitor experience, whilst also bringing together previously disparate silos of data into meaningful dashboards is vital to helping ensure our high streets and centres are optimised and thriving.

Stuart Smith, Head of Public Sector at dbfb said ‘Having delivered this technology within a location that is now the fastest growing town centre in the South of England, I have seen first-hand just how powerful this technology can be. As our regions, cities and towns have benefited in the past from industrialisation, those that that harness digital today, will be the ones to thrive into the future.’

About dbfb 

dbfb is a leader in the telecommunications industry, committed to providing innovative and effective solutions that enhance connectivity and community engagement across the UK.




Internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (ratio) (%) – Office for National Statistics (
Creating resilient and revitalised high streets in the ‘new normal’ | Local Government Association