Today sees the launch of a new governmental Digital Strategy it’s certainly not being modest about, ambition-wise – as in essence, the Tories are promising to not just make the UK a world leader in e-business, but also end the digital divide.
Thus statements out of the Ministerial home of the new Strategy, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport that it’s going to make “Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business”, “ensure our digital economy works for everyone” and “make sure no one is left behind” around skills in the digital age.
That last bit is going to come, we’re told, by a unique combination of government, business, charities and voluntary organisations coming together to make sure citizens “have the right skills for the jobs in their area and are aware of all the digital training opportunities on offer” via “millions of free digital training opportunities”. Partners on this front include Lloyds Bank, BT, Accenture, HP, Barclays and Google.
But industry will more likely to be focusing this morning on the bigger business picture. The story here is that the government sees this Digital Strategy as complementing its recent Industrial Strategy, with both aimed at helping the UK build on its strengths to “secure a future as a competitive, global nation”.
To do so, the government will:
- Create five international tech hubs in emerging markets to create and develop partnerships between UK companies and local tech firms. These hubs will help provide British businesses with a global competitive edge and drive collaboration on skills, innovation, technology, and research and development. The hubs will be based upon the successful UK-Israel Tech Hub, it says, which to date has delivered more than 80 partnerships with a deal value of £62m
- Support a new competition to spark the development of new fintech products that can support those who struggle to access financial services and provide consumers with the tools they need to manage their finances well. This will build on the UK’s existing lead in the sector, which was worth more than £6.6bn in 2015, making sure “the digital economy works for all, not just the privileged few”
- Create a Secretary of State-led forum for government and the tech community to work together to spark growth in the digital economy “through innovation and the adoption of digital in the wider economy”
- Set up a new Business Connectivity Forum, to be chaired by DCMS, to bring together business organisations, local authorities and communications providers to help businesses access fast, affordable and reliable broadband
- And make sure the billion pounds promised in the Autumn Statement to fund things like the development and uptake of next generation digital infrastructure – including full fibre broadband plans and 5G – definitely comes through.
Commenting on her Department’s moves, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley claimed that, “The UK’s world-leading digital sectors are a major driver of growth and productivity, and we are determined to protect and strengthen them.
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“This Digital Strategy sets a path to make Britain the best place to start and grow a digital business, trial a new technology, or undertake advanced research as part of the Government’s plan to build a modern, dynamic and global trading nation.
“To do that, we will work closely with businesses and others to make sure the benefits and opportunities are spread across the country so nobody is left behind.”
For industry, Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General commented that, “UK companies are at the forefront of the digital revolution. The pledges announced by the Government underline businesses’ commitment to build the skills we need for a modern economy, as well as tackle barriers to technology adoption.
“To uphold our position as a world-leading digital economy businesses, we and the Government need to work together – the strategy’s focus on skills, connectivity and innovation provide a useful framework for this,” while Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech City UK, added, “The UK’s tech sector is rapidly becoming a global force to reckon with, but we must ensure that we stay ahead by continuing to provide a supportive environment for British startups and digital companies to grow in, especially since other countries are trying to take advantage of our departure from the European Union.
“In the UK tech sector jobs are being created at twice the rate of the wider economy, and today’s Digital Strategy provides an ambitious road map for the industry to continue growing at this rate and building a new economy fit for the future.”
Read an in-depth commentary on the deeper themes in this news from our content partner diginomica/government here