Government launches UK Digital Strategy to make Britain 'a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone'

The UK government finally published its Digital Strategy today, outlining its plans for making the country a global capital of the digital economy.

By Tom Macaulay
March 9, 2017

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Image:iStock/BrianAJackson via Computerworld UK

The UK government finally published its Digital Strategy today, outlining its plans for making the country a global capital of the digital economy.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley MP launched the strategy by laying out the government's vision of how to develop the requisite infrastructure, regulations and skills to make the UK the ideal place for digital businesses, new technology and advanced research.

"The Digital Strategy will help to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone," she pledged at the Entrepreneur First startup accelerator. The London incubator is housed in a converted Biscuit Factory, a fitting example of the digital transformation the plans intend to support.

"This strategy will ensure that the benefits of digital are spread throughout the country; that we have the necessary infrastructure; that regulations are agile and benign; and that everyone has the skills they need to be citizens in the digital age and workers in the digital economy."

The strategy is divided into seven strands covering connectivity, skills, digital businesses, data, digital government, cyberspace and the wider economy.

Digital skills

The digital skills gaps is an ongoing concern both in the UK and around the world, and Bradley revealed a number of government schemes aimed at tackling it. More than four million free digital skills training opportunities were promised to develop the country's digital skills base and infrastructure, with industry involvement central to the plans.

The new Digital Skills Partnership was announced to solidify the support of the private sector for developing tech talent at a local level through their regional expertise.

"Let's be clear: the digital economy is not confined to London," said Bradley. "A variety of government programmes are already lending support and we will build on this to back talent and innovation wherever we find it."

Already confirmed as joining the scheme are Lloyds Banking Group, which will provide digital skills training to 2.5 million people and organisations by 2020, Barclays, which will teach coding to 45,000 children, and Google, which has pledged to help boost skills in seaside towns.

Industry feedback on the proposals was mixed.

"Although the government's digital strategy is encouraging, currently the lack of detail is concerning," said Dr Jamie Graves, CEO at cybersecurity specialists ZoneFox. "So far, the initiative fails to pinpoint factors such as how it will be measured to ensure its success. Britain doesn't need any more strategic plans, it needs to start seeing tangible results.

"Rolling out free, basic digital skills is a welcome start, but not all the UK needs. Cybercrime is continuing to cripple companies and over two-thirds of businesses can't find enough talent to defend their company against cyber threats yet it gets little mention in this new strategy.

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