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

"The UK has employer demand exceeding candidate interest by more than three times; surely this is a more pressing issue than Google's coastal town summer school."

International plans

The local plans extended globally into the establishment of a network of UK Tech Hubs in developing countries, to work alongside the key existing hub in Israel and boost both Britain's global presence and domestic opportunities.

"The creation of five new international tech hubs is encouraging - following on from the success of UK Israel Tech Hub," said Ben Brabyn, the head of technology accelerator Level39.

"Meaningful change will be brought about from encouraging overseas firms and investors to look towards the UK as the leading destination for growth - engaging with technology and finance clusters such as Canary Wharf and the City of London."

An investment of £13 million in seed funding for the creation of a private sector-led Productivity Council aims to help British businesses compete internationally and embrace digital ways of working.

"We will also encourage the use of digital technology to help 100,000 more UK businesses export by 2020," said Bradley. "We want the UK to be the place to be for digital and to export our expertise and products."

The government also promised to support greater diversity through further development of the Tech Talent Charter, and revealed a new five-year strategy to tackle cybercrime backed by a £1.9 billion investment.

The next generation of IT professionals would be supported through the addition of coding to the National Curriculum and by following up on the recommendations of the Shadbolt Review into computer science degrees. A national after-school programme, cyber apprenticeships, and adult retraining were also promised.

IT infrastructure

A "Universal Service Obligation" has been introduced to give every business, public premises, and individual in the country the right to request an affordable high-speed broadband connection, although the practical implications of this remain unclear.

Bradley also repeated the promise that her government first made in last year's Autumn Statement of a £1 billion investment in next generation digital connectivity including full fibre and 5G.

The senior economics advisor of the CLA, the membership organisation for owners of land, property and businesses in rural England and Wales, was sceptical about the plans.

"The government has been talking about creating a world-leading digital infrastructure for some time now, but rural businesses and communities must not be left behind," said Dr Charles Trotman. "It is obvious that the rural-urban digital divide is still very much in existence, and resolving this must be a priority.

"People are increasingly coming to rely on mobile devices and using technology on the go, and the digital divide puts rural areas at an unfair disadvantage. The government has said it will commit to rolling out 5G coverage, but this is of no comfort for those who still have poor mobile coverage or no coverage at all. Without UK-wide infrastructure, the government's vision for their digital strategy will simply not work.

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