By Tom Macaulay
March 9, 2017
"The CLA has said on many occasions that the Universal Service Obligation will be crucial in providing much-needed connectivity, which has to be the key objective. More must be done to see this completed by the 2020 deadline."
The elephant in the room
Local expertise is at the centre of the strategy, but Europe seems to have been pushed to the outskirts. The vote to leave the European Union contributed to the publication being delayed by more than a year, and Brexit continues to cause major worries to the sector.
Bradley's comments will have done little to allay them. She promised that securing the residential status of EU nationals currently in the UK was a priority, but provided no details on how this would be done.
"Whilst today's Digital Strategy goes some way in offering a platform to develop the UK's digital economy, it stops short of offering a coherent, strategic plan for the tech sector as it navigates the fallout from the decision to leave the European Union," said Tom Adeyoola, the co-founder and CEO of e-commerce startup Metail.
"The strategy fails to address a potential Brexit brain-drain, the reduction in funding for UK research institutions and raises questions about how tech companies will continue to access top international talent. By failing to identify the decision to the leave the European Union as a factor in the creation of a robust Digital Strategy, today's announcement solidified Brexit's position as 'the elephant in the report'."
Bradley's speech placed artificial intelligence at the heart of the government's programme for emerging technologies.
A review on how to make the UK a leading nation for AI to be conducted by Professor Wendy Hall of the University of Southampton and Jerome Pesenti from Benevolent AI was announced, with support from a £17.3 million investment in robotics and AI research at UK universities.
"The digital sector is worth seven percent of our economy," said Bradley. "And grew nearly three times faster than the rest of it in 2015. But that does not mean that we can stand still. And just keeping up should not be the limit of our ambitions."
The launch adds to the Government Transformation Strategy published two weeks ago to provide a fuller picture of the administration's technology plans. Their success will be crucial if the growth cited by Bradley continues as the worried whispers over the country's future as a tech hub grow louder.