The new DCMS digital strategy was announced at London Tech Week, with Digital Minister Chris Philp promising it would help grow a £150bn digital economy and make the UK the “best place in the world to start and grow a technology business”.
The intergovernmental strategy, not to be confused with a new CDDO digital government strategy aimed at improving digital government services, will focus on six key areas, from deploying world-class infrastructure and protecting research and development and of intellectual property in the UK, to harnessing the power of data, building digital skills, funding technology growth, improving accessibility and “improving the place of the Kingdom United in the world”.
Of particular note, following the Brexit deal, is the strategy’s intention to “implement a light-weight, growth-friendly regulatory regime that protects citizens while encouraging both investment and growth”. ‘innovation “. This, the DCMS said, will lead to regulatory competitive advantages in areas such as artificial intelligence, data and digital competition.
Philp said UK tech companies had raised £12.5bn in the first five months of 2022, making it second in the world behind the US in funding tech start-ups and ahead of the UK. France and Germany.
Government-commissioned estimates suggest the digital economy could boost the annual Gross Value Added (GVA) of the UK tech sector by an additional £41.5 billion by 2025 and create an additional 678,000 jobs.
“The UK’s economic future, jobs, wage levels, prosperity, national security, cost of living, productivity, ability to compete globally and our geopolitical position in the world all depend on the continued and growing success of digital technology,” said Philp.
“That’s why the UK needs to strengthen its position as the world’s science and technology superpower, and why the government is taking steps to make it happen.”
The DCMS digital strategy focuses on six areas
The strategy has six main initiatives:
1. Numerical foundations
The government has pledged to improve digital infrastructure such as broadband, as well as 4G and 5G coverage, which are also part of its Leveling Up white paper. There are also bold statements about the free flow of data, as well as offering a “lightweight, innovation-friendly regulatory framework” to attract investors post-Brexit. There are other commitments around improving cybersecurity and digital regulation.
2. Ideas and Intellectual Property
This initiative aims to encourage R&D and innovation, both in the private sector and in universities, as well as to develop the UK’s expertise in emerging technologies, such as quantum computing, semiconductors and AI. This target, which follows the government’s Innovation Strategy 2021, coincides with the announcement by DCMS The future of calculus examinationa decade-long review of the state of computing in the UK.
3. Digital skills
This aims to improve STEM and teacher training and indicates progress across the education sector, from offering coding in the primary curriculum to new technical T-level courses in England. It also highlights the availability of conversion courses in AI and data science, funding for 1,000 PhDs. places in AI, e-learning and scholarship programs. Most notably, the strategy announced the launch of a new Digital Skills Council, which will encourage investment in employer-led training to upskill the workforce.
4. Financing digital growth
Here the strategy looks at access to finance through the British Business Bank and British Patient Capital. Philp encouraged pension funds, in particular, to invest in pre-IPO tech companies in the UK, to generate returns and economic growth.
5. Prosperity spread and upgrade
This encourages the use of digital technologies to support key strategic priorities, such as improving productivity, utilities, upgrading and reaching net zero.
6. Improve the UK’s place in the world
how the UK will collaborate in international trade, maintaining the UK as a “science and technology superpower” and helping to set standards on digital products and services.
Jos Creese, CEO and founder of digital and IT planning firm Creese Consulting Ltd., said the strategy succeeds in detailing the upgrade opportunity, the opportunities for the UK tech market post-Brexit, and addresses national security and the role of technology in a democracy.
However, he questioned whether such ambitious policy statements were realistic and expressed concern that the strategy does not sufficiently differentiate between IT and digital issues.
“Computing and digital are different entities and confusing them is why many Whitehall digital programs fail,” Creese said.
“We’ve had many interesting statements about things like technology infrastructure and yet we still have terrible mobile and broadband coverage in parts of the UK. What I would like to see is a single cross-government digital strategy, backed by sector/department specific implementation plans – timelines, resource commitment, accountability.
Dr Bill Mitchell, OBE, Director of Policy at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, added that, for the most part, the digital strategy succeeds in bringing together policy initiatives on digital and data-based technologies announced through other strategies, such as the National Innovation Strategy, National Data Strategy, National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, and Integrated Security, Defense, Development, and Foreign Policy Review.
“The strategy also shows that the government is paying increasing attention to the role of regulators in building public confidence in new technologies, particularly around AI, data science and algorithmic processing. personal data,” he said.
“Practitioners need to pay attention to these initiatives as they may result in regulated codes of practice that will affect their day-to-day work, regardless of the industry in which they work.”
Tech industry trade association techUK, often a strong supporter of new government initiatives, suggested there was still work to be done.
“While this strategy is welcome, it is short-term, with the majority of actions listed either already underway or due to be completed by 2024-25. If all of these deliverables were implemented without delay, the strategy would need to be updated by the end of 2024 to remain relevant.
The association also criticized the lack of a longer-term vision or statement of intent on the role digital technologies could play in addressing systemic issues facing the UK, such as historically low economic productivity, a national infrastructure that requires a “revolution” and the challenges of an aging population.
“It feels like a missed opportunity given the enthusiasm the UK government has shown to make the UK a science and technology superpower and the role such a vision or statement of intent would play in sparking debate and discussion of future policy action.”
Critics also pointed to a lack of attention to data privacy, as well as digital skills and inclusion.
Cisco UK&I CEO David Meads highlighted new research from CEBR suggesting that a more inclusive digital society could add £168 billion to the UK economy by 2030.
“This opportunity can only be realized if we connect everyone in the UK, equip them with digital skills and digitize key industries and public services, to ensure that everyone can benefit from the digital economy,” said- he said in a statement.
“To do this, we must look beyond the technology sector and harness digital innovation to create more equitable opportunities to ensure that technological innovation does not worsen social inequalities but helps to correct them.”
Emma Weston, CEO of social enterprise Digital Unite, said the report focused on “industry, finance, tech unicorns, with a streak of nationalistic hubris” while missing a large and underserved audience. .
“If you are, or know, or work with or support any of the 20.5 million adults with low or very low digital engagement and skills, this is not the strategy you were expecting,” a- she said on LinkedIn.
“How are we supposed to line up statements like ‘in 2021 a new UK unicorn was hit every 11.5 days’ with the daily reality of 11.8 million adults who are online and don’t have the essential digital skills for work?
The strategy’s key action points can be found here.
The DCMS added that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will publish the UK’s first quantum strategy later this year, with a strategy for semiconductors also due to be launched in desired time.