On December 29 2015, the UK Digital Strategy letter from Ed Vaizey, digital economy minister, laid out the UK digital revolution. The letter discussed the launch of TechCity UK, the creation of the Government Digital Service and catapult programmes.
According to the letter, the UK is one of the most developed digital economies in the world. UK plc receives a boost of around £145 billion a year from digital technology, with the average person spending £1,500 online for goods each year.
This year, the government is due to set out a new Digital Strategy for the UK, looking at the next five years. The government wants the UK to lead the way when it comes to digital. It wants digital to improve everything from government operations, education, housing, healthcare, business and fighting crime.
“The letter talks about it being the UK, but it shouldn’t just be us, it should be positioned on a global level” commented Juan Pablo Luchetti, consultancy director at Mubaloo. “It should be a global strategy, where collaboration between governments happens everywhere.”
Whilst there may not be a ‘global’ strategy, there is at least the Digital Single Market in Europe proposition. This proposition aims to create a flexible environment for innovation across borders. It is estimated to create a €415 billion boost of economic growth for Europe.
One plan the government has, is to create a ‘smartphone state’. Making passport renewal as easy as buying a book online.
We have seen the impact mobile can have for organisations. Often, even relatively simple use cases that reduce the need for paper to be signed and sent off, make a phone call or manually enter information, can lead to a huge impact for operations and efficiencies.
To build the foundations, the government has been focused on ensuring that the UK is connected. By the end of 2017, it claims that 95% of the UK will have access to superfast broadband. The government plans to make it a legal right for every home and business in the UK to have access to fast broadband, if they want it.
Yet, as Karl Loudon, digital director of Mubaloo, said “A broadband connection doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the talent in place. To make the UK synonymous with digital, the government needs to put more focus on training and getting amazing talent into the UK. This means putting a focus on helping ensure that anyone who leaves school has the skills they need to work. This could help a number of young people who may need to leave school at 16 for a number of reasons, to help them have jobs that are more flexible. People and skills are the future of making the UK a tech nation.”
Indeed, estimates from the government show that over the next 20 years, 90% of all jobs will require some level of digital skill.
J. C. R. Licklider, born in 1915, was a pioneer behind two of the most important concepts of the Internet. These were decentralised networks, to enable the distribution of information anywhere, and interfaces to enable human-machine interaction in real time. According to The Innovators by Walter Issacson, one of Lickliders beliefs was that:
The more powerful the computer, the greater the premium that will be placed on connecting it with imaginative, creative, high-level human thinking. An approach which Licklider called “man-computer symbiosis”
The level of innovation and transformation taking place in the world today, driven by more powerful computers, smartphones, tablets, wearables and other devices, confirms what Licklider predicted. Digital is an enabler for growth, which requires education at all levels. Companies today need to be focused on the next 20 years and the changes that will continue to happen as a result of computers aiding us to do more.
We’re happy to see that the government is focused on enabling the future growth of the UK and its place within the global digital economy. Yet, we would also like to see more being done to ensure that the same thing that happened to our manufacturing industry, doesn’t happen to digital skills. If the government is going to invest in education around digital skills, we should also have investment to keep skills in the UK.
This involves encouraging talent to remain in the UK and for businesses to use development talent onshore. R&D tax incentives have been one factor to help this happen, but we will be interested to see if there is anything else in the upcoming report linked to retaining UK talent.