Join Britain’s digital army

 

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Digital Industries, believes Britain has world-leading strength in its research, innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and connectivity. It’s time to future-proof our position and push Britain to the forefront of the global digital economy.

Ed VaizeyFor me, the term ‘digital economy’ describes all parts of the economy which are, in some way, enabled by digital technologies. The reality is that this now encompasses everything – from commerce to education, entertainment to front-line public services.

In creating my new role as Minister for Digital Industries, the Government has recognised the huge importance digital industries play in the economy and is signalling its determination to build on what we have already done to support digital enterprise. We want the UK to be a world-leading digital economy, including being the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business.

Carving a niche

In the UK, we have the advantage of world-leading strengths in research, innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and connectivity. I would like to see our tech sector continue to flourish, enhancing UK competiveness and exporting its excellence globally.

I would also like UK businesses and organisations to embrace technology and seize the opportunity to make their businesses more efficient, for example by trading online. We want to be the creators of new technologies and services, not just the consumers. If we allow Britain to fall behind, others will quickly step in and reap the benefits.

I believe that the key to grasping the opportunities of the global digital economy is ensuring the right environment is in place to allow our world-leading strengths to flourish. This includes having a digitally-skilled workforce and sufficiently fast and reliable broadband infrastructure – into which we’re making a significant investment.

Policy push for the digital age

Through the Government’s Industrial Strategy, we are taking a ‘whole of Government’ approach, working with businesses to create the best possible digital environment. In addition we’re:

  • taking a long-term approach in partnerships with business to give confidence now for investment and growth
  • working with EU partners to create the best regulatory environment for economic growth, ensuring vital protections are in place for consumers
  • looking to provide robust safeguards to protect individuals’ data, at the same time creating the right conditions for innovation and economic growth.

Business benefits

We’ve seen that some sectors have already been transformed by digital technologies – for example, the retail sector’s use of real-time analysis of shopping habits to shape the services they offer. Research1 by McKinsey shows that companies who embrace technology will grow faster, export more and create more jobs. And, digital services such as cloud computing and data analytics allow companies to operate in more cost-effective ways.

Overcoming barriers

There are comparatively low barriers to entering digital markets but to thrive, businesses need good digital leadership. Adopting new technologies is also key. However, there is often a lack of understanding about the range of ways businesses can expand their use of digital technologies and how greater adoption would benefit them. Many are also held back by a lack of skills, including lack of specialist knowledge or capability. With the help of the charity Go ON2, we’re developing a programme to address a number of these barriers.

It is also important to develop and evolve a digital strategy for your business. For those unsure where to start, there is a wide range of support available from the Government that can be found under the ‘Business is Great’ banner3. Additionally specific support for innovation is available from the Technology Strategy Board4, and support for tech start-ups, from Tech City UK.5

Nurturing talent

Skills needs are evolving rapidly in response to changes in technology, across society and employment. Keeping abreast of these needs is critical and will require action at every level.

Employers need to be at the forefront, working with schools, colleges and universities to ensure that they are getting the skilled workforce they need for the UK’s digital future. An example of this in action is the new computing national curriculum in England which included vital input from experts working in cutting edge areas of industry. Employers are also setting new standards for apprenticeships through the Trailblazers6 scheme, which draws on their insight to establish a needs-driven solution.

The risk of inaction

If businesses do nothing, quite simply, we will fall behind our competitors and miss out on the massive opportunities that digital technology can bring. British businesses would not be able to compete in global markets, productivity would deteriorate and revenues would fall. All of which would have a significant impact on economic growth and jobs. Future-proofing is essential – and achievable only if we work together.

Evolving infrastructure: The Government’s support

Superfast broadband roll-out

  • £1.7bn being invested to support infrastructure upgrades.
  • Aim to provide superfast broadband (at least 24Mbps) coverage to 90% of UK premises by 2016.
  • Aim to provide superfast broadband (at least 24Mbps) coverage to 90% of UK premises by 2016.

Broadband Connection Vouchers

  • £150m investment to support UK cities to develop the digital infrastructure capability they need to remain internationally competitive, attract investment and business.
  • Funding for Broadband Connection Vouchers will improve broadband connectivity for SMEs. Over 2,000 vouchers issued to date.

Footnotes

1. Internet matters: The Net's sweeping impact on growth, jobs, and prosperity (McKinsey Global Institute)

2. Go ON UK seeks to make the UK the world’s most digitally skilled nation. For insight from Martha Lane Fox, Chair of Go ON UK, click here

3. Find out more at http://www.greatbusiness.gov.uk

4. The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency.

5. Tech City UK supports the growth of digital entrepreneurship across the UK.

6. Trailblazers are leading the way in developing new world class apprenticeships. Find out more here.

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