Supercharging the UK’s digital economy

To paraphrase Monty Python, what has digital technology ever done for us? When you’re in our sector it’s easy to dismiss this as obvious – but it is worth taking a step back to consider the true impact on people’s daily lives.

Digital technology has democratised information, given consumers and businesses unparalleled choice, is in the midst of transforming personal healthcare, saves us energy on an incredible scale, plots our most efficient route to work where it enables a variety of ways to be productive and innovative, and in our leisure time allows us to watch clips of beloved television programmes! 

It’s also an engine of economic growth. With the adoption and implementation of technology right across both the public and private sectors, digital is expected to contribute £180bn to the UK’s overall economy this year alone. So, to answer Monty Python’s question, technology has built a digital ecosystem that provides the very foundations of our thriving digital economy and society. Foundations that will be fundamental to the next wave of our digital development.

But it’s important that we do not become complacent. We must ensure the UK maintains its position as a world leader for tech in what is an increasingly global and competitive market place. From chip design to world leading capabilities in artificial intelligence, we are already leading the world. But it is important that we ask ourselves what we need to do to ensure we are ready and able to supercharge the UK’s digital economy.

We must think big, and aim not only to maintain, but to accelerate our global leadership in tech. To ensure this happens there are three key issues that must be addressed.

Data driven world: Firstly, we must ensure data can flow freely within the UK and internationally. A digital economy is powered by data, and anything that stands in the way of data transfers will be an obstacle to growth and job creation.

Connectivity: To be a leader on the global stage, we need a communications infrastructure that provides world class connectivity with the choice, coverage and quality needed for mass adoption of cloud computing, the Internet of Things and the rise of the Smart City. None of these technologies will deliver the benefits they promise without connectivity. Government must work with industry to maximise and incentivise investment.

Closing the skills gap: A digital economy can only thrive if we have the talent and the skills to propel UK businesses to success. The UK tech sector needs the ability to retain, attract and built a talent pool that will fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.

If we can get all of this right, we can guarantee all UK organisations, regardless of size or sector, are able to truly capitalise on the interconnected nature of the UK’s digital ecosystem. Just as the invention of the printing press and the industrial revolution, the UK’s digital ecosystem is the engine driving forward the UK’s digital, and wider, economic growth, increased productivity and job creation.

To keep moving forward, industry needs to continue to strive to fully explain the benefits of these technologies to companies in the wider economy to encourage take up. In parallel, we need to ensure that consumers continue to use digital services confidently and securely. We also have a responsibility to our employees to make sure they have the right skills to fully exploit the advantages of technology.

Yet Government too must take a role in creating the right environment. In these uncertain times, we need principle-based regulatory frameworks that not only stand the test of these fast moving times but enable technology to thrive. Ensuring that technologies such as IoT, Cloud, Big Data, AI, Fintech and telecoms, which are driving the digital economy, are at the heart of the UK Governments upcoming Industrial and Digital Strategies will be vital if we are to supercharge the UK’s digital economy and ensure we maintain our position as a world leader in tech.

On 9 November, the tech community will come together to discuss what the future holds at our Supercharging the Digital Economy event, with a keynote speech from The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture.

Technology has given us so much already, but we are still in the foothills of the benefits it can deliver our economy and society.

 Sue Daley, Head of Cloud, Big Data & Analytics, techUK

Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible