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How the government can make the UK a leading digital nation

With initiatives such as Tech City in London - supplemented by multiple technology hubs springing up across the country - and the FinTech revolution currently underway in Shoreditch, the UK has become known as one of the countries leading the way in today's digital world.

But, as we all well know, technology does not stand still. In order for the UK to cement its place as a leading digital nation, the government has a vital role to play, which was the topic of conversation at an event I attended in Westminster this week.

The speakers included Matt Warman MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Broadband and Digital Communication; Antony Walker, Deputy CEO of techUK; Eddie Copeland, Director of Innovation at Nesta and Debbie Wosskow, CEO of LoveHomeSwap and Chair of Sharing Economy UK.

A key message that emerged was that the government needs to lead by example. Matt Warman spoke about how the government “needs to ask some quite hard questions” and that it “has to realise what digital means.” He went on to explain how “in the modern world it is not acceptable for some of the government to still be on paper,” a thought backed up by Eddie Copeland who spoke about “the Government getting its own house in order.”

The issue of trust was also on the agenda as, according to Warman, trust is “the one thing that is potentially going to undermine the work that’s being done.” Debbie Wosskow spoke about the importance of developing a benchmark of how trust can be assessed, saying: “we need to get a hold of it as an industry, get it on ordinary people’s agendas.” This is especially true in the modern ‘sharing economy,’ which could be helped by MPs making use of it themselves, such as by using AirBnB for business trips.

Eddie Copeland had an interesting take on the role that data can play, putting forward the notion that tech giants such as Google and Vodafone could be doing more to make their customer data available to the government. “Value comes from sourcing data from outside,” he said, explaining that having more detailed access to data such as the attractions people visit and where tourists spend the most money could help develop the UK’s tourism industry. Of course, this has the potential to open up a whole can of worms in regards to data privacy, which is already a sensitive subject in the UK and Europe in general.

So, the government certainly has a key role to play in establishing the UK as a leading digital nation and one thing we can be sure of is that there is no time to waste.

Image source: Shutterstock/Pres Panayotov