In what was the first post-Brexit Autumn Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced plans for the 'National productivity investment fund'. The fund, £23 billion large, aims to upgrade the country's infrastructure and boost the growth of the technology sector.
£1bn is going towards British broadband, £2bn in science and technology research and development, and £400m will go towards the British tech start-up scene. Even though this sounds promising, and looks as the tech industry will be the biggest beneficiary, ViaSatUK head of space and comms Neil Fraser warns that the Government shouldn't bite more than it can chew.
“Investment in broadband should be welcomed, as long as we’re not trying to run before we can walk," he said. "The Government has to be careful that its hyper-fast strategy doesn’t widen the existing rift between broadband haves and have-nots in the UK. Fibre alone, while offering hyper-fast speeds in the right circumstances, will never reach every household without being prohibitively expensive."
Fraser took the opportunity to remind the Government, once again, that the entire country doesn't have the same broadband opportunities: “British consumers already believe that the Government isn’t doing enough to meet future broadband needs; that they can’t access superfast broadband of any type; and that investment is disproportionately focused on London and the south-east. Pledging full-fibre links that are likely to benefit those areas of the country first, while others still can’t be certain of the 10Mbps proposed in the Universal Service Obligation, will do nothing to dispel these beliefs.”
The UK can end up with a ‘two-tier’ internet, he says, claiming that while some parts of the country will reap the benefits of an ultra-fast connection, others will be left further behind. “Instead we need to use a mix of technologies to give the population the best possible speeds at the best cost,” he added.
Couchbase VP EMEA, Rowan, believes the investment in the technology sector is a clear sign on how the Government wants to stabilise the post-Brexit economy. According to Rowan, Hammond is hoping the next Uber will be born in the UK. “Hammond will be hoping that the next Uber, Amazon or Airbnb will hail from the UK rather than the States, giving a much-needed boost to post Brexit Britain,” he said.
“The Government must do all it can to ensure our digital businesses continue to thrive in the new economy, and that businesses that aren’t considered as such can still take advantage of digital tools so that they aren’t left behind. A considerable part of this is ensuring that the nation is connected and that our businesses can effectively harness their data to create innovative new applications and business models.
"These data driven services and companies will shape the future of every industry, from fintech to ecommerce, many of which will depend on emergent trends such as artificial intelligence, robotics and IoT.”
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