There is a great deal riding on the government’s digital strategy, published in full today. Granted, Westminster seems to come out with a new statement or strategy idea with alarming frequency at the moment, but this one is slightly different. It’s dubbed “strategy” so you can expect it to look forward more than a little,
Other news services are suggesting it’s a big step post-Brexit and as such it has to signal the direction the country will take after we’ve left the European Union. Accordingly, the idea of a number of British tech hubs internationally should hopefully calm people who were concerned we will become isolationist.
The difficulty with the concentration of technological power being primarily in the US may be assuaged somewhat by these hubs. Whatever the politics, it is undeniable that a glitch in Amazon’s services yesterday took a large number of websites offline in its wake.
Reactions to the digital strategy
A number of organisations have been in touch to offer their own takes on what’s being proposed. Rachel Aldighieri, MD at the Direct Marketing Association, said: “It is great to see the Government recognising the opportunity and putting a plan of action in place to keep the UK at the forefront of this revolution.
“Within the creative industries we are already seeing the contribution that AI and machine learning can offer. Enabling brands to better understand their customers and offer them a more interesting, relevant and useful experience. I believe that this innovative technology will be one of the key drivers of the UK’s continued economic growth post-Brexit. To see this success come to fruition we need the Government’s commitment to further develop skills and infrastructure, so we welcome today’s announcement.”
Jane Cave, MD at the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing, added: “ The only way to see this success come to fruition is through education and training, ensuring we have the digital skills we need both within and entering our industry. Today’s announcement is a great call to action and we look forward to helping the data-driven and creative industries to cultivate the skills they need to continue to be global leaders.”
Meanwhile Martin Moran, MD International, InsideSales.com, said “This recognition of automation is important as it has the potential to empower the nation’s workforce in the coming years. Already we’re seeing the automation of administrative roles, freeing up employee time to focus on more creative tasks and human interactions, as machines learn from each exchange.
“Despite the potential to change the way we work, InsideSales.com’s State of AI Index reported that two-thirds of respondents never interact with AI in the workplace, despite its existence. There’s evidently an opportunity here for UK businesses to get ahead by laying the foundations for the digital economy of the future.”
Startups also had their say. Adam Hale, CEO of HR software specialist Fairsail, said: “We know that the biggest thing holding us back that’s within the government’s power to help address is the lack of technical skills in the country. The technology skills crisis is at an all-time high and, with only 5,600 students studying Computer Science at A-Level in 2016 (a meagre 600 of which were female), it is vital to the future of our economy that we take concerted action to tackle this issue.
“We should be aiming for a tenfold increase here over the next five years, to 60,000 Computer Science students with females making up at least 30%. In a world where every industry is rapidly digitising, the government must continue to make this a priority for the future strength and stability of our economy.”
The culture secretary said on announcing the initiative that the aim was to have the UK as one of the best places to launch a digital enterprise and also to push British skills internationally. It contrasts dramatically with the government’s oft-voiced concerns about cyber-skills, The question will be whether the proposals in the paper, to which we’ve linked above, go far enough in terms of addressing that need – if we don’t have the people, all of this will be for nothing.