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The UK is set to launch a new digital strategy, again

The digital secretary Oliver Dowden is set to unveil a new digital strategy positioning the tech sector at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking at the virtual UK Tech Cluster Group conference today (23 June), Dowden will announce that the new strategy will be published in autumn, marking the second such publication in just four years.

Covid-19 is expected to plunge the UK economy into its deepest recession in 300 years, but ministers hope the new strategy will accelerate Britain’s economic recovery by aiding the development of a “skilled digital workforce”.

“Tech must play a leading part in our recovery, and my department has been working hard over the past few weeks and months to put it in the best possible position to do so,” Dowden is expected to say today.

“With that in mind, during this ‘Rebuilding the UK’ event, I can announce that the government will be publishing a new digital strategy in the Autumn – one that reflects the new post-COVID reality.”

Dowden will add: “We need a strategy that will help workers here adjust to a digital-led economy after coronavirus. It means providing world-class, next generation infrastructure, so that everyone can take everyone to take advantage of digital opportunities wherever they live – like using their 5G network to launch the next killer app.

“It means ensuring our regulatory regime for digital is pro-innovation, agile, and proportionate. We must avoid unnecessary layers of regulations and ensure a coherent approach to drive growth.

“It means getting the UK’s best small and medium-sized shops and businesses – stretching from Lands End to John O’Groats – making better use of tech and trading online, expanding their customer base from the local high street or retail park to a national or even international marketplace.”

But those working in the tech sector could be forgiven for feeling less than thrilled about the prospect of yet another digital strategy, the most recent of which landed in 2017 promising “to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business”.

The new strategy will focus on digital skills, helping workers transition “to a digital led-economy” and giving people the resources to “move into the tech sector or digitise their own business”, in the context of powering post-Covid-19 economic growth.

Dowden also talked up the government’s long awaited National Data Strategy, a draft of which had been due to be published last year but was delayed due to Brexit. The cabinet minister did not put a date on when the strategy would be published, describing it only as “forthcoming”.

Oliver Dowden: Post-crisis, tech can be the economy’s growth engine