UK unveils digital strategy focused on skills training, business growth
The UK government released a long-awaited digital strategy that aims to improve access to technology and job training for British citizens, TechCrunch reported. Originally slated for release a year ago, the strategy has been delayed and pared down in light of the uncertainty facing the country in the wake of the divisive Brexit vote and subsequent resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron.
Seven strands for success
The UK’s digital strategy includes “seven strands” that the government will focus on the following:
- Increasing digital connectivity opportunities
- Offering digital skills training to citizens
- Encouraging an environment ripe for starting or growing a digital business
- Helping businesses embrace digital technologies
- Making the UK the safest place to operate online
- Maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader in serving its citizens online
- Utilizing data and improving the public’s confidence in its collection and use
The government’s plan aims to encourage companies to thrive while ensuring citizens have access to and can benefit from technologies and learn the skills necessary to work in technologically advanced companies in the future.
“This digital strategy sets a path to make Britain the best place to start and grow a digital business, trial a new technology or undertake advanced research as part of the government’s plan to build a modern, dynamic and global trading nation,” UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley told the BBC.
A cautious step forward
The UK government noted that the strategy offers “4 million opportunities for learning” for citizens in the digital future. However, TechCrunch described the latest iteration of the plan as underwhelming compared to previous drafts the publication reviewed in December 2015 and June 2016.
“The document dedicates an awful lot of page space to detailing existing digital policies. And while reannouncements are a favorite spin tactic of politicians, the overall result is a digital strategy that feels heavy on the strategic filler,” TechCrunch wrote. Despite the fact the strategy was delayed and adjusted in advance of Brexit, the documents do not address the uncertainty brought about by the impending transition.
Once Brexit takes effect, it will be more difficult for skilled workers from other countries to immigrate to the UK. Earlier drafts of the strategy included plans to create specialized visas for individuals with experience in scaling up tech companies and with degrees in computing, information and communications technology and management.
The UK government confirmed its plans to commit £17.3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to fund robotics and AI research at UK universities. In partnership with a number of major tech firms, the UK digital strategy also includes a number of upskilling and reskilling programs to improve digital inclusion across the country, as WIRED reported. A review of future AI opportunities that can benefit the UK economy will also occur, led by computer scientist Dame Wendy Hall and BenevolentTech CEO Jerome Pesenti.