Why has the government launched a new Digital Strategy?

The Digital Strategy forms part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, which was launched in January 2017 to help businesses invest for the long-term in a post-Brexit era. The purpose of the Digital Strategy is to build on the UK’s success in digital innovation and consolidate its position as a global tech hub. The strategy was originally due to be announced in Spring 2016 but was postponed pending the outcome of the EU Referendum.

What is the Digital Strategy?

Essentially, the Digital Strategy is a framework consisting of the following seven strands:

  1. Connectivity – building world-class digital infrastructure for the UK – this will focus on improving digital infrastructure and connectivity in transport, creating high-speed broadband and building full fibre and 5G network. The government has committed to spend over £1 billion for all infrastructure improvements.
  2. Skills and inclusion – giving everyone access to the digital skills they need – digital skills capabilities are to be increased, for example, through the provision of free digital skills training. The government will also support business-led initiatives such as Lloyds Bank's commitment to provide digital skills training to 2.5 million people and SMEs by 2020. Other businesses such as Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft are also committed to the cause.
  3. The digital sectors – making the UK the best place to start and grow a digital business – financial support for key digital sectors, including Fintech, EdTech and HealthTech will continue to be provided. The government also intends to create five international tech hubs in emerging markets to provide a global gateway for those markets through British businesses.
  4. The wider economy – helping every British business become a digital business –The government will continue to support local initiatives, such as the Productivity Council, which helps businesses understand and deliver digital efficiencies.
  5. Cyberspace – making the UK the safest place in the world to live and work online – the government will ensure that individuals and businesses are equipped with cyber skills by, for example, supporting public awareness initiatives such as the Cyber Aware campaign.
  6. Digital government - maintaining the UK government as a world leader in serving its citizens online – a Digital Civil Service will be created and the development of government digital products, such as GOV.UK Pay and GOV.UK Notify will continue.
  7. The data economy – unlocking the power of data in the UK economy and improving public confidence in its use – the government will continue to support the data economy. For example, it plans to build public trust and prepare businesses for the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in May 2018.

What does this mean for businesses?

In any economy, businesses need to ensure that they recruit talented workers. Some UK businesses might find this more challenging post-Brexit. The Digital Strategy seeks to tackle the skills gap by creating a standard digital skill-set for workers, which will benefit businesses in the long-term. However, it is debatable whether the Strategy goes far enough to ensure that Britain remains a global technology hub.

Nevertheless, given that the Digital Strategy will guide regulatory frameworks in respect of technology, businesses will need to ensure that their internal procedures and business models comply with any changes to the regulatory landscape.