In March 2021, the UK Government unveiled its ‘Ten Tech Priorities’ that will form the foundation of the UK Digital Strategy. The priorities are high level but are nonetheless useful guides to the UK government’s key areas of focus for tech in the post-pandemic era.
|Ten Tech Priorities|
|1. Rolling out world-class digital infrastructure nationwide||6. Unleashing the transformational power of tech and AI|
|2. Unlocking the power of data||7. Championing free and fair digital trade|
|3. Building a tech-savvy nation||8. Leading the global conversation on tech|
|4. Keeping the UK safe and secure online||9. Levelling up digital prosperity across the UK|
|5. Fuelling a new era of startups and scaleups||10. Using digital innovation to reach Net Zero|
Here are our key takeaways:
Digitising the UK requires a blend of large-scale infra funding and investment in entrepreneurs
- In keeping with the announcements in the March budget, much of the Ten Tech Priorities centre around a boost in investment for digital infrastructure, skills and R&D. Given the significant £5 billion government investment in 5G and broadband networks, it is unsurprising that the rolling out of digital infrastructure across the nation continues to sit high on the government’s agenda.
- The priorities also emphasise the importance of government-led funding to establish innovative start-ups and retain high growth companies, with a focus on attracting private investment to the UK tech sector.
- Providing government-funded apprenticeships and digital boot camps will help to close the digital skills gap and create a global-leading digital workforce. This is backed by a £520 million investment in ‘Help to Grow’ – the government’s latest scheme to help SMEs adopt the latest productivity-enhancing software and training – set to begin in autumn of 2021.
Regulation and safeguarding in the digital economy
- The priorities aim to “boost digital competition” and “shape the global debate on how we govern tech companies”. This reflects increasing socio-political interest in the role of regulation in managing the ways in which technology impacts and alters our world, including how to address the increasingly-prominent role of tech companies and digital platforms. Two legislative proposals currently making headlines are a Digital Services Act (to address e-commerce and online harms) and a Digital Markets Act (focusing on new antitrust measures) (for more information, see our article here).
- The UK government’s plans to introduce online harms legislation requiring companies to take responsibility for the safety of their users. The draft text of the new regulatory framework, the Online Safety Bill, is expected to be published during the first half of 2021.
Increased focus on tech policy to shape economic and strategic priorities
- The UK Government is keen to foster innovation to establish the UK at the vanguard of the global tech sector. One of the key announcements was the establishment of a new National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy, planned to be unveiled later this year, which will focus on: (i) growth of the economy through widespread use of AI technologies; (ii) ethical, safe and trustworthy development of responsible AI; and (iii) resilience in the face of change through a focus on skills, talent and R&D.
- The government also recognises the critical role data plays in our society and economy and further emphasised the plan to use solutions enabled by existing digital technologies to achieve the goal of transitioning the UK economy to net zero by 2050.