Secretary of State for Digital Oliver Dowden announced Government plans last week to publish a new Digital Strategy this Autumn.
The need for a new Digital Strategy, the last one was only published in 2017, points to the long-term reverberations we are likely to experience from the COVID crisis. There is a strong, and welcome impetus from Government to prepare the UK to not only absorb the shock but recover and reinvent stronger than ever before.
In his speech, the Secretary of State recognised the enormous digital transformations we have seen in the midst of a public health and economic crisis. With over half the UK’s workforce continuing to work from home and public services moving online, for example, doctor’s appointments, it is clear that tech has “kept our economy ticking over”. As we recover and reopen there will be no overnight return to ‘normal’ but a ‘new normal’. The Government is right to question whether we should ever go back to the ‘old way of doing things’ and the upcoming Digital Strategy is an opportunity to plot out a new path.
In his speech, the Secretary of State outlines four areas for action:
- Securing an adequacy agreement with the European Union and creating the best data regime possible.Reference was made to the forthcoming National Data Strategy which is intended to allow us to leverage open data to inform, invent and inspire new ideas.
- Creating a highly-skilled digital workforce. The Secretary of State sketched out the need for a new, modern ‘GI bill’ which gave American veterans the skills to find new work after WW2.
- Building world-class, next-generation infrastructure. The UK’s gigabit ambition is the right one. The Government now needs to come forward with detailed plans to support an outside-in approach and ensure this is a priority at every level of Government.
- Ensuring a regulatory regime that is pro-competition and pro-innovation. Regulation that touches digital has become too fragmented and incoherent as more actors occupy this space. The Government recognises that there is a need to avoid “unnecessary layers” of regulation and ensure there is a coherent and consistent approach to drive growth.
These actions form the pillars to build the future we need.