Practically every part of our lives has now been digitalised right through from how we shop, to how we entertain, train, work and even sleep. The UK has the chance to be one of the top digital economies.
So far we have fully embraced technology and the start up community, fostering technology hubs in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Leeds and more. We have recruited and retained tech talent from far and wide but a continuation of this is questionable following Brexit. Time will tell regarding how committed the government is to making us a digital world leader.
There is wealth of investment into getting young people, particularly females into all things STEM but equally, educational funding – which would build our next generation of tech entrepreneurs - has drastically been cut surely causing a long-term skill’s deficit.
Improving the digital landscape will not only boost the economy but should improve the way we care for our elderly and sick, build more efficient housing and develop better education. This is impossible without a future-fit infrastructure. It’s currently a myth that it’s only rural areas with limited access to connectivity. Some city areas are also lagging behind. Forget 5G; 4G seems like a distant dream.
The Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund includes a variety of projects to boost the UK infrastructure. The lion share will be spent on developing the coveted 5G mobile broadband but as of yet there is no roll-out date. Other plans will deliver minimum speed broadband to digitally remote areas or will be used for research and development covering topics like robotics and AI and smart technology within transport infrastructure.
Smaller, but significant changes include an adaption to building regulations which means that any new house sites must have the infrastructure for connectivity. The £1billion allotted seems worryingly small to achieve this given that the digital economy is worth £180billion a year to the country.
What can £1billion actually achieve given the potential mistakes the government is making with regard to skills development and retention? Still quite a lot if executed correctly while businesses continue to nurture tech talent.
In addition to infrastructure investment, the government has announced its increased spending on cyber security by £1.9billion. Infrastructure may be the foundation but security, particularly in this economy, underpins it. Security breaches doubled last year and the UK government must prepare for attacks on its infrastructure at the same rate as it develops it.
This is relevant at this very point in our infrastructure plan as security needs to be part of the initial design, as opposed to just an add-on after thought. Let’s hope this is a collaborative effort.