At an event organised by Politico and BSI, techUK was encouraged to hear a positive vision being put forward by the Secretary of State for Digital, Matt Hancock, as he demonstrated his passion for tech and the power of digital technologies. Having come from a tech background himself, with other family members also working in tech, he certainly has a grip over the challenging elements of his Cabinet brief.
Making clear he thought that the impact of tech on the UK would be far greater than Brexit in the long term, the Secretary of State was confident that the UK would not lose its tech crown to other European countries post-Brexit. His confidence is based on the fact that the UK is the third largest tech hub in the world, after the US and China, and is still seeing record levels of tech investment.
That is not to say he doesn’t recognise the risks that Brexit brings, particularly recognising the importance of continued data flows between the UK and the EU and access to the best skilled talent. However on both fronts he was confident the UK would get a deal which would ensure the continued success of the UK tech sector. Only time will tell if his confidence will be justified.
The Secretary of State was clear about the challenges he sees with the development of tech and is determined to tackle them. He clearly strongly believes the UK can be a world leader in its approach to tech regulation, using both legislative and non-legislative tools to tackle what he sees as the biggest harms of technology. However, he was also passionate about technology itself solving problems caused by tech, for example new AI systems designed to surface aggressive content online.
Encouragingly he recognised that the upsides of tech do outweigh the downsides, specifically calling out the transformative effects Artificial Intelligence could have in healthcare and transport.
Declaring himself the ‘Minister for Fun’, following videos of him learning to ‘moonwalk’ and taking ‘parkour’ lessons, Matt Hancock suggested at these times the country needs a bit of fun. He might be right. But the UK also needs to show leadership on tech and digital issues, given technology increasingly underpins both economy and society. Matt Hancock is clearly someone who is determined to make his mark on the UK’s digital economy.