Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Baroness Nicky Morgan set out five guiding principles for the new Government’s digital policy in a speech at the second annual meeting of the Tech Talent Charter on 15 January 2020.
These principals provide the most public detail so far on how the new Government will move forward on its digital and tech agenda. For techUK members the speech provided a good indication of the Government’s priorities and opportunities for co-operation as the new Government begins to implement its policy agenda.
The five principals set out by the Government were, pro-technology government, sharing the benefits of technology widely and fairly, pro-innovation regulation, protecting the vulnerable and ensuring safety and security and a free and open Internet.
You can read the Secretary of State's full remarks here.
Pro-technology government; techUK members will be glad to hear the Government put the role of technology at the heart of its plans to transform the economy and Government, with a specific emphasis in the speech on the role of technology will play to “transform public services and the relationship between Government and citizens”.
techUK firmly believes that the digital transformation of Government offers opportunities not just for cheaper and more effective public services, but also the ability for greater personalisation in service delivery. In our general election manifesto we put forward plans to put digital at the heart of public service reform.
The Secretary of State also set out that the Government is passionate about the opportunities for digital trade and that the UK’s tech sector will be “at the heart of the government’s trade policy in the years ahead.” techUK recently launched our report on the opportunities for the UK in digital trade. DCMS Minister of State Nigel Adams MP attended the launch of our report A Vision for UK Digital Trade and it is welcome to see the Government continue to state the importance of digital trade.
Sharing the benefits of technology widely and fairly; techUK believes that digitisation and productivity need to be by-words for the Government's plans to grow the UK economy and in particular their objectives to increase opportunities outside of London and the South East.
This point was recognised by the Secretary of State in here however going further, highlighting that infrastructure, skills and competitive digital markets as foundational to plans to level up all parts of the UK.
techUK will continue to engage with the Government and the CMA on their approach to digital markets with the current review of digital advertising. techUK firmly believes in open competition and an informed regulator are vital to securing a fair and well-functioning market economy. The CMA’s interim report is welcome precisely for this reason, showing their efforts not only to build their depth of understanding of a technical marketplace, but also in putting forward these ideas and assumptions to be tested in a consultation.
Underpinning the plans to share the benefits of technology widely is the need for skills. The additional three billion pounds invested by the Government to support the creation of a National Skills Fund is vital for our skills system to support people and employers to adapt and take advantages of the opportunity’s technology brings. techUK wants to empower local networks to help businesses and local authorities get the support they need to drive the design, adoption and implementation of digital services. Improving skills and investment into lifelong learning is central to making this decade one of inclusive growth.
Pro-innovation regulation; this was a welcome addition to the Secretary of State’s contributions. The Secretary of State rightly highlighted that the UK is applauded for its regulatory initiatives such as sandboxing in both financial and information services.
However, while the UK is a world leader in some areas, innovation has been held back by bad regulatory habits and an outdated statute book. For example, the deployment of e-vehicles has been stalled by outdate regulations which have meant UK cities have missed out on the e-vehicle revolution.
techUK has called on the Government to review the current statute book through a tech-check to update existing legislation so that it is not a barrier to innovation. We have also called on the Government to adopt a policy of conducting innovation impact assessments on legislation so that new laws do not unintentionally restrict the development and deployment of new technologies and products.
The Government should also seek to revitalise the Better Regulation Executive and implement the proposals in the policy paper Regulation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution to ensure that the UK develops a future focused statutory and regulatory rulebook.
Protecting the vulnerable and ensuring safety and security: Industry is fully committed to making sure people feel safe and secure in online spaces, particularly if we are all to fully realise the benefits of the digital economy. This will require efforts across society, combining technical tools with education and training to empower people to active, confident and informed digital citizens. Key to achieving this will be a clear definition of the specific harms we’re looking to tackle. You can read more about our approach to Online Harms here.
A free and open Internet: The commitment to a free and open Internet and pursuit of a multi-stakeholder model of governance is warmly welcome. Any future regulation must ensure these commitments are a core consideration, preventing any limitations on citizen’s freedom for expression. It is important that if the proposed regulatory regime were adopted internationally, for example by less-democratic regimes with a weaker role for civil society, that it could not be used as a way to suppress these fundamental rights.