The UK government is confident that a focus on digital technology will allow the UK to thrive outside the European Union and become the “world’s pre-eminent digital nation”.
This ambitious goal was announced by Matthew Gould, director general for digital and media at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, at the Microsoft Transform event in London.
“We are as a government determined to make the UK the world’s pre-eminent digital nation and it’s a huge task,” he said.
“One thing I am certain of is that, as we prepare to leave the EU, our future prosperity, our future wellbeing as a nation, depends on us being connected, cyber secure, innovation friendly and digitally skilled.”
Gould set out three key strands of the government's strategy to deliver on this: connectivity, digital skills and cyber security.
On connectivity he said that the government’s aim of providing 10Mbps as a minimum speed will provide a solid base for all citizens, although he admitted that more needs to be done around fibre deployments to make this increase possible.
“We have got to move with people’s requirements and that’s not just speed. It’s latency, it’s quality of service, it's symmetry. The market is going to have to continue to deliver ever better, faster connectivity,” he said.
“That means moving to ultrafast, but it also means moving to gigafast speeds that fibre-to-the-premise brings, and to be honest the market has not been as quick as it might have been.”
However, he claimed that this is starting to change as a “proliferation of firms gear up to deliver fibre networks around the UK".
On skills Gould acknowledged that the UK has struggled to churn out enough digital workers for the future, but claimed that the new curriculum will improve the situation.
“We introduced a new computing curriculum in schools and this has been widely praised, and rightly so, because it’s a whole lot better than before. It gives students not just the ability to use basic applications but an actual understanding of how computers work,” he said.
“For me that is the real guarantee that X years later when they get into the workforce they can be the developers, engineers and system analysts that we need.”
Finally on the issue of security, Gould said that he was well aware in his time as director of cyber security of the ever-growing threats the nation faces.
“We have an important mission to make the UK the safest place in the world to do business online,” he said, noting how the number of threats are growing and that cyber weapons are becoming ever more commoditised.
Gould touted the opening of the National Cyber Security Centre as evidence that the government is putting the right defences in place to counter this, such as plans to create a national DNS filtering system.
“What if as a nation we pool known bad addresses, with ISPs working with government, so that we will, at a stroke, prevent a huge amount of cyber attacks and infections from getting through?” he said.
“We’re not going to let this be a way to control or censor the internet, and anyone who wants to opt out can, but for people who want to stay safe online this is a big and positive step.”
The aims outlined by Gould are noble, but many will be dubious that the government can deliver on such lofty claims, given that its own IT projects often end in disaster and at great expense to the taxpayer.
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