UK gov't outlines vague post-Brexit Digital Strategy

The UK's scheme relies heavily on today's biggest tech vendors and their contributions.

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UK government

The UK government has outlined plans for a post-Brexit digital strategy to move technology to the heart of the country.

On Wednesday, the government announced the launch of the Digital Strategy, which promises to place "skills, infrastructure and innovation" at the forefront to support "Britain's world-leading digital economy."

The government claims over four million free digital skills training courses will be created through the scheme.

Rather than pouring funds into a government-only project, the strategy is rather a "cross-government and cross-industry strategy," as Karen Bradley, MP and Secretary of State Culture, Media, and Sport told ITV's Good Morning.

The government, businesses, charities and voluntary organizations will work together to offer training in digital skills, ranging from programming to digital business skills and cybersecurity awareness.

Bradley told ITV the strategy is "our vision for how we make sure the UK is that leading country for people to use digital [...] so we can all benefit from the advantages the digital economy brings."

When asked who would be paying for these initiatives, Bradley refused to reveal any details.

Despite a lack of clarity in terms of investment, taxpayer costs, dates, or concrete details on resources and how citizens will access or apply for courses, there is a number of heavy-hitting technology vendors that have decided to chip in.

Google, for example, will launch a "Summer of Skills" program in towns along the UK's coast, and will also design "bespoke digital skills training schemes" focused on improving tourism and growth in these areas -- which often suffer economically out-of-season.

Lloyds Banking Group has pledged to give digital skills training to 2.5 million people, SMBs, and charities by 2020; Barclays will help up to one million people in general skills and cyber awareness this year, as well as teach basic coding to 45,000 children; BT will expand the firm's "Barefoot Computing Project" to a further 500,000 children, and will also train primary school teachers to teach basic computer science courses.

In addition, the HP Foundation has agreed to bring a free online learning platform, HP LIFE, to the UK, and Accenture will partner with FutureLearn to offer online lessons in digital skills.

The MP said that the average SMB which has an online presence grows at "twice the speed" of other companies, they are "twice as likely to export," and will employ "twice as many people" -- and so the strategy will assist companies in catching up to today's standards.

The UK government says that in addition to the technology vendors' contributions, five international tech hubs in emerging markets will be created to give "British businesses with a global competitive edge and drive collaboration on skills, innovation, technology, and research and development," and both a new FinTech product competition and Business Connectivity Forum will be launched.

The government also noted the previous Autumn statement, which says that one billion pounds will be spent on new communicative technologies including fiber and 5G.

"This Digital Strategy sets a path to make Britain the best place to start and grow a digital business, trial a new technology, or undertake advanced research as part of the Government's plan to build a modern, dynamic and global trading nation," Bradley said. "There should be no digital divide - every individual and every business should have the skills and confidence to make the most of digital technology and have easy access to high-quality internet wherever they live, work, travel or learn."

Vague, and perhaps, does not go far enough. While investment into fiber and 5G is welcome, it seems that most of the contributions made come from outside sources, rather than the government itself. Why new forums are needed is anyone's guess, and it remains to be seen whether a few hours of digital skill courses can do enough to address the lack of digital skills in the UK long-term.

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