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Data at the Heart of the UK Digital Strategy

techUK excited to see data recognised as vital to the UK's digital economy and society.

Yesterday the Government recognised data as the lifeblood of the UK’s digital economy with the publication of the Digital Strategy. techUK is particularly pleased that the UK’s leadership in data driven innovation, enabled by data analytics tools and technologies, and the importance of the data to the future growth and prosperity of the overall UK economy are highlighted in the Strategy.

For many years techUK has been working hard to support organisations, across both the public and private sectors, to explore and unlock the value and power of their data. techUK’s Big Data in Action Roadshows held in London, Manchester and Bristol brought to life the opportunities and benefits of data to all businesses. But, as the Digital Strategy states, there are many organisations that could still benefit from better use of data. techUK agree that there is still more that needs to be done to promote the benefits of data and bring everyone along on the UK’s data journey. We look forward to working with the Government and other partners to make this happen.

Ensuring businesses across all sectors of our economy are able to realise the full opportunities that a data driven economy has to offer will only be possible if we have people with the right skills to fill key data jobs. Without the right talent pool, the UK’s ability to capitalise on the big data, data analytics and AI revolution will be constrained. The UK’s digital skills gap is already costing the UK £2bn per year due to the inability of employers to fill key digital skills roles. According to a survey of techUK members which found that 62% will require more big data capabilities over the next five year. A recent techUK report on the big data skills gap highlighted how vital this issue is to the continued success and growth of the big data and data analytics sector. Since the data sector stands to lose the most, given it is expected to count for the largest proportion of UK digital vacancies, techUK is proud to be a member of the industry-led Data Skills Taskforce highlighted in the Digital Strategy.

techUK welcomes the Government’s commitment in the Strategy to implement the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by May 2018 and that it will consider “all available options” to ensure cross border data flows are “uninterrupted” as we leave the EU. This is a vital issue for the UK’s future as cross-border data flows underpin our modern, services-oriented economy. It is paramount that we have a secure and robust legal basis to underpin cross-border data transfers between the UK and the EU. techUK believe the best way of achieving this would be a data adequacy decision by the EU. This needs to be achieved before the UK leaves the European Union to ensure that businesses have a legal basis on which to transfer personal data from the day that the UK leaves the EU. We therefore urge the UK Government to urgently develop a watertight strategy to ensure that the UK is in the best possible shape to be recognised as having an adequate data protection regime.

Just as the UK is a global leader in data protection and data driven innovation, we must also be a leader in data ethics. The UK has a fantastic opportunity to be a world-leader in this new era of data driven growth and development. However, this will only be fully realised if citizens continue to share or allow their information to be used. techUK is therefore pleased to be a member of the working group helping to lead the Royal Society and British Academy data governance review mentioned in the Strategy. Data governance approaches, frameworks and strategies have a vital role to play in building a culture of data trust and confidence that will underpin the future development of the UK’s data driven economy and society.

The focus on the need to consider ethical frameworks for the use of data is particularly key given the much focus and investment being made by the government in Artificial Intelligence (AI). techUK is thrilled that the Government is recognising the potential of AI to drive significant UK productivity, economic growth and personal and societal wellbeing and investing £17.3 million to support the development of AI and robotic technologies by UK universities. More good news for the UK’s AI sector in the Digital Strategy includes a full scale review of how AI driven innovation can “thrive and grow” in the UK. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to become a significant driver of change across both the UK economy and society, and will be an important aspect of developing a modern data driven Global digital Britain fit for the future.

The Digital Strategy outlines a bright future for the UK’s data economy and society and global leadership in data innovation. techUK now stands ready to work with Government, industry partners, academia and other key stakeholders to ensure organisations of all size and sector, and citizens across the whole of the UK can unlock the power of data and realise the full opportunities that a data driven digital economy and society has to offer.


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