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DCMS launches Digital Economy Council



New body takes on old name as part of implementing the UK Digital Strategy

Ministers will attempt to answer criticism that the UK Digital Strategy is a flop by hosting a “powerful group of tech experts, industry leaders and global innovators” at a landmark get-together today.

The first meeting of a new version of the Digital Economy Council is intended to pave the way to stimulate growth and deliver new jobs in the tech sector, which is already worth £118 billion a year.

To underline the importance attached to it, the meeting will be chaired by Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, and will discuss the development of a Digital Charter.

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport told UKAuthority that, despite carrying the same name as a body that previously operated under the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, it is a new council with a new membership.

Its brief covers promoting the seven pillars of the strategy, which include maintaining the UK as a world leader in digital government and creating a safe and secure cyberspace.

Business criticisms

The meeting takes place against the backdrop of widespread criticism of the UK Digital Strategy, when it was eventually unveiled in March – more than one year late. Entrepreneurs and business leaders said it lacked ambition and failed to address the most pressing challenges that Brexit poses to the technology industry.

There was some repackaging of existing plans and little detail on how challenges would be tackled, said the critics, with measures to tackle the chronic skills gap kicked into the long grass.

A lack of basic digital skills is costing the economy £63 billion a year, according to a report by Parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee last year. It said the UK needed 745,000 more workers with digital skills to meet rising demand.

It suggested that 5.8 million people have never used the internet, while 12.6 million adults are unable to carry out basic tasks such as writing on social media, making a bank transaction online, using a search engine or solving a problem by watching a video lesson online. Almost a quarter of all employers said that they will not even interview candidates who do not have basic IT skills, the committee found.

But Bradley insisted the Digital Economy Council would help ensure the tech sector’s potential was fulfilled as Britain leaves the EU. Its members would include IT industry association techUK and leading companies such as Google, Facebook, Cisco, Dotforge, Coadec, TV Squared, BT and Apple.

Opportunities and challenges

She plans to ask the companies how the Government could better work with them to take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges of digital technology.

The Government’s ambition is for the UK to be the best place to start and run a digital business, creating highly skilled, high paid jobs of the future with the benefits felt “in all four corners of the UK”.

“I’m delighted to be bringing together this powerful group of tech experts, industry leaders and global innovators to spearhead new growth in our thriving digital economy,” said Bradley (pictured). 

“The Digital Economy Council will play a vital part in helping us achieve our aim of making the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business with the benefits enjoyed throughout society and in every part of our country.”

The council will meet quarterly, while a separate Digital Economy Advisory Group will focus on the specific challenges and opportunities of starting and growing a tech business.

Image from GOV.Uk, Open Government Licence v3.0


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