Nicky Morgan, secretary of state for secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has declared that the new government will be “unashamedly a pro-technology government” and that digital technology will play a key role in future trade negotiations.
Speaking today at the launch of non-profit organisation Tech Talent Charter’s Diversity in Tech benchmarking report, Morgan set out five key tech strategies her department will work towards over the next five years, focusing on infrastructure, investment, policy and regulatory environment, and skills and security.
Nicky Morgan stepped down as MP at the 2019 general election, but was later made a life peer, meaning she could continue her secretary of state role.
In keeping with the report’s focus, Morgan emphasised the need to promote diversity and inclusivity within the industry, with women making up just 17% of tech and ICT workers in the UK.
“If we do not work to open the door to underrepresented groups in our tech sector, not only will we deny them life-changing opportunities, but we will be robbed of the diversity of thought that we need to drive cutting-edge innovation and shape the technologies that can benefit the whole of society,” said Morgan.
Tech a key focus for post-Brexit Britain
With the UK looking to form new trading partnerships after its imminent exit from the European Union, Morgan explained that the country’s technology industry will play a part in this:
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“As we expand our trade relations around the globe, I can assure you that we are passionate about opportunities provided by digital tech and that they will be at the heart of the government’s trade policy in the years ahead.”
In line with one of the Conservative party manifesto pledges, Morgan also referenced plans to deliver full-fibre broadband in the next five years:
“We’re aiming for nation-wide full-fibre, gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 and will pass legislation to make roll-out quicker and easier. This is a hugely ambitious challenge and will involve unprecedented changes to the UK broadband market. And it requires all parts of government, industry and the regulator to work together on this national mission.”
She also said that “embracing 5G” was key to delivering “greater capacity, faster speeds and more reliable networks”.
Read more: Johnson on Huawei: “What’s the alternative?”
Tackling the digital skills gap
It has been widely reported that the UK is currently facing a digital skills gap, with 48,000 tech vacancies currently in Greater London. Morgan set out plans for a new basic digital skills qualification in order to ensure that “every citizen has the right to retrain at any point during their lives”. She added:
“This year, we will introduce an entitlement so adults without basic digital skills will have the opportunity to undertake new digital qualifications free of charge. And we will invest an additional £3bn over the course of this parliament to support the creation of a National Skills Fund.
“If we get this right, we will not only have a more highly skilled economy but also one that is more representative of the country we live in.”
Nicky Morgan also addressed the issue of regulation, stating that the department will build upon the country’s “world-leading regulatory regimes”.
“We have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in nimble, proportionate and pro-innovation regulation, giving us a competitive advantage at this important time in our history. So we are developing a new strategic and joined-up approach for regulating and governing digital technologies. Working with industry and across sectors, so our regulations and our regulators are equipped for the digital age.”
Last year, the UK government published its Online Harms White Paper, outlining online safety measures designed to make users safer online. Morgan said that this will also extend to “ethical online advertising” and supporting high-quality journalism:
“As well as our groundbreaking work on online harms and digital competition, over the coming months, we will work to: Foster fair, transparent and ethical online advertising, so this market delivers the right outcomes for businesses and consumers. Develop our National Data Strategy, so we can fully and responsibly unlock the power of data, for people and organisations across the UK. And set out our response to the Cairncross Review into the sustainability of high-quality journalism in the digital age.”
Nicky Morgan also announced that £1.9bn will be invested through the National Cyber Security Strategy.
She concluded by setting out commitments to a “free and open internet”:
“The UK will continue to be a global champion of the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance, in which a variety of different actors play important roles in how the Internet itself is run. It is thanks to this model that the Internet has developed, expanded and brought so many benefits around the world. We will continue to oppose those authoritarian governments that want to bring the management of the Internet under inter-governmental control. And we will remain a global champion for human rights online.”