The House of Lords has called for the incoming government to secure the UK’s place as a global digital leader, in a report released today.
Entitled "Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future", the report urges the next UK leaders to make digital literacy a core subject in schools, along with English and Maths.
The committee also demanded a "culture shift", pushing for the government to treat the internet like a utility, as well as calling for a "Digital Agenda" to be put at the heart of government.
The report added that the UK has the chance to become a world digital leader, stating: "The UK enjoys similar advantages in this emerging digital age to those which it had in past paradigm shifts. We are known for our inventors and innovators, engineers and entrepreneurs, outstanding creative talents, educators and scientists."
The urgency of the report’s prescriptions is driven by concerns about the UK’s future in the world and the future of its people, citing estimations that 35% of UK jobs could be automated within 20 years.
"There is…a real concern that the UK will be left behind in this new digital era; we are at a tipping point," the report said. "Digital businesses can locate anywhere in the world, and if we fail to provide the right conditions for them to flourish in the UK, we will become a branch economy, much less prosperous and influential than we could be."
Baroness Morgan, chair of the committee, said: "This report is a wake-up call to whoever forms the next government in May. Digital is everywhere, with digital skills now seen as vital life skills. It’s obvious, however, that we’re not learning the right skills to meet our future needs.
"Our overwhelming recommendation is that the incoming government creates a Digital Agenda, with the goal of securing the UK’s place as a leading digital economy within the next five years.
"We are at a make-or-break point for the future of the UK – for its economy, its workforce and its people. We have a choice as a country about whether we seize this opportunity or whether we fall behind. This report declares that the UK must aim to be a global digital leader, and only clear leadership from the government will get us there."
Antony Walker, deputy CEO of techUK commented: "Once again the members of the House of Lords have produced an impressive report highlighting the importance of digital tech to the UK economy. The Committee should be commended for setting out a strong and comprehensive set of recommendations for the next government. They are absolutely right that it is make or break time to secure the UK’s digital future.
"Leadership is vital and this report echoes techUK’s call for a single, joined-up, digital strategy with a dedicated cabinet minister," Walker added. "In giving evidence to the committee, techUK welcomed the new Computing Curriculum but highlighted the urgent need for additional investment to ensure that teachers have the knowledge, time and resources to teach the new curriculum – a recommendation that is supported by the Committee."
He continued: "techUK believes we need a smart immigration policy to ensure that UK tech start-ups and scale-ups can access the global talent pool and we applaud the recommendation to reinstate the previous post-study work route, which techUK believes is crucial for ensuring a strong talent pipeline. The tech industry is offering more apprenticeships than ever before, and through initiatives such as the Tech Partnership and the National College for Digital skills will continue to work in partnership with Government to tackle the issues raised right across the UK.
"techUK believes that all political parties should study this report closely as they finalise their Election Manifestos."
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