The Queen has addressed both houses of parliament to deliver her annual speech revealing the intentions and priorities of the next government.
The areas that have stood out for tech industry professionals in the UK include the new data protection measures in the form of a digital charter, Brexit, and plans for supporting innovation in electrical cars and the space industry.
Data protection is an important matter that has gained global attention after years of severe breaches of well-known companies in the UK and around the world. The NHS, a modern British cornerstone that many are proud of, has been a prime target.
GDPR is applying pressure to keep data safe, and the new digital charter measure will be reassuring for many when it comes to being compliant and avoiding devastating fines. However, questions will also be raised by those who fear the impact on free speech that major regulation could have.
Brexit is also extremely important to the tech sector, and plans for continued support for innovation are very well received. The Government will continue to support innovation in the space industry, and electric vehicles.
The tech skills gap is also a feature at the forefront of professionals’ minds, and therefore improvements to tech education are viewed as vital.
CBR looks at the reaction to the Queen’s Speech from those in the UK tech industry.
A digital charter is welcome
Sonia Blizzard, managing director of Beaming, said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment, articulated in today’s Queen’s speech, to introduce a digital charter and making Britain a safer place to be online. Cyber security breaches cost businesses almost £30 billion last year and small firms, in particular, are accelerating investment in security technologies to protect themselves and their customers from threats online.”
“Making the UK the best place to start and run a digital business requires much more than a commitment to boosting security though. As customer expectations and data usage grow, factors such as speed and service resilience become ever more important, so it is vital that the Conservatives keep their manifesto pledge to accelerate rollout of the full-fibre technology that will improve service across the country and establish the clear path to national fibre coverage they’ve promised over the next decade.”
But it could be controversial
Mark Lubbock, technology partner at law firm Ashurst, said: “The new “digital charter” may prove to be controversial. Following Theresa May’s manifesto proposal to establish an international framework akin to those that exist in areas such as banking and trade, the charter will no doubt include proposals for closer scrutiny and regulation of certain activities online, chiefly of extremist material or content that is abusive or harmful to children. Despite the Government’s stated commitment to “a free and open internet”, these proposals are likely to be of concern to both tech companies, who generally shy away from anything that resembles overarching regulation of the internet, and civil liberties groups, who will be concerned about the impact on free speech.”
It is only right that the Government is tackling data breaches
Peter Carlisle, VP of EMEA at Thales e-Security: “It is very encouraging to see that the government will be placing a greater emphasis on establishing a world-class data protection regime in the UK with the introduction of this new law.
The greater the volumes of data accessible online, the greater the potential for exposure and the increased chance of hackers taking advantage of systems that some have thought impregnable.
Ensuring that both individuals and businesses have as much control as possible over where and how their data is used is critical to the UK’s broader cybersecurity strategy.
As high-profile data breaches continue to plague our society, it is only right that the UK government is implementing more fortified measures to tackle them, particularly as we draw nearer to the widespread introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation next year.”
PwC’s global data protection legal services leader, Stewart Room: “The Queen’s Speech has removed any doubt about the UK’s commitment to data protection. This is a significant move that will provide businesses with certainty on the UK’s intention to meet the obligations of the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“For citizens, it confirms that their data protection rights will be fully enshrined in UK law after Brexit. The UK has long been a world leader in data protection – we have one of the strongest regulatory frameworks in the world and our system is highly respected. We can now build on these foundations to ensure the country continues to be a real destination for data-driven business post-Brexit.”
A broad consensus is needed for Brexit
Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, techUK CEO, Julian David, said: “This Queen’s Speech confirms Brexit will be the key priority of the next Parliament. It will be crucial that the Repeal Bill, alongside legislation on customs, trade and immigration, recognises the importance of the tech sector to our economic future. It is right that the Government seeks to achieve the broadest possible consensus on Brexit across both Parliament and business. This will mean focusing on the future needs of our economy and society.
“The Government cannot focus on Brexit alone. techUK welcomes measures to radically reform technical education and give people the tools they need for the high skilled, high wage jobs of the future. Invention is in the UK’s DNA so plans to support the space industry and electric vehicles will keep the UK at the forefront of innovation.
“We support the Government’s commitment to maintain the UK’s world class protection of people’s personal data. This will include implementing the General Data Protection Regulation, the biggest transformation of data protection rules in a generation. The Government must have a robust plan to support businesses through this process.”