The UK government has outlined how it plans to support the UK tech industry post-Brexit.
The Department for Media, Culture, and Sport published its Digital Strategy document on Wednesday as the UK prepares to exit the European Union.
The document includes plans to skill up 4 million people by 2020 with help from Google, Lloyds, and Barclays.
It also details how the government plans to create five international tech hubs in emerging markets. The tech hubs, based on the already established UK-Israel Tech Hub, are designed to help UK firms to expand into other geographies and form partnerships with local companies.
The Digital Strategy also includes:
- a competition to encourage companies to build products financial technology (fintech) products
- plans to create a forum for the government to engage with the tech community
- confirmation of a £1 billion programme to improve internet connectivity across the UK
The document also confirmed that the UK government will pump £17.3 million into AI and robotics research and conduct a review into the fast-growing field, as Business Insider reported on Monday.
In terms of industry support, Google has pledged to run a skills programme in coastal towns across the UK this summer.
Ronan Harris, Google Managing Director UK & Ireland, said in a statement: "Everyone deserves access to the tools and opportunities the web has to offer and that is why we welcome the Government's timely Digital Strategy which ensures the benefits of the digital economy are spread across the country."
Elsewhere, Lloyds Banking Group said it will give face-to-face digital skills training to 2.5 million individuals, small and medium businesses and charities by 2020. Barclays also announced a number of support plays, saying it will provide 1 million people with general digital skills and cyber awareness in 2017 and teach basic coding to 45,000 children.
But the Digital Strategy document has been criticised for not offering enough.
Martin Leuw, who runs Growth4Good, a company investing in social businesses, said: "It’s great to see large companies getting involved in teaching digital skills to millions of individuals and businesses, but the reality is much more needs to be done now. The biggest challenge facing UK businesses at the moment is finding and hiring talented workers — a task that will be made immeasurably more challenging post-Brexit."
Eze Vidra, chief innovation officer at London startup Antidote and a former investor at Google Ventures, said on Twitter that "the recommendations seem like a drop in the sea compared to the damage of Brexit."
.@Sam_L_Shead "Skilling up" 4 Million people in 3 yrs by corporates and investing £17M in #AI will hardly move the needle. It's not enough
Chris Bates, technology partner at law firm Ashurst, added "questions remain over whether the strategy goes far enough – particularly in terms of the government's financial commitment – to enable Britain to retain its status as a global technology hub.
"The government's pledge of £17.3 million seems a fairly modest amount which, on its own, is unlikely to bring the UK to the leading edge of AI development."
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, said in a statement:
"The UK’s world-leading digital sectors are a major driver of growth and productivity, and we are determined to protect and strengthen them.
"This Digital Strategy sets a path to make Britain the best place to start and grow a digital business, trial a new technology, or undertake advanced research as part of the Government’s plan to build a modern, dynamic and global trading nation.
"To do that, we will work closely with businesses and others to make sure the benefits and opportunities are spread across the country so nobody is left behind.
"There should be no digital divide - every individual and every business should have the skills and confidence to make the most of digital technology and have easy access to high-quality internet wherever they live, work, travel or learn."
Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK, added in a statement:
"The UK's tech sector is rapidly becoming a global force to reckon with, but we must ensure that we stay ahead by continuing to provide a supportive environment for British start-ups and digital companies to grow in, especially since other countries are trying to take advantage of our departure from the European Union."
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