BSG Comment – Reaping the benefits of the digital revolution – HoL Digital Committee’s recommendations to the next Government

BSG Comment – Reaping the benefits of the digital revolution – HoL Digital Committee’s recommendations to the next Government

The House of Lords Digital Skills Committee published today a report entitled “Make or Break: the UK’s Digital Future”. It outlines the digital revolution that is taking place and states that the UK is at risk of being left behind. The Committee calls on the next Government to take a more ambitious approach in the development and delivery of digital policies.

The Committee suggests the Government adopt a less fragmented approach to policy-making by developing a vision and general policy objectives coordinating “digital” activities presently delivered by four Government Departments, a taskforce, a Committee and a Unit. The creation of a Digital Agenda would be the responsibility of a Cabinet Minister, a proposal that echoes techUK’s call for a joined-up digital strategy.

As a precondition to the UK securing its place as a main “digital” leader, the Committee recommends that investment in infrastructure should go hand in hand with investments in digital skills and literacy. Whilst it recognised the significant investments made by both the private sector and Government to get near universal access to broadband, the Committee noted that more needs to be done to tackle urban “not-spots” and improve broadband speeds (although it fell short of calling for a review of basic broadband speed).

The Committee placed a welcome emphasis on the importance of internet connectivity, saying that it was as important as a utility. Interestingly, it also appears to go beyond this, hinting that it should be regulated as such. Such a drastic move would like result in wide ranging unintended consequences, such as the stifling of investment and innovation that is currently taking place in our broadband infrastructure. The issue of universal service levels though is a live debate within industry and is one which we may return to.

The Committee is calling the Government to “coordinate and facilitate the right conditions for business”. Unlocking the full economic potential of SMEs will require action on three fronts according to the Committee: increasing awareness of the value of digital technology, addressing the limited access to the necessary talent pool and skills and accessing finance. This reflects some of the findings of the BSG report entitled “Capitalising on Connectivity: realising the benefits of broadband for UK SMEs” in which we called the Government to increase its understanding of SME’s use of technology and incentivise further take-up.

SMEs connectivity was not raised as an issue by the Committee, since evidence from Go On UK and Virgin Media shows that 92% have access to the internet. This ties in with our findings from our ComRes survey of 1000 microbusinesses.

The BSG will carry out some research into SME’s requirements for broadband connectivity – watch this space…

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