The UK must digitally disrupt to grow the economy and create jobs, or be disrupted

Phil Smith
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Embrace digital evolution or become obsolete (Source: Getty)

Not many things are guaranteed in life, but the power of technology to disrupt our lives is one that is.

Whether we look at the creation of the first personal computer in the 60s, the arrival of the World Wide Web in the 80s, or the smartphone connected world we now occupy; digital technology has profoundly changed the way we work, live, play and learn for the past 50 years, and the evolution isn’t easing up.

Digital disruption has the potential to reshape markets faster than perhaps any transition in history. Countries and organisations that do not drive their own digital business transformation will be left behind; we estimate 40 percent of industry incumbents will be displaced in the next five years due to failing to embrace technology appropriately.

Read more: How digital will help solve Britain's productivity puzzle

Just take a look at how ‘digitally-centred’ companies such as Amazon, Uber and Airbnb have reinvented the retail, travel and hospitality industries respectively.

As we move into an era of complete digitisation, where technology begins to connect everything - from people to processes, data to things - we need to rethink how we approach national infrastructure and the potential impact it can have on a nation’s productivity, through innovation, education and breaking down organisational silos.

Our commitment of $1bn investment in the UK over the next five years is to ensure that, as digital adoption accelerates, cutting edge infrastructure will increase UK GDP, reduce spending and create jobs.

It will allow the UK government to extend the reach and impact of public services by converting insights into action. It will enable new and diverse groups of entrepreneurs to build businesses that will reshape not only the UK but the world. It will provide more accessibility and opportunities for education and technology-based careers. Ultimately, it will mean the UK remains a digital leader on the global stage.

Whilst investment in technical infrastructure and R&D are vital to ensure UK businesses, and we as a nation collectively, disrupt digitally, the same emphasis of time and money must also be placed on the development of the required STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills.

By 2020, 900,000 further tech jobs will be required across the EU every year, undoubtedly a significant gap to fill, but through collaboration between government, business and educators it can be achieved.

Read more: The finance sector is doing digital better than any other industry

To embrace digital, we must re-educate the educators, and work to change the perception of how a job in technology is perceived by young people; making it less about coding and more the capabilities of technology to reinvent business and society at large.

As the digital opportunities grow we must ensure that the required skills are being developed nationwide, whether this is through collaborations between business and education institutions, investment in innovation incubators or the implementation of the appropriate infrastructure.

The future is not just full of technological possibilities… it is full of technological inevitabilities. But by building the right digital ecosystem over the next five years and beyond, we’re confident the UK and its businesses can remain ahead of the curve and continue to disrupt.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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