Viva la e-revolution, and what's next for the booming UK digital economy

 
Ed Vaizey
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Digital is benefiting people, and the economy, across the UK (Source: Getty)

The UK’s economy is witnessing an e-revolution.

Digital innovation is now not only driving the digital economy, but is transforming the ways in which the more “traditional” industries are approaching their day to day business activities.

Today at SPRINT – the annual event hosted by the Government Digital Service which showcases the digital transformation work happening across government – Tech City UK is announcing key findings from their Tech Nation 2016 report, delivered in partnership with Nesta.

And the findings are pretty remarkable.

The digital sector now accounts for 1.56 million jobs, and job creation in the field is growing nearly three times faster than that of other sectors.

Digital tech industries are growing 32 percent faster than the rest of the UK economy. And employees within the sector are up to 90 per cent more productive than those working in other areas.

Crucially this success is no longer simply the preserve of those small, innovative digital companies supported by Tech City when it first came to life in 2010.

Tech companies are growing from startups to scale-ups in growing numbers. Tech Nation 2016 shows that 41 per cent of all digital jobs are now based in traditionally ‘non-digital’ industries. Digital jobs are becoming critical to industries as diverse as the public sector, financial services, film and broadcasting.

And just as the economic benefits of digital innovation are being felt across industries, they are also evident right across the UK. With 80 per cent of digital clusters seeing growth across digital jobs and turnover, the industry is booming from Belfast to Bristol, Sunderland to Southampton.

But whilst it’s clear that digital tech is flourishing, this is no time to take our foot off the pedal.

Read more: Google tax row won’t slow UK’s booming digital economy

Government recognises the critical importance of continuing to support this sector, and we are creating the right conditions for growth in the digital economy, delivering jobs and boosting productivity. We need to maintain focus on creating the right environment for digital businesses to flourish if the UK is to continue to be a world leader in digital innovation.

So it’s great to see that more than 50,000 UK businesses took advantage of our broadband vouchers and are now benefiting from faster speeds and improved connectivity. By 2017, 95 per cent of all UK homes and businesses will have access to superfast speeds and we’re now focusing on what can be done for those not covered by existing plans.

We are also investing​ up to £40 million between 2015 to 2018 in IoT UK​, a​ research, innovation and enterprise ​initiative​​​ to advance UK competitiveness in the Internet of Things​ ​and help ensure ​we ​capitalise on the possibilities the technology will open up.

Last month we announced a new Early Stage Accelerator Programme, the first of its kind for the UK cyber security sector, with £250,000 to support cyber security startups with advice and support, helping them to develop innovative technical solutions to keep the UK safe from cyber attacks.

And computing is now being taught in all schools as part of the national curriculum, helping ensure that the next generation are being equipped with the knowledge and skills the businesses leaders of tomorrow will need if they are to compete in the digital age.

But we know there’s even more we can do.

At the end of 2015, I issued a call for ideas from industry and the public, asking what more can this Government do to make the UK the best place to set up and grow a digital business. My gratitude goes out to the hundreds of individuals and organisations who took the time to feed in their views and ideas which have provided some fascinating, innovative and exciting suggestions and ideas that we are now looking closely at.

Later this year the government will publish a new Digital Strategy, setting out bold ambitions and commitments that will take the digital revolution to the next level. On key issues like skills, broadband, cyber security we have already done much – but there is much more we will need to do over the next few years.

We want all UK businesses to learn from the digital by default sectors where the UK is at the forefront – like fintech and digital health. Our vision is to make sure that the many benefits of digital technology can be felt across the entire spectrum of UK business and industry so we can secure the UK’s place as a digital global leader.

It’s a position that is within our grasp. Viva la e-revolution.

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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