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Digital is key to post-Brexit UK growth

News, 02 March 2017
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LONDON: As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the British government has released its long-awaited digital strategy, which prioritises skills, infrastructure and innovation.

That includes the creation of 4m free digital skills training places "to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business", the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced in a statement.

To help boost digital skills in the UK, the government has secured support from a number of major firms, including Google, which will launch a summer programme to help boost tourism and growth in coastal towns.

Lloyds Banking Group will offer face-to-face digital skills training to 2.5m individuals, small and medium businesses as well as charities, while Barclays, another leading finance group, will offer basic coding to 45,000 children and general digital skills to a million people.

"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," said Karen Bradley, Secretary of State at DCMS.

"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" she added.

The government also plans to create five international tech hubs in emerging markets to develop partnerships between UK companies and local tech firms.

These hubs will be based on the successful UK-Israel Tech Hub, which to date has delivered more than 80 partnerships with a deal value of £62m.

Other measures outlined in the digital strategy include a new Business Connectivity Forum to help firms access fast, affordable and reliable broadband, as well as a new competition to spark the development of new FinTech products.

Furthermore, the strategy contains new measures to support the UK's artificial intelligence sector, including a £17.3m funding boost from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

UK marketers welcomed these initiatives with Rachel Aldighieri, Managing Director of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), noting that investment is required to reap the benefits of innovation.

"Within the creative industries we are already seeing the contribution that AI and machine learning can offer," she said.

"I believe that this innovative technology will be one of the key drivers of the UK’s continued economic growth post-Brexit," she added. "To see this success come to fruition we need the Government's commitment to further develop skills and infrastructure, so we welcome today's announcement."

The news came shortly after Dyson, the UK firm best known for its innovative vacuum cleaners, announced plans to invest £2.5bn in future technologies.

This will include the creation of a new research and development centre based at a huge 517-acre site in Wiltshire that was once a training ground for the RAF.

Data sourced from DCMS, DMA, BBC; additional content by Warc staff

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