IT industry must drive broadband to boost UK economy, Intellect tells Annual Regent Conference 2012

The IT industry must invest in UK skills and technology infrastructure to boost economic growth, Intellect told its Annual Regent Conference 2012

The IT industry must invest in UK skills and technology infrastructure such as broadband to boost economic growth.

Antony Walker, Intellect’s director of strategy, said: “There’s little prospect of a demand-led recovery and quick fixes won’t be enough. We need a ‘bootstrap’ approach – a self sustaining process of renewal and structural change - if we are going to get the productivity uplift we need across all sectors to make the UK more competitive.”

Opening the Intellect Annual Regent Conference 2012, BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, said: "There is a sense the Treasury is looking for a one-shot boost." 

Ubiquitous fast broadband may be just what the UK needs to get back on track, said Nick Robinson.

Gerard Lyons, chief economist and group head of global research at Standard Chartered, said: "The UK economy is still a global leader, such as in the City, nanotechnology and IT. We need to reposition our export market and address core issues." 

Lyons said the UK has a key manufacturing sector but, for the economy to grow, he added: "We need to invest more in our infrastructure including technology infrastructure. Look at how much money South Korea is spending."

Lyons pointed out that youth unemployment was incredibly high, with one million young people out of work in the UK. He noted that, while UK higher education is world class, 23% of school leavers cannot read or write. 

He said the UK needs to focus on primary and secondary schools. But an education policy is not something that can be developed in one term of government. It needs a 25-year plan, rather than a five-year plan, according to Lyons.

He said government must start addressing business issues, rather than focusing on voter-friendly policies: "There is an anti-business sentiment [in politics]. Politicians want to get re-elected, and offer things they cannot afford. Politicians need to rewrite the social and business context."

As a final remark he warned that, while the market is rewarding austerity, at some point it will switch to growth. "We have to focus on creativity because we don't have cash or commodities."

Creativity was the term Liam Maxwell, director ICT futures, Cabinet Office, used in his keynote speech at the conference. He said: “I hate the term ICT. Computing is the new Latin.” Maxwell said ICT education in school should be focused on creativity.

Steve Prentice, Gartner research fellow, noted that one in five people do not use the internet in the UK. But such people are happy to go out and buy a smartphone, he said. However, successive UK governments have done little to tackle UK broadband. "They talk the talk but do not do anything about the problem," he said.

Intellect said: “The government’s primary role should be to act as a catalyst – calling upon industry organisation to focus on how the productivity of individual sectors can be enhanced as part of a campaign to make the UK economy more global.”

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