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Oliver Dowden: UK can be “unashamedly pro-tech nation”

The secretary of state spoke about the country's opportunity to “unleash all the innovation and enterprise that emerging technologies can provide”

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden has outlined his vision for technology and data in a first major speech since becoming secretary of state in a major cabinet reshuffle last month.

Speaking at the Media and Telecoms 2020 & Beyond conference in London on 5 March 2020, Dowden outlined his views around digital as a means of “helping to transform communities who haven’t felt the benefits of the change we have seen in recent years.”

“We have an opportunity as we leave the EU [European Union] to be an unashamedly pro-tech nation, and unleash all the innovation and enterprise that emerging technologies can provide,” he said.

The secretary of state talked about supporting technology-driven change, such as boosting connectivity, to “spread prosperity across all the UK” and create job opportunities that don’t necessarily involve moving to London.

“To be a truly meritocratic nation, the delivery of nationwide full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband is an imperative,” he said.

“Connectivity is the lifeblood of any modern digital economy,” said Dowden. “It can create thriving tech scenes in rural areas, enable closer relationships for the socially isolated, and open people up to a world of inspiration and education.”

Speaking of the government’s recently announced £5bn plan to boost connectivity in the countryside, the digital minister addressed operators present at the event: “I know that many of you share our ambitions on digital infrastructure, and your investment and action will be crucial to delivering this,” he said.

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Beyond having the infrastructure, Dowden also talked about his vision of what needs to be done with it, specifically when it comes to data, describing it described it as “the beating heart of any digital economy”. The minister positioned himself as “a champion for the open and effective use of data” and vowed to “remove unnecessary barriers whenever they arise”.

“We have a unique opportunity for the UK to be the best place in the world to innovate, and create wealth and prosperity through the use of data,” he said.

Touching on the government’s various initiatives to introduce legislation and regulation aimed at technology companies, Dowden said he is “conscious that the government is asking a lot from the tech sector”, but reiterated his goal of supporting the it.

“I will be driving a coherent and pro-innovation approach to governing tech, so innovators everywhere can be assured that we will be on their side.”

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