UK government needs a joined-up internet policy

Global internet firms want government to ensure its new digital strategy has coherent policy and regulatory goals

To tie in with the UK government working on a new digital strategy, the Internet Association has called on policymakers and regulators to ensure they take into account the cumulative impact of regulation in the sector.

The trade association for global internet firms, which has companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft among its members, has urged policy-makers to promote a thriving tech ecosystem.

In a new report, Digital nation: an internet-enabled recovery, the Internet Association said such a policy would enable the UK to capture the full benefits of the ongoing digital revolution. But there is a trade-off between different policy goals, which needs to be made in a coherent way to reap the full benefit of internet technologies.

“We also need a balanced regulatory environment, which takes account of the cumulative impact of regulation on the sector and its ability to deliver growth,” wrote the report’s authors.

A nationally representative poll of 1,000 UK adults, conducted in June 2020 and published in the report, showed that 81% of people believe the internet has a role to play in supporting businesses that will not open fully in the coming months and years. The survey also reported that 31% of people believe internet and tech companies should be the sector encouraged most strongly by the government – with only medicine, health and education seen as more important.

Three-quarters of the survey respondents (75%) agreed that businesses and organisations that adopt technology will be more productive and, in turn, will help to speed up the post-pandemic recovery.

According to the Internet Association’s study, many traditional businesses have remained operational and have found new revenue streams by making use of internet technologies.

The report highlights how Scottish brewery Brewdog was able to move its business online quickly and start delivering cans and draught beer via a new online delivery platform, Brewdog also replicated 48 bars into one online hangout space called the Brewdog Open Arms, which has hosted virtual beer tastings, homebrew masterclasses, live music and weekly pub quizzes during the pandemic.

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Daniel Dyball, UK executive director at the Internet Association, said: “This new research shows how the internet played a vital role during the lockdown. Importantly, it also shows how the internet can help drive the UK recovery forward.

“The way people work, shop and do business may have changed for good – and it is clear that the internet sector can help ensure that those changes boost the UK economy, communities and wider society.”

The Internet Association has called for greater collaboration between industry and government. The report’s authors wrote: “The internet industry, government and healthcare institutions have worked well together in response to the pandemic, demonstrating how all parties can come together to achieve shared goals.

“The government should now use this experience more broadly and take a pro-tech mindset across all policy areas, to support the UK’s tech ecosystem to deliver growth, investment, jobs, and innovation in the UK.”

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