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MPs launch inquiry into the UK's digital economy

Business, Innovation and Skills Committee investigation will examine the challenges facing digital industries

MPs are to investigate the UK’s digital economy and the role the government plays in helping make the most of the opportunities from the sector.

The House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee inquiry will examine the challenges facing digital industries, how digital contributes to UK productivity, and what the government needs to do to help businesses. MPs on the committee are seeking input on six key questions:

  1. What are the major barriers to UK business success in the digital economy? What steps could the government take to help businesses overcome these barriers?
  2. How effective are UK financial markets in supporting the digital economy? What actions could the government take to improve their effectiveness?
  3. What lessons can be learned from the government’s support of tech startups and other measures targeted at the digital economy?
  4. Does the UK’s intellectual property regulatory regime provide effective protection for the digital economy and sufficient scope for innovation and competition?
  5. What actions could the government take to foster the development of potentially disruptive technologies? Are further safeguards warranted to help existing businesses adapt to the impact of these technologies on their traditional business models?
  6. What actions could the government take to ensure the availability of a workforce with the skills to support businesses in the digital economy?

Committee chairman Iain Wright MP said digital technology is rapidly changing the economic landscape. “Nothing short of a digital and tech revolution is taking place, with new entrepreneurs and business models emerging and existing businesses having to adapt quickly to keep pace. There are huge opportunities for competitive advantage for UK firms, but also real challenges,” he said.

“The committee wants to evaluate existing initiatives by the government and to consider what other actions the government might take to enhance the UK digital economy. We want to hear from all those interested and involved in this area, whether you are a tech entrepreneur ambitious to start a business or a company in an established part of the economy hoping to use digital technology to improve your business, so we can help ensure that the UK is at the forefront of the global digital economy."

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has invited submissions to its inquiry by 29 October 2015.

The inquiry is the latest in a series of parliamentary investigations into the digital and technology sectors, although few have yet to lead to significant changes in government policy,

Under the coalition government, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) set out a number of measures designed to support the development of the sharing economy following an inquiry, supported by the establishment of the Sharing Economy UK (SEUK) trade association, which was launched in March 2015.

After the election of the new government, digital economy minister Ed Vaizey took charge of a Digital Infrastructure Taskforce focused on broadband, mobile and the digital economy.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is separately holding an inquiry into the coverage, delivery and performance of superfast broadband, as well as mobile coverage.

And earlier in 2015, the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee released a report from its inquiry that called for improvements to digital skills efforts and a single digital agenda under one cabinet minister. Committee chair Sarah Morgan subsequently said she was “underwhelmed by the response of the government to the committee's significant concerns”.

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