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Digital Economy Council aims to boost UK tech sector

Government launches Digital Economy Council with the aim of bringing together industry leaders and academia to collaborate on implementing the UK’s digital strategy

The government will today host the first meeting of its Digital Economy Council, which aims to provide a “forum for collaboration” between Whitehall, industry and academia, as well as delivering new jobs and growth in the tech sector.

Its first meeting will be chaired by Karen Bradley, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, who is expected to ask tech companies how the government could collaborate better with them, as well as set out priorities for the year ahead.

Bradley said she is delighted to bring together “this powerful group of tech experts, industry leaders and global innovators to spearhead new growth in our thriving digital economy”.

She added: “The Digital Economy Council will play a vital part in helping us achieve our aim of making the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business, with the benefits enjoyed throughout society and in every part of our country.”

The newly created council, whose members include TechUK, Facebook, BT, Cisco and Apple, will work on implementing the UK digital strategy and developing a digital charter – a new commitment by the Conservative government.

The digital strategy, launched by Bradley in March this year, aims to ensure the success of the UK’s digital economy and promises to increase skills, grow the digital sector and partner with industry.

It was originally due to be published last spring, before the UK referendum on EU membership. It was then delayed until after the referendum, and was then subject to further delays to ensure it was fit for a post-Brexit UK.

The strategy has been criticised for lacking measurable targets and commitments, with previously announced measures being “repackaged” and few concrete implementation plans.

Digital charter

A key part of the council’s remit will be the implementation of the digital charter, which was a key part of the Conservatives’ general election manifesto and is intended to make the UK the “best place to start and run a digital business” and the “safest place in the world to be online”.  

The charter will be underpinned by a regulatory framework, to which digital companies and social media platforms will be held accountable. Regulators will be given the power to fine or prosecute those failing to observe the laws.

The council will convene quarterly, hosted by the the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which recently changed its name to include the word digital.

Bradley said the name change came as the department celebrates its 25th anniversary and “it is fitting now to include digital in the name”. However, it will still be known as DCMS.

“The department has taken on significant new responsibilities in recent years, so that half of its policy and delivery work now covers the digital sectors – telecommunications, data protection, internet safety, cyber skills and parts of media and the creative industries,” she said. 

The government will also assemble thhe Digital Economy Advisory Group soon. The group represents a number of UK tech businesses and will focus on the “specific challenges and opportunities of starting and growing a tech business”, said Bradley.

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