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A new decade, a new government and a new horizon for UK tech

Brexit is being done, so it’s time for the government to look to the future and place technology at the heart of the economy

For three and a half years, Parliament was paralysed by the issue of Brexit and, with a certain historical neatness, the UK is leaving the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020 – in a new decade, with a new majority government.

In this new decade, the country will need to forge a new relationship with the EU and other nations, alongside tackling some major economic, societal and climate challenges.

Ahead of the General Election, TechUK published its manifestoTowards a better future. In it, we outlined how the next government should harness technology to makes things better for people, society, the economy and the planet.

We need to build a better future for all. For example, the deployment of digital solutions can transform our public services – digital technologies can deliver huge time-saving efficiencies, as well as provide new insights to allow our doctors, teachers and public servants to get out from behind their desks and improve the ways they work. To achieve this radical transformation, TechUK believes it is vital that each government department has a named ministerial champion for digital and tech transformation.

To ensure the investment delivers success, significant investment in skills, as well as in the technologies themselves, must happen. To become a digitally enabled nation, we need the skills, not just the tools. Too many people still lack the digital skills they need to get on and reach their potential. The government must commit to lifelong learning, as well as rethink the curriculum to ensure that children today are ready for the jobs of tomorrow.

This new and energised government should embrace the economy of the future. The sector is the UK’s modern success story. It grew by 22% between 2010 and 2015, it supports more than 1.5 million jobs, generates a £10bn trade surplus in telecommunications, computer and information services, and accounts for about 7% of all UK economic output.

Rather than turn our backs on automation, we should invest in robotics and new technologies up and down the country to ensure every region can reap the benefits these new technologies bring.

A future-facing nation must also play its part on the international stage and the overriding moral objective for this government must be to work with others to tackle the climate emergency head-on. The UK tech sector wants to play its full part in tackling this issue, working to create a more sustainable economy.

With the right policy framework and climate leadership, digital technologies can support a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. To achieve this, the new government should establish a Net Zero Tech Taskforce to identify how digital technologies can drive rapid decarbonisation and meet the net zero target. It must also seek to create new forums to use emerging tech to address the climate emergency, such as establishing an International Centre for AI for Energy and Climate to be launched at COP 26 in Glasgow.

Of course, getting Brexit done will be at the forefront of the government’s mind, as well as building the future relationships as an outward-looking nation. But, having concluded the argument about whether we stay or go, the conversation must now move on to what kind of economy, society and planet do we want to work and live in? This should focus our minds when we plan future trade deals and as we position ourselves anew on the world stage.

The opportunity is ours to seize and the 2020s, if we get it right, could be a decade of reinvigoration and radicalism in the creation of a prosperous future for people and planet. 

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