First announced in 2015, the United Kingdom (UK) finally published its Digital Strategy that went into effect on March 1, 2017. Per the government’s website, the goal of this document is to provide a blueprint how the UK will build on its success to date in developing a world-leading digital economy that works for the greater good. This is particularly important given that the UK is a global capital for financial technology, which generated £6.6bn of revenue in 2015.
UK Digital Strategy
The Strategy, which maintains close ties to other recent strategic documents such as the UK’s Transformation Strategy (published in February 2017, this document sets out how the government will use digital to transform the relationship between the citizen and state) and National Industrial Strategy (published in January 2017, this document established 10 pillars – each with a strong digital component – by which the UK would build up its industrial sector), underscores the importance of the digital sector to the UK’s overall economy, as well as digital technology’s importance in supporting other national-level strategies. The objective behind the Strategy is to improve economic growth across the whole country by highlighting seven key principles that will help guide UK’s continued economic development. In brief, these principles are:
- Building world-class digital infrastructure for the UK
- Giving UK citizenry access to the digital skills they need
- Making the UK a favorable place to start and grow a digital business
- Helping all UK businesses become digital businesses
- Making the UK the safest place in the world to live and work online
- Maintaining the UK government a world leader in serving its citizens online
- Unlocking the power of data in the UK economy and improving public confidence in its use
One of the most notable aspects of this Strategy is its comprehensive nature. By taking this approach, the UK government has purposeful committed to creating an environment that facilitates the achievement of these goals across all industries and sectors with an emphasis on education. However, it appears that the UK government is positioning itself more as an enabling agent rather than the tool by which change will occur, a critique suggesting that the lion’s share of the work behind the Strategy still needs to be determined. While the goals are laid forth, there is little information about how milestones will be measured, and what repercussions – if any – will be instituted if they are not met in a reasonable amount of time. This is not the lone reproach leveled by skeptics.
Another criticism that has been raised is what the role of local and municipal governments will have in the overall process.
New Digital Strategy in view of Brexit and GDPR
The release of the Digital Strategy – and its accompanying strategic treatises – comes at an important time as the UK is in the process of exiting the European Union, and all of the economic benefits associated with that association. In order to be competitive on a global stage, the UK will rely even more so on its digital economy and the businesses leveraging this technology operating in it. As such, the strategy takes an all-inclusive perspective across all sectors of society to include education and training not only for the current business/security climate, but for the future as well. And while the government is an important agent for these initiatives, it cannot fulfill the desired objectives in a vacuum. The private sector and especially UK’s technology sector bears an equal vital responsibility in ensuring that these strategies are implemented correctly. Public-private partnership is seen by many as critical to the improvement of any country’s cyber security posture. As the digital expansion continues to grow, such a relationship will be pivotal in maintaining resilience in the face of a diverse and ever-changing cyber threat landscape.
In the end, building on strengths and improving weaknesses is at the heart of the Digital Strategy, an acknowledgment that there are several areas that still need to be addressed. Creating the path forward is a commendable first step, but it is only a step. Providing more detail as to what and when these improvements will be made would offer more fidelity into how financially invested the government is into achieving these goals, and assuage some industry concerns. The best strategies that forecast several years forward take into consideration the dynamism inherent in an unpredictable future. The digital world and cyberspace have continually proven that change is expected and often occurs sooner than expected or desired. For the UK’s Digital Strategy to truly be effective, it must balance the needs of the near term while anticipating those that will invariably surface later on, or at least provide the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen developments. Time will tell if this is a model that will be adopted by other governments or just another thought piece.
This is a guest post written by Emilio Iasiello.