When I last wrote to you back in May of 2020, we were just getting to grips with the ‘new normal’ – we had adopted virtual platforms to host our meetings, Parliament was meeting via video link and we were preparing for a Summer of social-distancing and lockdowns. None of us could have predicted just how long these measures would remain in place, or how efficiently we would be able to continue our work in this new way.
It goes without saying that our sector has been a global lifeline to so many in these 18 months of uncertainty and I have been proud to be a member of our thriving community and proud of the work of PICTFOR and our diverse membership. The important role that tech plays in our economy, our social lives, healthcare and our education system cannot be disputed and this period has proved how vitally our sector is considered by legislators, policy makers and parliamentarians alike.
As a signal of this commitment to the future of our tech sector, the Government has recently announced 2.2. million rural homes and businesses will benefit in £5 billion broadband upgrade. DCMS worked with industry stakeholders, many of whom we’re proud to have as members of PICTFOR, on the DevicesDotNow campaign, supporting those without access to digital resources and enabling them to get online throughout the pandemic. We know that access to the internet and the ability to engage with peers through online platforms is more vital than ever, and therefore so is the responsibility that falls on us, the beating heart of connectivity in the UK’s digital landscape.
Another signal of intent from DCMS has been the focus on improving our telecoms sector and our access to connectivity through the work of the Telecoms Diversification Task Force. The Taskforce, Chaired by Lord Livingston of Parkhead and composed of independent experts from industry and academia, was established in September 2020 to advise the Government on targeted measures to ensure effective, accelerated and sustainable diversification of the UK’s 5G supply chain. One of their recommendations to the Secretary of State was the formation of a permanent external body to advise on the delivery of the diversification strategy and wider related issues, including potential supply chain issues in other telecoms equipment such as fixed broadband. This recommendation has now been followed up with the establishment of the Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Advisory Council, which I am delighted to have been asked to chair.
The Council will continue the impressive work begun by Lord Livingston and his team and will look to advise the Government on how best to achieve the diverse and competitive environment needed to promote innovation in the sector. I will be joined by a panel of technical experts, academics and major operators including attendance from senior representatives from NCSC and Ofcom as the Council looks to draw on further support from a wide range of companies operating in the sector.
Our role is to ensure that DCMS, Parliament and the Government have expert, external advice on the future of the UK’s mobile and fixed line infrastructure, ensuring that we’re never again dependent on one kind of tech or one level of supply base. In the UK, we have a rich vault of expertise in telecoms, with a proud history of high standards and an exciting pipeline of R&D and innovation, all of which bear testament to our position as a world leading digital nation.
The role will keep me busy, but I’m delighted to be remaining as PICTFOR’s Industry Chair, supporting the Group, its industry members and playing an active role in our busy schedule of events for the rest of the year. PICTFOR members have been instrumental in allowing the public to continue their lives in these last 18 months and have given the sense of ‘normality’ that our sector has offered our users throughout this difficult time. PICTFOR will continue to proudly promote this work in Parliament, acting as a facilitator on the most important issues facing the sector and the public.
I look forward to seeing you all at our in-person events scheduled in the Autumn.
Simon P Blagden CBE
PICTFOR Industry Chair