PICTFOR were delighted to be joined by Digital Infrastructure Minister, Matt Warman MP, to discuss investment and the future of the UK’s digital infrastructure.
The CEO Forum provided parliamentarians, and corporate level PICTFOR members the opportunity to discuss the relevant investment needed for the UK to hit it’s 2025 Gigabit target.
The Minister began by providing details on how Government plans to meet the target and discussing the issues the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, commenting that the nationwide lockdown had served as further evidence of the need for a better connected society. The Minister went on to take questions from PICTFOR members, reminding those present that his door is always open for members of industry.
You can catch up on the full event below.
On 3rd June, PICTFOR held a virtual CEO Forum on the topic of Investment and Digital Infrastructure. The event titled, what further strategic investment will help to ensure Britain retains our growing cutting- edge digital economy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond? saw a keynote address from Digital Infrastructure Minister, Matt Warman MP, and insights from PICTFOR’s industry members.
The discussion featured:
- Matt Warman MP, Digital Infrastructure Minister
- Simon Blagden CBE
- Darren Jones MP
- Baroness Neville-Rolfe
- James Morris MP
- Lord Inglewood
- Mark Logan MP
- Neale Hanvey MP
- Ruth Edwards MP
- Owen Thompson MP
- Industry members
- Monica Arino , Amazon
- Phil Dwyer, Ballou PR
- Alex Towers, BT
- Greg Mesch, City Fibre
- Gabriel Solomon, Ericsson
- Patricia Dooley, Ericsson
- Michaela Neild, Google
- Dr Paul Feldman, Jisc
- Ranjit Gill, McKessonUK
- Cumhur Kizilari, Morten
- Justine Duggan, Octopus Group
- Liz Kanter, TikTok
The Event chair, Simon Blagden CBE opened the event by welcoming all PICTFOR members, attendees and thanking the Minister for taking the time to join the group, before inviting him to begin his remarks.
- The Minister began by commenting on how the COVID-19 pandemic had solidified the importance of Government’s Gigabit broadband commitment and reiterating his, and the rest of the DCMS team’s dedication to hitting these targets. The Minister went on to praise network providers for their ability to cope with the increased demand on their services and maintaining capacity throughout the pandemic, adding that the pandemic had shown the practical need to establish the UK as a “global leader in 5G” – the Minister went on to discuss the increasing issue of disinformation surrounding 5G and the worrying rise of attacks on 5G infrastructure and telecoms engineers who have been working so hard to keep us connected. The Minister reminded PICTFOR members that 19% of the UK now has access to Gigabit capable broadband and that 70 towns and cities in the UK have 5G, before detailing the importance for dialogue between the sector and government to make sure targets are met. The Minister closed by reminding those present that he and his colleagues were always looking for opportunities to engage with industry, and added that he was keen to continue his relationship with PICTFOR and its members so as to better inform Government’s understanding of the practicalities of digital infrastructure and the challenges the nation faces.
- The Event chair then opened then opened the roundtable discussion, inviting insights from PICTFOR corporate level members and parliamentarian attendees, hearing first from Kevin Brennan MP, former Minister, Deputy Shadow Culture Secretary and current member of the DCMS Select Committee.
- Kevin Brennan asked the Minister what lessons he and his team were learning from the virus and from the nation’s new-found reliance on connectivity and the effect this will have on the future economy and landscape for the UK?
- Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG made the point that the nation must be better connected and quickly – she noted that a succession of Government’s had set targets for connectivity that have been stretched or lengthened. She asked the Minister if there was data readily available to highlight the scale of connectivity problems during the lockdown?
- Alex Towers of BT thanked the Minister and highlighted the assistance and transparency the tech industry had seen from Government throughout the pandemic – he added that digital infrastructure would be key to the nation’s recovery and that this infrastructure must be spread right across the UK.
- Ruth Edwards MP asked the Minister about the timescale of rural rollouts, adding that the nation could learn from the speed of the reaction to COVID-19 when trying to rebuild momentum with rural rollouts of digital infrastructure.
- Greg Mesch of CityFibre talked about the impact the crisis has had on highlighting the need for adequate digital infrastructure – adding that the quality of internet is first and foremost for modern nations.
- Anwen Owen of Fujitsu welcomed the mentions of ongoing interaction between industry and Westminster to drive progress. She asked the Minister if he had thoughts on the way the Technology Investment Strategy was being considered in the context of other, similar trade negotiations to give large corporations a broader prospective for what would be an inward investment for the UK?
- Dr Paul Feldman of Jisc highlighted the issues students and researches were having due to working from home, he noted that universities research had almost grinded to a halt. He raised his concerns about the future of the sector and the ability for the UK’s infrastructure to support it. Dr Feldman added that digital poverty and the lack of digital skills made the issue worse.
- Patricia Dooley of Ericsson noted Ericsson’s commitment to Governments Gigabit target and noted that connectivity would be key to the recovery of the nation.
- Michaela Neild of Google commented that ‘better and faster access is key’, she added that companies like Google were both reliant on and grateful to, those providing efficient digital infrastructure.
- Ranjit Gill of McKessonUK discussed the Healthtech sectors reliance on digital infrastructure. He asked how the industry could make it easier for organisations to switch from providers and allow non-competitive forces to exist and to help support the most vulnerable in the community?
- Ashley Lumsden of Huawei asked if the industry could expect to see legislative activity between DCMS and the Ministry of Housing to decrease the burdens and difficulties faced by industry when trying to install infrastructure.