On Wednesday 17 November, PICTFOR hosted their Research and Development Event, titled: How can the tech sector further drive innovation in the UK’s economy and help to close the digital divide?
The session featured insights from PICTFOR Vice-Chair, Matt Warman MP, Shadow Science, Research and Digital Minister, Chi Onwurah MP, Chair of the Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Advisory Council, and PICTFOR Industry Chair, Simon Blagden CBE. The event was chaired by the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP.
Please see below for minutes of the session.
- PICTFOR Vice-Chair and former DCMS Minister, Matt Warman MP began the discussion by emphasising the long term disconnect between what the tech sector says it wants and needs, and what our universities, schools and education system can produce, adding that government has an important role to play in creating the right conditions for a digitally skilled workforce. He pointed out that the tech sector has an essential role to play in providing the essential connectivity that people need to deliver digital transformation, noting that collaboration with government to ensure maximum transparency was key. Matt noted that when this transparency is present, government and the Regulator can then quickly identify the areas where intervention is needed. On the levelling up agenda and bridging divides, Matt suggested that government is best placed to provide meaningful change when working with local businesses and communities, using the example of the West Midlands as the gold standard for digital investment which emboldens communities. He closed by highlighting how important it is that this agenda of investing in the key resources for communities to thrive, such as digital infrastructure and skills, is rolled-out across the UK.
- Shadow Science, Research and Digital Minister, Chi Onwurah MP used her position as a self-confessed tech evangelist to emphasise the lack of government action in championing digital inclusion and closing the digital divide, reminding attendees that the last digital inclusion strategy was published in 2014. She stressed the importance of the Government having a robust regulatory framework to ensure that digital skills and training is provided to all citizens following on from the pandemic. Chi suggested that the tech sector can best contribute to this by increasing access and availability, citing the need to increase diversity in the industry as representation is ‘way below average’.
- Chair of the Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Advisory Council, Simon Blagden CBE stated that, as PICTFOR’s Industry Chair, he has had the privilege to meet many people from the sector and pick up on what is needed for greater skills capabilities in digital industries. He stressed the need for businesses and individuals to adapt to the fast pace in which technology is moving. Adding that many big businesses need to be more involved in the education sector to ensure that the future workforce is adequately trained for roles in tech. Simon suggested that the Government also needs to step in and support small innovative companies that are involved in developing new technology, to ensure there are the appropriate resources for greater communication between graduates and smaller companies who can offer careers but find it more difficult to recruit. He also stressed the importance of digital inclusion and added that the Government must work to ensure that the hardest to reach areas of the UK are enabled as best they can be through the provision of digital infrastructure.
You can catch up on the entire event below.