SME News March 2017

30 SME NEWS / March 2017 , of growth and productivity and we are determined to protect and strengthen them. This Digital Strategy sets a path to make Britain the best place to start and grow a digital business, trial a new technology, or undertake advanced research as part of the government’s plan to build a modern, dynamic and global trading nation. “To do that, we will work closely with businesses and others to make sure the benefits and opportunities are spread across the country so nobody is left behind. There should be no digital divide - every individual and every business should have the skills and confidence to make the most of digital technology and have easy access to high- quality internet wherever they live, work, travel or learn.” At the heart of the strategy are steps to ensure everyone can develop the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly digital world and measures to help businesses harness the benefits of innovation. The UK government has taken the lead in this area and has committed to help adults who lack core digital skills to access training free of charge, similar to the approach taken for literacy and numeracy. The strategy builds on this by establishing a Digital Skills Partnership and, as part of the Digital Strategy, the government has secured the following new pledges from private sector organisations: • Google will launch a Summer of Skills programme in coastal towns across the UK. It will develop bespoke digital skills training schemes to help boost tourism and growth in seaside towns; • Lloyds Banking Group is to give face-to-face digital skills training to 2.5 million individuals, small and medium businesses and charities by 2020. The training, as part of its Helping Britain Prosper Plan, will include internet banking; • Barclays will assist up to one million people with general digital skills and cyber awareness in 2017, grow its UK Eagle Lab network by up to 100% and teach basic coding to 45,000 children; • BT will expand its Barefoot Computing Project to enable a further 500,000 children to develop early computational thinking skills by the end of the 2017/18 academic year. The scheme helps primary school teachers with no previous computer science background feel confident to teach the new computing science curriculum; • The HP Foundation will bring a free online learning platform - HP LIFE - to the UK. This will improve business, IT and digital skills for disadvantaged groups in the UK and aims to reach 6,000 new UK users over the next five years and; • Accenture will partner with FutureLearn to develop a new national digital skills programme to boost learning through online collaboration. Through partners, the programme could reach as many as 100,000 people across the UK. Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “UK companies are at the forefront of the digital revolution. The pledges announced by the government underline businesses’ commitment to build the skills we need for a modern economy, as well as tackle barriers to technology adoption. To uphold our position as a world-leading digital economy businesses, we and the government need to work together - the strategy’s focus on skills, connectivity and innovation provide a useful framework for this.” Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech City UK, said: “The UK’s tech sector is rapidly becoming a global force to reckon with, but we must ensure that we stay ahead by continuing to provide a supportive environment for British start-ups and digital companies to grow in, especially since other countries are trying to take advantage of our departure from the European Union. In the UK tech sector jobs are being created at twice the rate of the wider economy and the Digital Strategy provides an ambitious road map for the industry to continue growing at this rate and building a new economy fit for the future.” Nick Williams, managing director, consumer and commercial digital at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “I’m delighted that Lloyds Banking Group, as part of its new Helping Britain Prosper Plan, has made such a significant commitment to improve digital skills in the UK. By working with the Digital Skills Partnership and our key partners such as Google and The Good Things Foundation, we can help to tackle some of the issues raised by the government’s Digital Strategy. Our commitment to provide face-to-face support will make a huge difference to millions of individuals, small businesses and charities across the UK.” Ronan Harris, Google Managing Director UK & Ireland, said: “We believe that digital can have a transformative impact, no matter where you live and what your job is. Everyone deserves access to the tools and opportunities the web has to offer and that is why we welcome the government’s timely Digital Strategy which ensures the benefits of the digital economy are spread across the country. “We are delighted to be part of the Digital Skills Partnership and will continue to invest in the free skills training offered through the Digital Garage, launch a new programme aiming to help seaside communities and - as a global first - are launching engineering apprenticeships, giving young people without a degree the opportunity to join Google’s world class software teams.” The strategy also contains new measures to support Britain’s world leading AI sector which were announced recently. A major AI review led by Wendy Hall and Jérôme Pesenti to identify the critical elements for this exciting technology to thrive and grow in the UK. It will consider how government and industry could work together to back this technology, with the aim of establishing the potential for a possible sector deal. The UK is already a world-leader in the science underpinning this technology and the sector has the potential to grow further, from early research to commercialisation.