Group of business people

UK lawmakers call for government to invest in digital skills

Members of the United Kingdom Parliament called for the government to invest in increased digital training regarding Web3artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain technology in a debate on Tuesday.

Dr. Lisa Cameron MP (Con) chaired the debate and started proceedings by arguing that the U.K. needs to “level up” if it wants to be a superpower across emerging digital technologies.

“While the UK is well placed to harness the opportunities presented by the growth of the digital economy, considerable preparation and investment in education, training and skills will be needed to make the most of those opportunities and to ensure that the UK has the necessary talent pipeline to help it to realise its goal of becoming a tech superpower,”
Cameron said.

She urged the government to ensure that digital skills are taught from the early stages of education as well as in the workplace.

U.K. Minister for Skills, Luke Hall MP (Con), concurred with the need for more training, suggesting that “there are digital skills gaps to address…that gap has been estimated to cost the U.K. economy £63 billion ($79 billion) a year.”

Back in April 2022, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time) set out the government’s ambition to make the U.K. “a global hub for cryptoasset technology” and to make sure the “UK financial services industry is always at the forefront of technology and innovation.”

This pledge was reiterated at Tuesday’s debate, with Cameron noting that “the Government have set out an ambitious vision of establishing the UK as a science and tech superpower.” A goal current Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said is “on track.”

Cameron, however, suggested that more investment is needed to keep the country ‘on track’:

“If we are to realise the vision, we must ensure the U.K. is investing in our talent, ensuring that future generations are equipped with the digital skills they need to take advantage of the new career opportunities for what I would probably call a digital Britain that we will all work together to help create.”

Citing Ripple’s 2018 University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) and Circle University, Cameron suggested that the U.K. should increase its business and education partnerships if it wants to bolster the digital economy.

“Those new and developing technologies have such potential and they could be the key driver of growth for the UK economy moving forward,” she said.

Cameron’s fellow MPs broadly agreed, with Jim Shannon MP (DUP) noting how “Lloyds Bank found that 18% of adults lack the necessary essential digital skills” and, therefore, “consideration should be given to teaching a mandatory ICT lesson within careers classes in all schools across the United Kingdom to ensure that young people have the skills needed to obtain employment in all types of industries.”

Across the aisle, Alex Davies-Jones MP (Lab) also agreed that building digital skills was
important and voiced concerns about “the lack of digital skills among parliamentarians and legislators, particularly as we are trying to catch up legislation and regulation with the online space and the digital world.”

Other topics under discussion included the key challenges faced by those from rural areas and minority backgrounds in the digital technology space, as well as issues around the gender gap. 

“We have talked about a holistic approach and why it is important to level up across the UK and right across the lifespan,” Cameron said, concluding the debate.

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