Brexit. UK gov’t digital strategy vows to build infrastructure in search for £241bn data economy
Department for Culture, Media and Sport also confirms the UK will adopt the GDPR once it comes into force in May 2018.
The UK government has released a seven-point digital strategy for the UK post-Brexit in which it promises to build a world-class digital infrastructure and ecosystem.
From mobile devices, to digital skills, enterprise digital transformation, cybersecurity and digital government, Downing Street has also for the first time laid out its intentions around data infrastructure, including data centres.
On point seven, “Data – unlocking the power of data in the UK economy and improving public confidence in its use”, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport talks through its plans around the infrastructure that supports data processing and storage.
In the document it reads:
“Data infrastructure refers to the assets, technology, processes, and organisations that not only create data, but open it up and allow it to be shared.
“It includes storage facilities, software tools, networks, cyber-security systems, and data-management platforms.
“By strengthening our infrastructure we will create new opportunities for organisations to use data to produce market-changing new products and better public services.
“From easing travel congestion to enabling cheaper insurance, and from speeding up the development of new medicines to helping prevent crime, data has the potential to significantly improve people’s lives.
“This infrastructure is also integral to the successful development of technologies such as connected and autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and the Internet of Things.”
The government’s intention to build on the infrastructure supporting the data economy comes as research by Cebr and SAS shows that the cumulative value of big data and IoT to the UK economy between 2015 and 2020 is en route to top £322bn, about £54bn per year. In total, this is set to represent 2.7% of the UK’s GDP.
From 2015 to 2020, the companies estimate the total benefit to the UK economy of big data analytics to amount to £241bn, or £40bn on average per year. This is equivalent to an average of 2.0% of GDP.
In order to take full advantage of such economy, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has recognised that infrastructure is a crucial asset and data centres are at the heart of the digital age.
However, the data centre industry might experience in the first few months and even years following Brexit a slow-down, according to Keith Breed, research director at Tariff Consultancy.
He told Data Economy: “I suspect that there will be a slow-down in new speculative data centre schemes as there will be some business uncertainty. It seems certain that some financial service firms will relocate to other EU-based hubs. But total 3rd party UK Data Centre space is the largest in Europe – over 700,000m2 – so perhaps growth will level off as the market matures and power and space usage becomes more efficient.
“Also, the investment by Cloud Providers (IBM, Microsoft, AWS, Google, OVH) in the UK will continue due to their need to cater for data sovereignty issues.
“In balance data centre growth is likely to be lower than in the past, due mainly to market maturity, but with opportunities in the UK regions away from London.”
In the digital strategy paper, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said: “We must ensure businesses and government are able to use data in innovative and effective ways.
“This includes creating a strong data infrastructure, having a high level of regulatory compliance, developing a data-literate workforce, and increasing the number of people with advanced data skills.”
Antony Walker, deputy CEO of techUK said: “This Digital Strategy is an important step forward for the UK’s world leading digital economy. It’s both ambitious and comprehensive, and most importantly, it recognises how strategically important our digital know-how is for the rest of the UK economy.
“Importantly, the Strategy recognises that digital is disparate – it is both a sector but also an enabler as technology helps to transform existing industries. That is why the Strategy shrewdly brings together the range of policy areas that underpin digital, recognising that effective policymaking cannot be done in isolation.
“Recognition that data is the lifeblood of the digital economy is spot on, as is the pledge to ensure the UK is at the forefront of robust and effective data protection regulation. Above all, our data must be secure so the emphasis on cyber security is paramount.”
The government has also confirmed that the UK will implement the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by May 2018.
“This will ensure a shared and higher standard of protection for consumers and their data across Europe and beyond,” it said in the digital strategy document.
“As part of our plans for the UK’s exit from the EU, we will be seeking to ensure that data flows remain uninterrupted, and will be considering all the available options that will provide legal certainty for businesses and individuals alike.”