Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Global Digital Britain

November 21, 2017

Taking the right strategic decisions over the next few weeks and months could help create a Global Digital Britain – a Britain that is economically open, engages actively with partners around the world and is at the forefront of developing and embracing new technologies.

Changing context

It’s clear that last year’s EU referendum has thrown a number of issues in the air. Businesses – in addition to getting on with business brilliantly – are focusing on some of the more immediate ones: managing uncertainty, contingency planning and staff.

This December’s European Council is being seen as a critical juncture and tech businesses will want to see, amongst other things, guarantees on the status of EU nationals in the UK and strong signals that there will be a transitional period agreed in the very near future that will allow businesses to plan ahead.

However, looking further afield, it’s also clear that Brexit it not the only issue shaping the business environment going forward. Businesses across all sectors of the economy are seeing digital technologies playing a more and more central role in their product and service offerings as well in all manner of business processes whether relating to production, logistics or HR.

Here at Cisco we believe we’re only at the very beginning of seeing the impact of tech on businesses. Our annual Visual Networking Index (VNI) looks into the near future to forecast the major trends in digital networks. Our latest VNI from this June predicts that the number of devices connected to the internet in the UK will increase from 371 million in 2016 to 629 million in 2021 and other, longer-term forecasts, predict much greater rises to come. Businesses will be a big driver of this trend through employing more IoT devices.

It’s also clear that this process of digitisation is already a very international one. McKinsey & Company’s fascinating report ‘Digital Globalization: the new era of global flows’ shows how the volume of cross-border data flows has increased 45-fold in the past decade or so with no real sign of this trend abating and that these global data flows are having an ever greater impact on global GDP growth.

So where do Brexit and digitisation come together?

With technology adoption becoming more central to UK businesses’ strategies and to boosting labour productivity, it’s imperative that Brexit-related uncertainty is minimised so that investment in these critical technologies is not held back.

However, Brexit also tees up some clear opportunities that the UK can capitalise on to forge a leading role in this new global digital economy that is currently being shaped. The UK Government has three great opportunities to do this coming up that businesses need to rally round.

  • The first is the Budget on 22 November. With a number of recent reports again highlighting the interplay between technology and productivity, the budget offers an opportunity to invest or incentivise investment in the right sort of digital infrastructure, technologies and skills that are going to get Britain’s productivity record heading in the right direction. This is a golden opportunity to set the foundations for a digitally-fuelled industrial revolution in the UK.
  • Second, the Government is planning to publish its Industrial Strategy next week. This is a great opportunity to reflect the importance of digital across different sectors and how businesses and government can work together to maximise the opportunities here.
  • Thirdly, as the government thinks about a trade deals with the EU next year and with other countries and regions from as soon as 2019, it should adopt a 21st Century, pro-digital trade and international engagement policy. This means ensuring trade agreements reflect the growing importance of digital by ensuring data can flow freely across international borders and barriers to offering cross-border digital services are minimised.

Cisco is already proactively working with Government to ensure that as a country, we have the right foundations in place in terms of digital technical capability and infrastructure.

Let’s take the opportunities in the next few months to build on those foundations and create a Global Digital Britain.

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