An eye for the tiger

The CBI has called for the UK to gain a reputation as a ‘digital tiger’ in order to become the leading place to invest.

The CBI has called for the UK to gain a reputation as a ‘digital tiger’ in order to become the leading place to invest.

The CBI has called for the UK to gain a reputation as a ‘digital tiger’ in order to become the leading place to invest.

The trade body estimates that ‘the internet’ already contributes the equivalent of 7.2 per cent of GDP for the UK. This is predicted to grow to 10 per cent by 2015. It is already worth more to the domestic economy than construction or transport.

However, the UK currently lags behind its European counterparts in adopting and implementing Information Communications Technology (ICT) advances. Britain ranks 15th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011, in terms of its integration of ICT structures into the economy. The Far East leads the way, with Sweden, Denmark and Norway’s top ten presence highlighting the importance the Nordic countries place on ICT.

In order to become the ‘primary western location for business investment,’ the CBI says the UK will need to have the best broadband infrastructure in Europe.

Enhancement on this scale can’t happen without government backing. Despite its austerity agenda, the government must begin investing in next generation infrastructure or risk the UK’s future as a credible location for innovation and a hub for the creative industries.

But it’s not just about infrastructure; the government must also demonstrate understanding of the business of technology. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to overhaul the 2003 Communications Act, which currently regulates broadband, mobile telephony and television. His vision for a new Bill is critically important for the UK’s future. Critically, it must include a commitment to ‘net neutrality’. This means that no form of internet traffic should be prioritised over any other type. Allow any firm or content a privileged position on the internet and you potentially cripple innovation and competition. It’s hard to imagine YouTube becoming the online behemoth it is today if it had been charged more by ISPs than providers of different content.

Perhaps not surprisingly, ISPs and large media and telecoms corporations are not in favour of net neutrality. But Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, sees the success of the web stemming from the fact that it has, until now, remained open. Hunt would do well to recognise Berners-Lee’s wisdom, a man whose legacy is likely to be greater than any other Brit alive today, and enshrine net neutrality in the Bill.

The CBI outlined its ‘digital tiger’ vision in its 48-page report entitled Making the UK the best place to invest. However, it’s done nothing to shake off its detractors’ claims that it is primarily the voice of big business by avoiding any mention of net neutrality whatsoever in it report.

The government must support and develop the best technological infrastructure possible and provide a level playing field where the savvy startup can compete with the media giant. The market can decide the rest.

Todd Cardy

Todd Cardy

Todd was Editor of between 2010 and 2011 as well as being responsible for publishing our digital and printed magazines focusing on private equity and venture capital.

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