Budget 2020: Can chancellor bolster UK tech industry?

News by Rene Millman

Chancellor Rishi Sunak earmarks more than £5bn for Britain’s digital infrastructure; manpower shortage in tech & cyber goes unaddressed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled his first Budget in which he promised more than £5 billion of investment into Britain’s digital infrastructure.

The money will be used to spread gigabit broadband to the remote corners of the UK, around 20 percent of the country, benefitting more than five million homes and businesses. This follows a pledge by the prime minister to ensure every home has access to the next-generation internet tech by 2025.

The government would invest £510 million into a partnership with the UK’s mobile operators to eradicate signal “not spots” in the countryside, Sunak said. The industry will put up £532 million towards the project.

The Science Institute in Weybridge, Surrey, would get a £1.4 billion funding increase, said the chancellor. The Entrepreneurs' Relief will be preserved, but lifetime allowance will be lowered from £10 million to £1 million, he added. Around 80 percent of small businesses are not affected.

Jonathan Young, CIO at FDM Group, told SC Media UK that tackling the UK’s digital skills shortfall should have been a top priority for the chancellor.

With so many companies crying out for staff who are adept in specialist disciplines such as cyber, analytics and machine learning, it’s essential that businesses and the government work together to get more young people into STEM subjects. Key to this effort is ensuring that the next generation has access to inspirational speakers, innovative work experience placements and are correctly informed about the impressive pay, perks and career benefits associated with a job in the tech industry,” he said.

Ben Hansford, managing director (apprenticeships) at Firebrand Training, said that the March Budget should have recognised that the UK is in the midst of a growing productivity and digital skills crisis and that smart investment in apprenticeships is critical.

The country is in dire need of an allocation of money into both key skills and people who need to be upskilled urgently,” he said. “There must be a focus on training young people and unskilled people in the skills the UK desperately needs, like cyber-security and IT, manufacturing and other critical STEM subjects. This, as well as other key initiatives around adult education such as Adult Learner Loans, must be highlighted in the budget if Post-Brexit Britain wants to remain competitive in the global economy.”

With Covid-19 (Coronavirus) causing disruption across the UK, tech can play a key role in helping businesses to operate as usual, but far too many company owners lack the tools needed to make this happen, said Sridhar Iyengar, managing director - Europe at Zoho.

With this in mind, the Chancellor needs to provide more detail about his plans to support UK SMEs at this critical time, to protect jobs and offer guidance and support to concerned business leaders,” he said.

Many of the Covid-themed phishing instances show that financial institutions are the largest targets, SC Media UK reported this week. The sector has been a low-hanging fruit for cyber-criminals.

Financial crime in the UK is still very much prevalent and, despite extensive efforts to tackle it, dirty money is still pedalled through UK banks and financial services institutions every day, said Wayne Johnson, CEO and co-founder of Encompass Corporation.

“It’s great to see that the chancellor is facing this issue head-on with a sizable investment in new enforcement and regulation tactics. This money will be able to fund new investigative technology, the effectiveness of which can not be understated: cutting-edge Know Your Customer (KYC) regulation technology, for example, is extremely valuable when it comes to enhancing the efficiency and quality of banking due diligence, providing comprehensive background checks on companies from all sectors of domestic and international business,” he said.

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