Digital secretary: ‘We will be an unashamedly pro-technology government in all that we do’

Written by Sam Trendall on 15 January 2020 in News
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Nicky Morgan sets out five core principles to promote the use of tech for economic and social benefit

Credit: Anthony Upton/PA Wire/PA Images

Digital secretary Nicky Morgan has claimed that the new Westminster regime “will be an unashamedly pro-technology government in all that we do”.

This, Morgan said in a speech this week, would the first of “five key principles” that will drive the government’s work to use technology to deliver economic and social benefit in the coming years. 

Its pro-technology credentials will manifest in the government considering what it can do to “sustain, intensify and spread” the growth of UK tech firms. 

“There is so much potential if we can help support the development, application and the adoption of next-generation digital technologies – across all of our industries,” Morgan said.

“There are of course broader social benefits too. These technologies, if developed responsibly, are central to the future of our communities [and] they will help transform public services and the relationship between governments and citizens.”

The second principle that will inform the government’s technology agenda is “to make sure the benefits of technology are spread more widely and shared more fairly”, Morgan said.

The digital secretary added that she wants to “make sure our tech sector is an engine of social mobility, with a focus on tech clusters outside of the capital”.


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“We can only truly view the digital revolution as a success if its positive forces – the jobs, the investment and the creative opportunities – are used to break down barriers, rather than to entrench them,” she said. “That means ensuring all people and all businesses have the tools they need to adopt and benefit from digital technologies – the connectivity, the capability and the confidence.”

The third technology tenet cited by Morgan is the “to drive growth through pro-innovation regulation”. 

This principle will be evidenced, she claimed, by the upcoming National Data Strategy, which DCMS is currently putting together, and examining regulations in the fields of advertising and journalism to ensure they are fit for the digital age.

“We have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in nimble, proportionate and pro-innovation regulation, giving us a competitive advantage at this important time in our history,” she said. “So, we are developing a new strategic and joined-up approach for regulating and governing digital technologies.”

“Making sure that our online spaces are places where anyone can feel safe and secure” will be the government’s penultimate principle for technology.  

To which end, Morgan pointed to last year’s Online Harms White Paper, which set out proposals such as the establishment of a regulatory office to ensure that online platforms are delivering a newly mandated statutory duty of care for users.

Government and governance
The final central principle set out by the digital secretary is “a commitment to a free and open internet”.

"We will continue to oppose those authoritarian governments that want to bring the management of the internet under inter-governmental control."
Baroness Morgan

“The UK will continue to be a global champion of the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance, in which a variety of different actors play important roles in how the internet itself is run,” she said. “We will continue to oppose those authoritarian governments that want to bring the management of the internet under inter-governmental control.”

Morgan concluded the speech – which was given at an event (pictured above) held by the Tech Talent Charter, a non-profit body dedicated to tackling inequality and promoting in the technology industry – by telling attendees that the five areas she had picked out are “critically important if we are to achieve our vision”.

“Of course, these five areas are not stand-alone silos,” she added. “They are all deeply connected; the infrastructure, the investment, the policy and regulatory environment, and the skills and the security. We need each and every one of these if we are going to harness technology in a way that works for us all.”

Morgan was appointed as DCMS secretary in July 2019. She remained in post after the election – despite having stood down as an MP. Having been made a Conservative life peer, she now sits in the Lords and goes by Baroness Morgan of Cotes.

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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