CBI says UK must lead the way on technology regulation

27 March 2019 Consultancy.uk

Addressing the Deloitte Media and Telecomms Conference 2019, the CBI’s Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, has suggested that businesses must work with regulators to build trust in Britain’s burgeoning technology sector. Fairbairn added that such measures could ensure a prosperous future for one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors, even in the shadow of Brexit.

The CBI is the UK's top-billed business organisation, providing a voice for firms at a regional, national and international level to policymakers. The CBI speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors. Together they employ nearly 7 million people, about one-third of the private sector-employed workforce. With 13 offices around the UK, the organisation’s members face an uncertain 2019, as Britain’s businesses brace for the lingering prospect of a No Deal Brexit.

One of the sectors which the CBI represents, the technology industry, faces a watershed moment in the coming months, amid the continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Despite everything, 2018 saw venture capital invest more in UK tech than Germany and France combined, while the Black Country is now hosting world leading research into 5G internet from Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry. In this environment, CBI Director General Carolyn Fairbairn has told business leaders that by seizing the agenda on this front the UK can help insulate its economy from coming headwinds.

CBI calls for UK to lead the way in internet regulation

Speaking at Deloitte Media and Telecomms Conference 2019, Fairbairn, contended that the UK is still well-positioned to build a media and telecoms sector that is the envy of the world. During the speech, she highlighted a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop policies that both protect people from harm and help support the UK’s booming digital economy.

The CBI Director General explained, “There are some momentous choices looming that will shape the course of your sector’s future. They fall into three areas; trade, talent, and trust. Three T-words that make a change from the B-word and in reality are far more important.”

She further related that the future trading relationship for services is both urgent and pressing, and the CBI will ensure the voice of creative services is heard loud and clear. The UK’s service sector could be hit hard by Brexit, as the Department for Exiting the EU has warned that under a No Deal Brexit there would be no mutual recognition of professional qualifications between Britain and the mainland, making for tricky trading relationships in the future.

In relation to this, at present, the UK is said to be facing a ‘brain drain’ as skilled EU nationals and British citizens consider relocating as a result of the potentially diminished opportunities the UK will host post-Brexit. Fairbairn, therefore, also argued that the UK’s position as a magnet for the world’s creative and tech talent must be maintained through education reform at home, embracing diversity and getting its future immigration policy right. 

With regards to trust, meanwhile, innovative technological changes are increasingly seen as worrying rather than exciting developments by a scandal-weary public – tired of having their data unethically farmed for private gain and electoral gerrymandering. Fairbairn advised that, amongst the excitement of all that technology can bring, the tech sector faces a groundswell of mistrust – something which may see a future of greater regulation to assuage such doubts. While traditionally the CBI has favoured laissez-faire capitalism over regulation, Fairbairn suggested that the time to avoid such measures is now past.

She concluded, “If we ask: will industry action alone be enough to restore trust? I think the answer is: no. And that means we can anticipate a future of greater oversight and regulation. We can ignore that fact. We can resist. Or we can do something a little bolder. Anticipate it. Work with it. Shape it.”


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