Britain’s tech industry is waiting with bated breath to hear what’s to come from new Prime Minister Liz Truss, with some big issues sat in her inbox.
Perhaps the biggest and most pressing decision concerns what to do with DCMS (the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport). Not only is Truss the UK’s fourth PM in six years, Michelle Donelan’s recent appointment to Secretary of State for DCMS makes her the seventh person to hold the position since 2017.
There’s also the issue of appointing a new Minister for Digital within DCMS, who will report directly to Donelan.
All this points to a department in flux, making it difficult to say with any confidence how this government will move on the issues facing the tech industry going forward.
One concern is the looming deadline for Project Gigabit – the drive to equip all homes and businesses across the UK with superfast broadband.
A manifesto promise made back in 2015 was to achieve a 95% roll out by the end of 2017 (itself having been pushed back from an earlier target of May 2015). Then in 2019 came a new manifesto with a new pledge: to provide every home and business with full fibre broadband by 2025. This has since been scaled down to 85% coverage by 2025 and at least 99% coverage by 2030.
Achieving these targets, having already pushed them back, will almost certainly be a top priority.
There are also controversies around the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill to navigate. The new legislation has been billed as a modern update on GDPR, providing a freer set of rules and guidelines that will be more sympathetic to businesses than the one-size-fits-all approach of its EU-driven predecessor.
However, critics of the new bill have said it too closely aligns the government with the Information Commissioner’s Office – thereby undermining the latter’s crucial independence.
Truss’s government has already said it doesn’t plan to move ahead with the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill in its current guise, though no clear indication has yet been provided on whether it will stay in limbo or return with amendments. With these decisions (and countless more) still to take, the tech industry will be awaiting where Truss and her team position themselves on digital, and what direction that takes the industry over the months and years ahead.