Budget 2017: BCS welcomes Chancellor’s investment in technology infrastructure, AI, education, training and apprenticeships

22 November 2017

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT has welcomed the progress represented by the Government’s plans for investment in technology and education, announced in today’s Autumn Budget 2017.

David Evans, Director of Policy said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s evident commitment to a digital future for the UK. The Government clearly recognises the urgent need to invest in computing education and ethics, which will be vital for a thriving society, and a vibrant UK economy post-Brexit. He is right to have recognised the need for further significant investment in education, tripling the number of trained computer science teachers to 12,000. This will see a fully qualified GCSE computer science teacher in every secondary school.

There can now no longer be any doubt as to how essential digital technology, infrastructure and related skills are for the UK’s future. We are pleased to see the Chancellor’s range of investment proposals, including his plans to invest £75m in artificial intelligence (AI), £400m for electric car charge points, as well as £160m for next-generation 5G mobile networks across the UK. The £84m he has made available for an additional 8,000 fully-qualified computer science teachers supported by a new National Centre for Computing is also good news.

The impact of technological change on work, and ensuring a bright future for our workforce is incredibly important. We were delighted to see the retraining partnership between the TUC (Trade Union Congress), CBI (Confederation of British Industry) and the Government, set to deliver a £30 million fund. This investment will help people to benefit from emerging technologies as they train for digital tech jobs in one of the fastest growing sectors across Britain. It is fantastic to see business and union representatives working together on this topic.”

Data Ethics:

The centre for Data Ethics and Innovation will set standards for the use and ethics of AI and data. Ethics in emerging technology is necessary to ensure that the public can have trust and confidence in new technologies, as well as ensuring that the UK is a reliable place to invest in new technology and build innovative businesses.

Education:

  • £100m for an additional 8,000 fully-qualified computer science teachers, supported by a new National Centre for Computing

Bill Mitchell, Director of Education said: “Based on existing cohort sizes, and the level of capability currently in schools, we estimate that upskilling 8000 computing teachers would provide a critical mass of capability across the school system. This would both meet the needs at GCSE and ensure that the non-specialists which will still inevitably be called upon to teach non-examination classes have access to support from a teacher in their school with the necessary subject knowledge.”

Apprenticeships:

Bill Mitchell, Director of Education at BCS says: “I welcome the government’s continued commitment to apprenticeships. All the evidence shows that a high-quality work placement is a key ingredient to enable students to have a successful professional career. That’s why we’re hugely supportive of apprenticeships which focus on providing that kind of placement, but the massive challenge for government is to provide enough of these high-quality placements to meet student demand.”

Digital Infrastructure - Superfast Broadband:

  • £160m for next-generation 5G mobile networks across the UK
  • A further £35m will be used to give rail passengers reliable mobile connections and "lightning-speed" internet during journeys. Trials are due to begin on the Trans-Pennine route, which connects Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.

David Evans, Director of Policy said: “We welcome news of investment in the digital infrastructure, but given the situation around Brexit, we feel that more is needed to ensure that all parts of the UK can benefit from increased access to better digital infrastructure. This is especially the case as it’s not sufficient or as widely reaching as is needed. Digital infrastructure policies will become more important to the UK outside the EU since, to a greater extent than it is now, our capability will be benchmarked against other countries across the globe. The European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index 2017 ranks the UK as seventh, slipping down one position from 2016. The UK is rated as part of a group of countries that are ‘lagging ahead’, scoring above the EU average, but whose development is now very slow, and as such is lagging in comparison to the progress of the EU as a whole.”

He continues: “The UK needs high speed, pervasive and reliable broadband access throughout the whole country in order to support our existing ambitions in everything from education to economic growth, as well as to prepare for future proliferation of devices and data.”

“The UK will need to build on its considerable existing capabilities in multidisciplinary innovation around data by addressing barriers that otherwise might reduce the UK’s international competitiveness in this field, including the need to ensure that data sharing and the operation of data-driven systems can occur across international, as well as sectoral and organisational boundaries.”

AI:

David Evans, Director of Policy at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “Disruptive technologies such as AI  and robotics have the potential to alter every aspect of the lives of future generations. It’s welcome that there is some investment into the scientists and researchers to develop solutions in this area, but more sustained funding for AI research will be needed over the next 10 years to make sure that the UK is truly competitive on the global stage.

These new technologies are going to fundamentally change the jobs that we do, it’s vitally important that we ensure people are prepared for the coming challenges. This investment will go some way in improving that.”

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