Minister of culture and the digital economy praises government’s technology achievements but says it is looking to the future
Digital Economy minister Ed Vaizey has praised the government’s achievements in broadband deployment and digital services and said he wants the UK to be a leader in the next wave of technologies, including the development of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Speaking at the Huawei Ultra Broadband Forum in London, Vaizey said the migration of government services to the single gov.uk portal had made activities like paying taxes and applying for passports, more efficient, more responsive and saved the government billions of pounds.
“We now know as a government what citizens do in real time,” he said, suggesting that the US decision to follow suit was a vindication of the strategy. “The least used government activity is applying for a licence to be buried at sea.”
Government digital strategy
Vaizey also applauded the “hugely effective” Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, promising it would connect four million premises by 2016. Government broadband projects have already connected one million properties so far, but BDUK has come in for constant scrutiny.
MPs have questioned the wisdom of awarding all the money available to BT, arguing it has given the company a rural broadband monopoly, and have called for more transparency.
However Vaizey says the government has laid the “train tracks” for the digital revolution and promised the UK would be a great place for foreign companies to make IoT investments with a spectrum strategy to reflect this.
He also expressed the country’s desire to be a “world leader” in 5G, citing partnerships with universities, business and the German government.
Earlier this week, conservative MP and former science minister David Willets said the UK had an opportunity to take the lead in 5G development and the IoT, with the department for culture, media and sport, promising the “best possible” policy and legislation environment.
“Politicians are boastful types and we like to take credit for other people’s achievements but I am genuinely very proud of where we are in the UK,” Vaizey told the audience. “Although I get the blunt end from people who are frustrated if they haven’t yet got superfast broadband, there is no doubt at all on any measurement that the UK stands tall among similar economies in terms of our broadband infrastructure.
“I’m also pleased we are a country that welcomes investment in technology. We welcome companies like Huawei investing here, we welcome other companies that come here to invest because we think we have a good business climate and a good skill base.”