The UK has established itself as one of the key global players in the tech sector. The country’s tech businesses attracted a staggering £6.3bn in venture capital investment in 2018 alone, while over a third of Europe and Israel’s unicorn companies (those valued at more than $1bn) started in the UK. And when it comes to FinTech, the UK leads the global league table. For a nation with only 1% of the world’s population, the country is punching above its weight when it comes to tech.
The scale of the impact is becoming greater as the capability of technology accelerates. A study by LawGeex , the legal tech start-up, pitched a group of experienced lawyers against artificial intelligence in a race which involved checking 153 paragraphs and 3,213 clauses in 5 contracts. When it came to performance, artificial intelligence did as well as the highest performing lawyer (although was 9% more accurate than the average). But when it came to speed, the difference was remarkable. While the lawyers took an average of 92 minutes to review the contracts, the artificial intelligence took just 26 seconds: in excess of 200 times faster than the lawyers. It highlights the accelerating capability of technology and the potential it has to disrupt.
This is going to result in significant changes. As technology gets better and better, every sector will be impacted. It will result in many new jobs being created. More than 8 out of 10 jobs in 2030 have not been invented yet, according to research by the Institute for the Future. It will also mean many existing jobs will also be swept away. McKinsey, the global management consultancy, anticipates that 45% of work activities could be automated by existing technologies.
The impact of the changes is nowhere more evident than on the country’s high streets. Technology has completely changed the retail experience where supply chains have become fully automated and innovative business models have made existing ones obsolete. The technology giants, like Amazon and Google, have simply changed the rules of the game. And the consequences can be seen in every town centre and in every shopping centre, where once big retails brands are having to close, simply because they failed to respond to the process of digitisation.
With these changes, some people are being left behind. A study by Lloyds Bank found that 41% of sole traders have low digital capability and that with improved digital capability, they could each generate additional sales of £24,000 per annum. It is forecast that 4.5m adults will be digitally disengaged by 2030.
There are also concerns about the ethics of our digital world. As digitisation incorporates higher levels of intelligence, there are growing concerns that it is failing to operate ethically, including fears that the system architects have hard-baked prejudices into the technology.
With all these challenges, it’s crucial that we take action. This includes building digital infrastructure so that no one suffers from not being connected. We also need to develop digital skills and capability, so that everyone can benefit from the benefits of digitisation. And we need to create an environment that supports digital opportunities to be capitalised responsibly.
It’s only by doing so that we will build a digital Britain that works for all its citizens.