Britain: The New 'Silicon Island'? - InformationWeek

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6/18/2013
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Britain: The New 'Silicon Island'?

The U.K.'s recently launched Information Economy Strategy could take off, but it will require a skilled workforce and a strong infrastructure.

More details have emerged about the U.K.'s recently launched national Information Economy strategy.

According to Westminster, the plan, which sets a vision for a thriving U.K. information economy that enhances national competitiveness, can succeed only if the country can develop both a highly skilled digital workforce and an adequate digital infrastructure to support long-term tech growth, innovation and excellence. Westminster emphasizes the need for digital technologies and information to drive productivity and create new growth opportunities across the whole economy.

Stakeholders in the strategy are confident about it, describing the U.K. business environment as "generally conducive to the information economy" and citing U.K. citizens' keenness to adopt new technologies along with the plethora of high-tech global companies located here. One respondent went so far as to encourage the U.K. to brand itself as 'Silicon Island.'

[ For more on the U.K.'s information economy plan, see Britain Launches National 'Information Economy' Strategy. ]

Any real-world initiatives drawing on these lofty visions will likely be coordinated by the Information Economy Council, an organization set up by government and industry to drive the plan forward. The Council includes representatives of Amazon, Google, HP Labs, IBM and Cisco, as well as U.K. governmental and academic voices and British entrepreneurs such as Sherry Coutu, voted by the U.K. version of Wired magazine as one the Top 25 Most Influential Digiterati in 2011.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which first initiated the strategy, has released more data on the current state of the U.K.'s information economy. It reports that the information sector contributed no less than £58 billion ($91 billion) of gross added value to the British national pocketbook in 2011 alone and that 1.5 million Brits worked in either information economy or IT jobs in 2011.

Meanwhile, there are signs of increasing U.K. interest in apprenticeships as a route into a well-paid tech career. The government reports a 35% hike in information and communication technology apprenticeships in 2010 and 2011.

Our 2013 IT Spending Priorities Survey shows IT pros are playing catch-up after a period of underfunding. Also in the new, all-digital Vicious Circle issue of InformationWeek: Twitter's security boost might be too little, too late. (Free registration required.)

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