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The economy of Digital Britain, and the risks online enterprises face have been widely reported. In fact only this morning Eric Schmidt was talking up the role of entrepreneurs and Internet-based businesses in driving the UK economy forwards. However, today also saw Chancellor George Osborne step up to the speaker’s podium at Google Zeitgeist, where he delivered an extensive speech on the fiscal side of our online economy.
Amongst the interesting statistics and statements was the admission that all public services will be delivered online, apart from where it is unworkable. Mr Osborne used the example of driving licence renewals to show where money could be saved; suggesting that the manual process would cost £10 per application, whilst online this is only £2. Of course this has been happening slowly over the past few years; however now, the government is pushing it further, making the Internet a default option.
The figurehead for these changes is Martha Lane Fox, who has been given the rather daunting title of Digital Champion for the government [see: UK Government Launch Online Manifesto]. As part of this role, fox will look to streamline government services as well as helping to give more opportunities to start-ups. This is already bearing fruit, with the announcement that there will be a single government site for all departments -www.alpha.gov.uk.
Chancellor Osborne also took time to address some of the dangers that faced a digital economy, not least the threat of external attacks. He claims that over 20,000 malicious emails were sent to government networks each month, with the Treasury providing the most popular target. This is why they are investing £650m in the National Cyber Security Programme, providing better protection for online systems and helping to keep data out of the wrong hands.
New initiatives such as the Innovation Launch Pad, which allowed small companies to pitch pioneering technologies to the government, were also discussed. This clearly indicates that the Internet and online businesses are being treated seriously by the powers that be. It’s certainly an optimistic message, but with a cautionary tone. Entrepreneurs are key to the country’s economy, but there’s still a long way to go to streamline the government and break down bureaucratic barriers for businesses.
To read the Chancellor’s speech in full, visit the press release on the official HM Treasury website.