In times of crisis we see the true power of technological innovation.
In the last few weeks, as we’ve fought to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, accuRx, a trusted tool for GPs to send text messages to patients, built a video consultation product over one weekend. The service is now being used by more than 90% of practices for online appointments.
Intelligent Ultrasound, a simulation tool to teach healthcare workers to look for signs of respiratory disease, has been released to customers for free and is already being used by staff at the temporary 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale Hospital at London’s Excel Centre.
Video games companies have also worked with the government and added our “stay at home, save lives” messaging into their products and associated social media. Alongside King, Codemasters and Rebellion, there has been an overwhelming response from the sector.
Meanwhile, taken-for-granted video calling apps such as WhatsApp, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Zoom have become essentials, allowing millions of families and friends to stay close to loved ones and connect with colleagues.
“Many people will for the first time see and appreciate the capacity of technology to improve their lives.”
These are immensely difficult times but I am thankful we are facing them with modern technology.
Many people will for the first time see and appreciate the capacity of technology to improve their lives. I hope they will benefit from it in the years ahead too.
Those who are dependent on essential public services can now access many of them online. People who have never before used online banking services are seeing the ease with which it can be done. Groceries can be delivered to the front door thanks to online shopping and exercise classes on social media are bringing people together and encouraging them to keep fit.
This is possible due to several factors. We have heavily invested in digital infrastructure and mobile connectivity, we have pumped billions of pounds into world-leading research and development, and we recognise the ingenuity and skill of millions of people who work in the many sectors enabled by entrepreneurs and businesses in our globally-renowned technology sector.
“Yesterday, the government announced a new £1.25bn funding package for British businesses driving innovation and development.“
Yesterday, the government announced a new £1.25bn funding package for British businesses driving innovation and development.
The package includes a £500m investment fund for high-growth companies impacted by the crisis. Small and medium-size businesses focusing on research and development will also benefit from £750m of grants and loans.
The move will help companies and startups in technology get through the crisis and support entrepreneurs and firms in life sciences and the creative industries. The ambition is to back these industries to be an engine of economic recovery and to power our growth out of the coronavirus crisis.
As we continue to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, I want to pay tribute to those keeping us connected: the telecoms engineers fixing masts and maintaining servers, the digital businesses helping other companies go online, and the major tech, telecoms and creative content companies supporting the government’s national response.
The crisis has brought home the value of the UK’s technology sector and reaffirmed my aim to make sure its benefits are seized by more businesses across a range of sectors, by more of our public services, and by as many people as possible.
We are determined to back those with the skill and aptitude to turn ideas into tangible products and to support the next generation of high-growth businesses.
Earlier this year, data from Tech Nation and Dealroom showed venture capital investment in the country’s technology sector surged 44% to a record £10.1bn, outstripping growth in the US and China last year. It accounted for a third of all European funding and exceeded the total of France and Germany combined.
“We must make sure Britain continues to be the best place in Europe to start and grow innovative businesses.”
We must make sure Britain continues to be the best place in Europe to start and grow innovative businesses and that growth spreads across the country to benefit the whole economy.
We are determined to support a tech-led recovery by making sure everyone can access gigabit-capable broadband speeds and has the digital skills and confidence they need to participate online.
We will build on the UK’s great strengths in cutting-edge digital and data technologies — from artificial intelligence to quantum computing — and encourage those people who can turn their ideas into new businesses and jobs.
We will work with businesses to help them use more digital technology and transform their productivity and competitiveness.
And to give people the confidence to seize the opportunities of modern technology online, we will create a safe and secure digital world, bringing people and communities together and supporting a flourishing society.
The coronavirus crisis has taught us how quickly the technology sector can rise to new challenges.
We are determined to make sure it is at the heart of our recovery.
Oliver Dowden is the UK secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.