The digital economy is something that is often spoken about but which to some degree feels remote to us here in the north-east of Scotland.
The reality is a little different and there are a number of burgeoning businesses in and around Aberdeen which have the digital economy at their heart and which could present a new and exciting future in the digital space but also for the oil & gas and food & drink sectors in particular, with the new ONE Digital platform of Opportunity
North East poised to become a central part of growing digital companies across the region.
From a legal point of view, legislation is now being put in place to govern the digital landscape. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond announced plans in the autumn Budget 2017 for a new advisory body (the Centre for Data Ethics) to enable and ensure safe and ethical innovation in Artificial Intelligence and data driven technologies. The government also outlined its ambition to see fully self-driving cars, without a human operator, on UK roads by 2021 and with the impending implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), storing and processing personal data will become a more onerous task and could encompass a different kind of “byte” if an organisation is found to be non-compliant. These changes could have a profound effect on all sectors across the north-east.
The autumn Budget also contained a commitment from the UK Government to establish Britain as a “world leader in new technologies such as artificial intelligence”. The budget included a £75million commitment to take forward various recommendations recently published in a government-commissioned independent report. It also announced plans to fund both university and school education relating to digital and AI skills.
Will the Scottish Government follow suit? In addition to the investments in academia, there are also plans and investment for a ‘Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation’, to deal with the issues that arise in relation to the new generation of smarter technologies. Although the EU Commission is beginning to develop legislation to deal with the risks posed by key parts of the digital economy including AI and robotics, which could come into force before Brexit, the UK is fast catching up in pushing forward more detailed plans as to how its legislation needs to be shaped.
It is clear that the pace of change for such proposed legislation will quicken over the next two years.
The world is already moving quickly in relation to the digital economy and the law will need to change rapidly to catch up. Where do all those changes leave us in the north-east? Ensuring that our key local industries evolve with the digital economy with the assistance of ONE Digital, the OGTC and other bodies, will be critical in maintaining market competitiveness and keeping up to date with the legal changes will also be very important to ensure local businesses are not caught out.