Mr Osborne claims that modern ultrafast broadband services are key to Britain’s “modern industrial policy”.
And while I don’t doubt that, nor do I scoff at the need for brilliant broadband infrastructure in the UK (including most pressingly rural areas), I simply cannot agree with the Chancellor when he says: “To be Europe’s technology centre we… need to have the best infrastructure”.
Silicon Valley grew up organically without any major government intervention or help. In fact it grew up in spite of the establishment. A network was formed in and around the grounds of Stanford University and so began some of the greatest technology companies in the world.
What really needs to be in place is the educational infrastructure to allow UK students become the Mark Zuckerbergs (Facebook’s founder) and the Sergey Brins (Google’s co-creator) of the future. Michael Gove, the education secretary, announced in January the start of a consultation to replace the UK’s ‘harmful and dull’ school technology curriculum with a new computer science course created by universities and technology industry.
This type of support, if actually successful in turning more young people onto a career in creative coding, will be more important in putting the UK at the heart of the technology industry in Europe. Rather than just trying to attract the American technology giants to have their European headquarters in the UK, this country could be producing the next social network or browser, to take the world by storm.
East London’s ‘Tech City’ is making its own path to greatness and a strong technology community is organically growing up regardless of Government measures.
And some of the most interesting technology advancements and companies, in a similar vein to Silicon Valley’s umbilical relationship to Stanford University, are growing up in and around the grounds of Cambridge University.
Consequently, vastly improved technology education, not enhanced broadband infrastructure, is the key to Britain ever becoming ‘Europe’s technology centre’.