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Our ‘Digital Revolution’ Priorities For The King’s Speech

Our ‘Digital Revolution’ Priorities For The King’s Speech

Our ‘Digital Revolution’ Priorities For The King’s Speech

Trade Confidence outlook

By David Bharier, Head of Insight at the British Chambers of Commerce 

The digital revolution is advancing at a seemingly exponential rate. Even the last 12 months, we’ve seen leaps taken in the development of AI technology, particularly large language models and deep learning. We can see this with AI generated content that is getting hard to distinguish from the real thing. Programmes such as ChatGPT have quickly entered the wider consciousness and are increasingly being deployed in the workplace. 

However, despite incredible innovation taking place within some organisations, many SMEs may be missing out on the digital revolution, due to poor infrastructure, a lack of skills, or limited guidance on what technologies are most appropriate. That’s why the King’s Speech should consider how SMEs can benefit from wider technology adoption.  

The last decade, and the last three years in particular, have seen multiple waves of economic crises that have stifled the ability of many firms to invest and grow. Our Quarterly Economic Survey, the UK’s largest and longest-running independent business sentiment survey, consistently shows that most firms – around three-quarters – are not seeing increased investment. 

Artificial intelligence presents businesses with huge challenges and opportunities. The BCC recently published ground-breaking research on AI adoption rates among UK firms. The results were startling. Surveying more than 700 firms, most of them SMEs, we found almost half of respondents (48%) had no plans to use AI, with a further 22% stating that they may look to use AI in future. Only around a third (30%) said they were using some form of AI technology, with the top answer being chatbots such as ChatGPT. The results also highlighted divergences within the business community. For instance, customer facing businesses, such as retail and hospitality, are even less likely to consider using AI. 

AI technology, if deployed effectively, can produce efficiency gains, improved decision making, better customer experiences, enhanced risk management and game changing innovations. But there are legitimate concerns. This week’s international summit shows the UK government is keen to take a lead on AI, but it’s crucial that the risks cited by businesses including fraud, unreliability, and even digital tyranny, are minimised. 

The digital revolution should be an enabler for businesses, not another barrier. Broadband is now a vital utility and the foundation for all tech adoption, but coverage is still patchy in many parts of the UK. Every firm should be confident getting fast and reliable connectivity and infrastructure planning should always have that in mind, both locally and nationally. 

At the Chambers, we’re led by one of Britain’s true digital pioneers. Our President, Martha Lane Fox has been at the heart of digital innovation, both as an entrepreneur and a policy shaper. The BCC’s Digital Revolution Challenge group is meeting regularly now to pull together a set of clear and pragmatic recommendations. Taking full advantage of the opportunities will require a partnership between policy makers and the business community that listens to all sides of the debate and develops a clear ambition for the country. 

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