Barclays UK recently unveiled its latest Digital Development Index. Analysing the study’s findings, we have taken a look at what this means for the state of the UK’s digital economy.  

Digital empowerment

The Digital Development Index ranks ten nations in terms of digital economy competitiveness, attributing a ‘digital empowerment’ score to each territory. The UK ranked fourth behind Estonia, South Korea and Sweden, which the Index states are emerging ‘digital tiger’ economies.

Barclays’ results were based on a survey of almost 10,000 working adults, in conjunction with analysis of support for digital skill development and policy frameworks in each territory. Within the UK, there is a disconnect between support for digital engagement, which scored highly overall and British employee confidence in their digital skills, which was found to be lacking.

Competing globally

Business portal SME Insider reports that Barclay’s UK CEO Ashok Vaswani commented on the Index’s findings. He argued that it is vital that the UK, especially London, secures its place as the planet’s pre-eminent technology innovation hub. Going further, he said that it is essential that British employees develop the digital skills and expertise required for the country’s industry to compete globally.

Elaborating, he said: “At a time when the UK is considering its future outside the European Union, we have to remember that competing in the digital economy isn’t simply a European question, it’s about a global race that will define how prosperous and successful we are for decades to come.

“With the referendum sending a clear message that too many parts of the UK do not feel they are sharing in the promise of global prosperity, now is the time to take everyone in society forward in the digital age.” In terms of individual categories, the UK performed admirably in selected areas of advanced learning skills and digital skills policy. These successes were offset by low UK employee digital skills confidence, ranking sixth behind key economic rivals such as China, India and the USA.

Developing digital skills

Also, the UK ranked seventh for coding skills and content creation. This questions the UK’s ability to develop ‘digital creators’ rather than just ‘digital consumers,’ raising doubts about the nation’s competiveness in the future digital economy. For instance, just 16% of British people would feel comfortable constructing a website, in contrast with 39% for Brazil and 37% for India.

Continuing, Vaswani said: “In the last century, most of us had to cope with just one big shift in technology in our career or lifetime, and we’ve been able to rely on our early education to get us through. But, now these changes are happening constantly through the evolution of the internet, smartphones, social media, and the advent of new technologies like blockchain, virtual reality, AI and open data.

“This research shows Britons need to equip themselves with digital skills whether to future proof their career, or to keep personal data and devices safe. Businesses also need to do much more to upskill each and every generation of their workforce; we need to create a new culture of lifelong learning.”

Tapping digital economy

The UK’s digital economy possesses major potential. Last year, The Boston Consulting Group found that it was the leading G20 digital economy. But the Index confirms that this county is facing a serious digital skills crisis. Data quoted by the BBC suggests that 12.6m British adults lack basic digital skills. In order to compete globally, it is vital that UK small business’ focus on developing their employees’ digital abilities, so they can tap into the nation’s lucrative digital economy.


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