Digital deficit 'a danger for UK firms'

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Digital deficit 'a danger for UK firms' (image credit: iStockphoto)

Business leaders across the UK must invest in the digital skills of staff or face the prospect of the nation as a whole falling behind in the global digital arms race.

Ashok Vaswani, chief executive officer of Barclays UK, has warned more now needs to be done to ensure UK firms are investing for the future in the digital talents of staff, as well as placing themselves at the forefront of innovation within the digital sector.

"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," Mr Vaswani argued.

He made his comments following the publication of the latest Barclays Digital Development Index benchmarks, which revealed that while the UK currently ranks fourth in the world in terms of its digital readiness - ahead of many developed nations including India, Brazil, China and the US - there are a range of "emerging digital tiger economies" that are leaving the UK in their wake.

Estonia, South Korea and Sweden all ranked higher than the UK in this latest benchmark, which surveyed almost 10,000 working adults across ten countries, as well as drawing on the bank's own analysis of policy frameworks and levels of support for digital skills development in each country.

The report highlighted a lack of confidence among British workers at an individual level regarding their ability to use the latest technologies and to be part of the digital economy.

Overall, the UK performed well in the areas of digital skills policy and advanced learning, but these strengths were offset by relatively low capability and weak confidence in skills on a practical basis.

It is an issue that company leaders must look to address in the coming years, as failing to keep pace in terms of digital development with the world's leading players will only serve to hold back the UK's economic growth at a time when increased uncertainty is already taking its toll on levels of inward investment.

"We have to get people being digital creators, not just consumers. It's about not just inclusion, but empowerment," Mr Vaswani concluded.