The government has laid out what actions it intends to take in order to create a digital economy in the future that enables growth for industries and protects consumers from the dangers of consuming digital content.
In a report entitled 'Connectivity, Content and Consumers’, which is the result of a two year review of the media and telecommunications sectors, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has said that due to the rapid pace of change in the technology sector, instead of overhauling legislation that was created in 2003, it will make incremental changes to it as time goes on.
As expected, given the scope of the digital economy and the sectors being covered, the report is incredibly broad and DCMS has covered a lot of ground. However, there are a few key takeaways that are worth highlighting.
For instance, following the announcements made by Prime Minister David Cameron last week that ISPs will be forced to introduce filters that block porn by default, the report addresses this in more detail. It states that all mobile phone operators have agreed to apply adult content filters on their phones automatically and that the four main ISPs, which cover 9 out of 10 homes, will install ‘family friendly filters’.
It also outlines that the six main providers of public WiFi have committed to apply filters wherever children are likely to be present and the government is also keen to introduce a ‘family friendly WiFi symbol’, which companies can use to show that their public internet is filtered.
DCMS also notes that removing or blocking illegal content from the internet is a “clear priority for government” and that the Prime Minister and Culture Secretary Maria Miller expect a “step-change in action to tackle child abuse images”. To ensure this, the Internet Watch Foundation will take a more proactive role and work closely with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre to ensure indecent images are removed, victims are identified and perpetrators are prosecuted.
This will be supported by funding from Virgin Media, BskyB, BT, TalkTalk and Google.
The government also wants to see action taken by search engines to route searches to legitimate sites and to create a blacklist of unacceptable search terms. A progress report from search engines is due in October and if progress in this area is slow, David Cameron has said he will consider legislating.
The report also looks at the UK’s connectivity and states that although the government has built a strong ‘digital foundation’, it is important that as demand for content and services online grows, that everyone has access to world-class, high-speed, reliable internet services wherever they are.
To do this, DCMS states, the government is investing heavily in broadband, where it hopes that coverage will reach at least 99 percent in the UK by 2018, through a mix of fixed, wireless and mobile broadband solutions.
It also highlighted the recent 4G spectrum auction and that the UK is the first place in the world to be testing for 5G technologies and services. The report states: “We will aim to cover as many not-spots as possible, providing a boost to local economies and equal access to mobile services across the UK.”
DCMS cited Intel in the report as saying that by 2020 there will be some 31 billion connected devices, and that the internet of things will continue to drive innovation, productivity and economic growth. However, the government recognises that it needs to plan long-term to have the digital infrastructure to support this.
In order to do this it will work with industry experts to develop a strategy for the UK’s digital infrastructure, which will consider the measures needed to ensure that the UK doesn’t buckle under increased data loads. It expects to complete work on this research by the end of 2014.
The report states: “The Government’s overriding objective is to equip the UK to succeed in the global race, to secure a stronger economy and a fairer society and to help people who aspire and work hard to get on.
“In the twenty-first century, the world order is being decided by which countries are able to harness these new transformational technologies.”