a force to tackle global challenges with dangerous underlying threats
Today, technology leaders and government ministers from around the world will come to the Science Museum to discuss one of the greatest issues of our time: the future of technology.
Technology is fundamental in almost every aspect of our life. GPS can let our families know when we are almost home; artificial intelligence can ask our smart speakers to add milk to our shopping lists before they run out. With streaming services, we don’t even need a TV guide to find the next series to watch.
This digital age has opened up a world of opportunity. Technology is a force for good. Just as we need new rules for this era, we also have some really big questions to answer as we write them. How can we harness the vast potential of technology to meet our greatest challenges? What role does government need to play and how do we best use technology to make greener, healthier and safer choices for our future?
Over the next two days, international policymakers, leading scientists and industry experts will join the first-ever Future Tech Forum to discuss these important issues.
A few feet from the computer that Tim Berners-Lee used to design the World Wide Web, digital leaders like Google and Fujitsu will question how we can use the latest technology to achieve Net Zero. Australia’s Electronic Safety Commissioner will join with names known as LEGO and charities like Glitch to discuss how we can make new toys and products safer by design. And Microsoft and the World Health Organization are sharing their experience of partnering to address global health challenges like malaria and Covid-19 with a new approach to data.
The UK is the perfect place to have these conversations. We’ve become a hub for some of the most pioneering tech companies – start-ups founded with the very purpose of driving positive global change. They include companies like Octopus Energy, which uses data to create eco-friendly tariffs, and health technology companies like Oxford Nanopore, which uses complex algorithms to decode DNA in real time, on a device smaller than the average smartphone.
And there’s more good news: New figures show a boom in the number of UK ‘impact startups’ – tech companies dedicated to finding solutions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We have over 900 of these companies in the UK employing over 35,000 people. Funding for impactful startups has more than doubled since 2018, reaching £ 2 billion, with investors supporting some of Britain’s most exciting companies.
These companies are at the forefront of our fight for a better future. Two weeks after the Cop26 summit, and the work to achieve the ambitious goals agreed in Glasgow has already started in earnest. Over the next two days, I will take the opportunity to build on that and discuss the digital infrastructure we will need to achieve these goals.
But there is another side to technology, of course. The more we live our life online, the more we are exposed to certain risks. Algorithms can promote dangerous disinformation and hate abuse around the world in seconds. Authoritarian governments can use technology to silence, intimidate and repress. Tech giants can use their dominance to crowd out the competition. These are global issues – the ones that will fuel our discussions at the Future Tech Forum. But the UK is leading the way in resolving many of them.
Our online security bill is truly revolutionary. We go further than any other country to regulate social media platforms, to eradicate abuse and harm. The world looks like we do. We’ve broken new ground with our pro-competition digital markets unit, which will level the playing field between big tech and British advancements from rising stars, while standing up for consumers online.
We anticipate what technology has in store for us in 2030 and beyond. The Future Tech Forum will help us ensure that the technological revolution continues to be democratic. I am convinced it will be.