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May 30, 2017
Digital transformation—A brave new world?
By: Justin Keeble

The digital revolution offers a great many benefits; enhanced productivity, new jobs, improved access to health and education, and a cleaner environment. As one of the world’s leading technology hubs, the UK is well placed to enjoy the benefits of the digital revolution.

However, digital transformation of business and society brings with it unintended consequences, which have yet to be addressed. The rise of automation, for example, puts many traditional jobs at risk; while the increasing use of personal data by businesses opens new questions about privacy.

Last year, we partnered with Business in the Community (BITC) to explore fully the opportunities and challenges that the digital revolution presents to the UK. Our report, A Brave New World, ended the first stage of this collaboration.

The UK’s digital transformation

In the report, we painted a portrait of the UK’s future digital economy and society.

Digital will create new jobs: The digital industry in the UK employed 1.56 million people in 2014 and is creating new jobs three times faster than the rest of the economy.

What’s more, digital transformation holds the promise of economic growth, with Artificial Intelligence forecast to increase labour productivity in the UK by 25 percent by 2035, and the Industrial Internet of Things is predicted to add £244 billion to the UK’s GDP by 2030.

Deliver digital transformation

To successfully transform there are five key areas that need to be addressed:

  1. Digital skills gap – Not everyone is equipped for the digital age. It’s forecast that as many as 6.2 million people in the UK in 2020 will lack the basic skills required just to use the internet.

  2. Unethical use of customer data – The rise of data-driven business models and the increasing sophistication of technology has eroded trust in business. Ninety-two percent of British internet users worry about their privacy when online.

  3. Uneven access to digital technology and its benefits – The digital future may not be inclusive, with women forecast to represent only 30 percent of the UK’s digital workforce in 2022.

  4. Digital’s environmental footprint – As our digital world grows so will our environmental impact. The IT sector uses 7 percent of global energy supply, with an anticipated 3x increase in global internet traffic by 2020.

  5. Pressure on communities and well-being – Digital technologies can be linked to stress and distraction. Four of 10 internet users say they spend too much time online and report negative effects on their work or personal lives.

These challenges raise some key questions for UK businesses:

  1. What element of the inclusive digital revolution do we want our brand to be known for championing, and how will we drive progress and communication on that?

  2. How can we deliver the right digital skills training across our workforce?

  3. How can we use the data that we are already collecting (for example, customer data) to help address specific societal challenges?

  4. How will we change our governance and accountability structures to drive improved stakeholder trust in digital technologies across the business?

  5. What value is at risk if we do not achieve an inclusive digital revolution for the UK?

Accenture and BITC firmly believe that through UK businesses, government and the non-profit sector working together, the power of the digital revolution can be harnessed. To put our beliefs into action, we’re launching the next stage of our collaboration, which we’re calling Responsible Business in a Digital Age. The project, which launched during Responsible Business Week, defined the new priorities of responsible business in this digital age. Accenture are continuing to work with BITC in this initiative with a series of roundtables and engagements with both BITC members and other UK businesses.

Stay tuned for the next article from me that aims to help you define priorities and actions, coming out on the 6th June.

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