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From Kalifa to Wandhöfer: Propelling the UK’s Digital Renaissance with Ubiquitech

The UK finds itself at a pivotal juncture in its digital evolution, grappling with challenges that impede the realisation of its full digital potential. From mounting cyber threats to deficient digital infrastructure and persistent skills gaps, the road ahead is rife with complexities demanding innovative solutions and collaborative efforts.

Addressing these issues head-on is From Fintech to Ubiquitech: Accelerating the wider UK Digital Economy, a new report authored by a working group led by Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer. It sheds light on the pressing issues plaguing the nation’s digital ecosystem and proposes bold strategies for transformative change.

At its core, the report underscores the UK’s unique position on the cusp of a digital renaissance. The transition from fintech to ‘ubiquitech’ signifies not only an evolution but a revolution in how we perceive and utilise technology. Ubiquitech embodies a vision of a hyper-connected digital ecosystem, seamlessly integrating technology into every facet of daily life, reshaping business operations, societal interactions, and the very fabric of our existence.

From Kalifa Review to Wandhöfer Report 
Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer
Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer, chair, Ubiquitech Group

In conversation with The Fintech Times, Dr. Wandhöfer, outlined the practical significance of the Ubiquitech Report, explaining it serves as a blueprint for propelling the UK towards becoming a fully integrated digital economy, setting a global standard for innovation and progress while building upon the roadmap laid out in the 2021 Kalifa Review.

While the Kalifa Review primarily focused on bolstering the fintech and regtech sectors, particularly through initiatives like open banking, the’Wandhöfer Report’ now stands poised at the intersection of all smart data, propelling this momentum forward into various sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and beyond.

“Digitisation, automation, digital currencies and payments, AI as well as the pandemic all have changed the face of the UK economy,” she says. “Whilst the UK, through unique combination of regulatory, technological, and financial expertise sets itself apart as a global leader, our competitiveness is at risk of falling behind.

“We need to expand our secure data highways from open banking to all other areas of the economy to create true value of data and data sharing.”

The report’s vision

The Ubiquitech Report is produced by Dr. Wandhöfer and a diverse team of experts, including Vivienne Artz, Rick Chandler, Andrew Churchill, Nick Davies, Chris Hurst, Rob McBratney and Victoria Thompson, alongside support from Leighton Hughes. 

Together, they propose a shift in data management and usage, highlighting the distinctiveness inherent in digital representations and advocating for a revised approach to legal frameworks. This transformation underscores the crucial need for coordinated efforts among various stakeholders, including government departments, industries, and regulators, to fully harness the potential of ubiquitech.

From Fintech to UbiquitechThe report also casts an eye on key legislative and regulatory measures critical for shaping the UK’s Digital Economy towards a Smart Economy. It shines a spotlight on Acts including the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act (ECCTA), the Online Safety Act (OSA), the Electronic Trade Documents Act (ETDA), and the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (DPDI), highlighting their role in enhancing economic crime prevention, online safety, trade document digitisation, and data protection.

Each act addresses different aspects of digital governance, such as economic crime prevention, online safety, and trade document digitisation, but they all rely on effective data handling provisions within the DPDI to ensure their successful implementation and coordination.

The confluence of enabling legislation and the clear understanding of the gaps in the economy create the opportunity to effect change that will be significant and meaningful for the UK, says the report.

Report recommendations

The report goes on to offer practical recommendations towards building a digital economy where consumers and businesses can truly benefit by building trust, access to sustainable infrastructure and secure data highways and by accelerating measures for digital inclusion and education. These recommendations span five critical pillars:

  • Cybersecurity and fraud controls: Consumer and organisational trust in the digital environment is of paramount importance and must be the Government’s core concern
  • Network, systems and processes: It is axiomatic to note that for ubiquitech technologies to thrive there is an underlying requirement that ubiquitous network coverage and connectivity is achieved
  • Verification and authentication of users, entities and assets: A crucial component of any trust framework is the confidence in identifying the relevant parties and the confidence in a liability framework when errors occur
  • Digital skills education and inclusion: For the digital economy to be successful and comprehensive all areas of society should be comfortable in their understanding and abilities to exploit the benefits on offer
  • Digitising international trade systems: Moving beyond the purely digital economy, reforms to digitise and optimise the movement of physical goods are also necessary to streamline both financial systems and supply chains
‘Golden opportunity’

Hailing the report as a “timely and welcome intervention”, the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, describes the transition from fintech to ubiquitech as a “golden opportunity for both the City and the UK”.

“Countries that embrace this next wave of efficiency and effectiveness will prosper by increasing productivity and trust, while reducing cost: creating a simpler, smoother, more  secure system for customers and businesses that will make our lives easier and our money safer. If flows of data are the lifeblood of our economy, standards are its beating heart,” he wrote. “Collaboration among government, industry, academia and international partners is essential for a fully integrated and inclusive digital society.”

Call to action

The need for a more long-term outlook of Government and more private investment is a call to action, says Dr. Wandhöfer.

“Ubiquitech brings truly a carpe diem moment for the UK as a global trust hub and centre of excellence in innovation across the board,” adds Dr Wandhöfer. “Now that we have the Report, we are at the point where we have to think implementation and execute. We need to urgently seize this moment.”

Author

  • Claire is an experienced editor and writer with 25 years of experience in the publishing industry. As a tech journalist, Claire has covered every subject possible over the years, from the launch of broadband and next generation mobile networks to the arrival of the metaverse and Web3.

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