What does information technology look like in 2018?
With the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and the rate of development in the UK growing at a rapid pace, we take a snapshot look at the information technology (IT) industry.
There is a sense of excitement when looking beyond 2018 to a future that seems to hold no binds in the IT world.
Possibilities continue to grow, from innovations that fast become reality, to enhanced education programmes and increased employment opportunities. As the changes gather momentum, so to do our expectations.
There are demands for better security, increased value and transparency, and an increasing number of knowledge centres. These are quickly becoming a focus for the business models of companies competing in a growing market.
Britain leads global technology
In a Tech Nation report released in 2017, the Prime Minister, Theresa May spoke positively about the IT industry and its future, calling it a “great British success story”.
May confirmed that more than 1.5 million people hold positions within the digital sector, or in digital tech roles in other areas, while emphasising that the number of digital tech jobs in the UK has grown at more than double that of jobs in non-digital tech sectors.
“Britain already leads the world when it comes to new technology. We make more contactless payments than anywhere else and we help to lead the way in everything from FinTech to Artificial Intelligence. We are natural innovators, eager to incorporate the latest innovations into our lives,” May enthused.
The IT sector is fast-moving and dynamic; and with increased investment possibilities, smaller firms and startups are able to flourish. Skills shortages in key areas of the digital economy mean there are many different IT careers available for graduates with relevant qualifications and experience. More than 50% of respondents in a survey of IT employers highlighted the challenge of finding employees with the right skills. Almost 25% stated that sourcing talent was a “major challenge”.
However, steps are already being taken to address this shortage. The emphasis is on equipping the UK’s workforce with the skills needed for roles in the digital tech sector. Many local Government authorities and private enterprises are now redressing the balance through apprenticeships, collaboration and engagement, and digital education.
In 2016, the UK attracted over £6.8 billion in venture capital and private equity investment. This equates to 50% more than any other European country. In fact, over the last five years, London has attained more investment than Berlin, Paris, and Amsterdam together.
Information Technology ecosystem
As a nation willing to support each other, it’s no surprise that networking and mentoring is as prevalent in the IT industry as in any other.
A 2017 report on the digital tech ecosystem indicates that 85% of digital tech businesses made use of services in their local ecosystem. These included receiving mentoring from expert peers to co-working spaces.
When digital tech businesses across the UK were asked which aspects of their local ecosystem they used, the three most popular responses were: mentoring, brand building activities (awards, for example) and co-working spaces.
AI continues to grow
Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to grow and is now a familiar phrase in our IT vocabulary. Although its academic origins date back to the 1950s, the inclusion of AI in many science fiction films has embedded it in our everyday consciousness. This ‘Hollywood effect’ has led to high expectations for AI and its capabilities.
Recent advances in computing have accelerated the potential of this technology. By layering intelligence to the technical solutions they are building, companies can solve a broader range of problems. Not every company will need the skills to create new AI functions. However, they will have to manage AI components so that they are not just dealing with mysterious black boxes producing unfathomable output.
Internet of Things
Internet of Things (IoT) devices are, without doubt, rapidly making their way into corporate spaces. Companies are seeing the many benefits associated with adding connectivity and intelligence to their physical infrastructure. However, although relatively low in initial costs, the ongoing maintenance and the new skills needed to manage the different, more advanced data streams can add significantly to IT responsibilities. IoT can, therefore, put additional strain on an already redefined and burdened IT function if not implemented and managed well.
The growth of the internet is allowing for more significant interaction between humans and digital components and breaking down barriers. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, even Uber and Airbnb are all excellent examples of the evolution of what is now referred to as ‘social machines’ that comprise both digital and human components to work effectively.
Cyber attackers always have and will continue to find new ways to infiltrate our systems. This inevitably leads to the need for companies to prioritise the protection of their digital assets. Companies, today, need to reconsider the issue of security and how to approach solutions. Modern security is, therefore, embracing a more contemporary approach.
The associated technology will use a combination of end-user training, AI and machine learning, technical integration and flexible tools. It will be enhanced by process, and education, allowing for speed of detection and therefore recovery.
As with any industry, consumers and businesses must continue to innovate to stay ahead and maintain the competitive advantage. New technologies are always just a step away. The developer continues to try to balance perceived disruption to our lives against their conviction of the potential.
Although once in that very position, the most well-established examples are so accepted by us, they no longer generate headlines. Servers, PC’s, firewalls, virtualisation are all now part of our everyday life. Cloud computing, smartphones, and social media are still relatively new, but they too have become essential to staying in touch.
Investment will ensure growth
The building blocks are firmly in place for continued growth in the IT industry. Support from the Government’s industrial strategy and investment from the industry itself will allow advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, 5G, smart energy and more. In particular, the continued focus on education to equip the next generation will see excitement and innovation in this remarkable industry grow.
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