Change on the horizon for tech in 2023
Having returned to a measure of political stability, 2023 is set to become an era-defining year for UK tech, with legislation on the horizon that will shape the future of the sector. This comes against the backdrop of the UK’s break away from the European Union, coupled with a global pandemic that has transformed our relationship with technology.
Perhaps the most significant piece of legislation is the Online Safety Bill which, having been subject to a number of setbacks, is expected to pass in this parliamentary session. If it does, such a shift in fortune is down to the highly fraught “legal but harmful” provision being dropped, a decision announced amid concerns from the more libertarian wing of the Conservative party that this would threaten free speech and privacy rights. With this legal and ideological barrier removed, it returned to the House of Commons in early December and has a much simpler pathway to eventual enactment. Should the OSB gain Royal Assent, online platforms would, as it stands, have much more extensive content moderation responsibilities dependent on their size.
Elsewhere, there is the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, initially announced in the Queen’s speech and re-committed to in 2022’s Autumn Budget. The Bill shadows the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which passed in September 2022 and has entered the initial stages of implementation. The former would create a new Digital Markets Unit under the Competition and Markets Authority, with powers such as the enforcement of interoperability to combat anti-competitive behaviour by big tech. There is certainly appetite for the UK to foster further competition within its digital economy and strip big tech from its market dominance; how the government manages to achieve this while creating its own regulatory identity separate from its European neighbours remains to be seen. That this debate will swirl around the Bill’s drafting is almost guaranteed, though the chances of it passing before summer recess, or indeed the end of 2023, are much less set in stone.
Similar headaches mar the Data Protection and Information Bill, intended for the creation of a more business-friendly alternative to UK GDPR. The latter has been subject to frequent criticism from key ministers, including Digital Secretary Michelle Donelan, who called the regulation “mad” and blamed it for restricting the profits of SMEs. Given the Bill is a product of the Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister, its future form looks markedly uncertain. That being said, a desire to overhaul UK GDPR lives on within the current government.
This merely scratches the surface of what the UK’s tech sector is set to witness in 2023. To gain a comprehensive insight into the government’s priorities and expectations for the year, and meet like-minded figures in this constantly evolving sector, look no further than Atticus Partners’ In Conversation with Digital Minister Paul Scully MP.