‘The new blue-collar job is coding’ – digital minister Matt Hancock

Written by Sam Trendall on 29 June 2017 in News

DCMS minister also claims planned Digital Charter will be world’s first such framework

Matt Hancock is minister of state for digital - Credit: PA

Minister of state for digital Matt Hancock has suggested that coding might now be considered a “blue-collar job”.

Speaking at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Security, hosted in London by the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, Hancock stressed his commitment to ensuring that UK jobs are not lost at the hands of technology and automation. He told attendees that responding to the changes brought about by technological development “is one of the great challenges of our age”. The digital minister singled out “the impact on jobs, and the impact on society” as two core areas of consideration.

In the former case, Hancock pointed out that fears about the potentially deleterious effect of technology on jobs and unemployment are nothing new. He even noted that his own ancestors – the Hancocks of Nottinghamshire – were among those destroying looms during the Luddite rebellion of the 19th century. 

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In the present day, Hancock claimed that, while jobs are disappearing or changing due to technology’s progress, others are being created in their stead.

“Some say the new blue collar job is coding,” he added. “The vital task is to ensure we see redeployment, not unemployment. That we automate work and humanise jobs. And that we harness new technology to save money, improve safety, and build the UK as the best place in the world to develop and deploy new technology.”

In terms of technology’s impact on society at large, the digital minister outlined children’s safety online, companies’ use of customer data, and the fear that “terrorists can use the internet to plan with impunity” as three major concerns. 

“The basic problem is that technology is developing faster than the speed at which society has built new rules to deal with the challenges it creates,” he said. “As a result, we do not yet have a shared understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable online.”

This absence of guidelines is the genesis for the government’s planned Digital Charter, Hancock explained.

“[The Digital Charter] will set out a rules-based framework for how businesses, individuals, and wider society should act in the digital world,” he said. “Our starting point is that the delicate and careful limits that we have honed over generations for life offline should apply online too.”

If the charter functions as intended, the UK will become the first country to successfully implement such a system, the digital minister said. And its format and policies could also serve as a template for other nations.

“Our aim is to create a world-leading framework that provides the basis for an understanding of the best way to bring this balance throughout the free world,” said Hancock. “The stakes are huge… [and] the impact of getting things right will be enormous. No country yet has managed it and if we can do so we will have a big advantage, strengthen our digital economy, and make our country more secure.”

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