The British Chamber of Commerce has shown a few signs of improvement and expects economic growth for the country to be at around 0.3% for the first quarter of 2012 – meaning that we avoid a recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of economic decline. This is good news, but there is much we need to do as a country to get are economy moving again – and it needs to be done now to make for improvements down the line in the decades to come.
The current government seems to appreciate that growth over future decades will be determined by being leaders in technology – something that has been ignored since the 1980s in this country. We need to promote software development and engineering in schools, and make people want to move into those professions after university by making the income available closer to that offered by jobs in the city – where far too much of or talent moves. A burgeoning financial sector is important, but in recent years that sector is getting far too much preferential treatment by the government (both Labour and Conservative) to the detriment of other sectors such as manufacturing and technology.
Whilst the current government appears to see the need for massive growth in the technology sector, and are helping that cause in the various tech clusters around the country – most notably in East London’s Silicon Roundabout – but they are not investing in where these future technology ideas come from. making university notably more expensive is putting another financial burden on young people already feeling the pinch when they hit the workplace by having to pay the pension funds for the baby boomer generation. Investing in universities and education is investing in the future of this country, as we need to nurture the people who will build the startups of tomorrow – not burden them with so much debt that a “safe” job in the city seems the only option to take financially after graduating. The debt hanging around the necks’ of young people today is only going to bloat our economy, and vest more power and influence in established corporations and financial institutions. We need to diversify – and allow young people to strike their own paths.
We also need to embrace services such as the NHS and rather than cut funding, make it more agile and lucrative for studies. We have one of the biggest health services in the world, and that wealth of information would make the UK perfect for development of new drugs and clinical trials if we modernise the service. Western pharmaceutical firms are increasingly performing clinical trials in China, but the UK’s universal system should make our system the preferred choice. Of course patients should be able to opt-out of such information sharing, but you can be sure that those suffering from diseases would jump at the chance of improving the medicines available to them or those like them in the future. Moreover, access to this wealth of data could be used as a bargaining tool by the NHS, to bring down the cost of any drugs developed off its back. The NHS could both bring down the cost of treatment for individuals, by being involved in the development of those drugs, saving the tax-payer money and also improving the quality of healthcare all at the same time. We just need to embrace the information age in healthcare.
Downturns and recessions always give pause for thought in how a country is developing, and looking to technology as our future is only looking at the small picture. We, instead, need to embrace the information and technology future across all sectors and start building dynamic systems of integration. And we need to start now.