Dear Ms May,
It’s us, the tech world. We know you’ve been busy recently, what with your whirlwind prime ministerial campaign and now moving in to your new home at number 10. We know against the current political backdrop, it’ll also be a while before you get a chance to read this – from the looks of things, you’re going to be quite preoccupied steadying the boat as the country contemplates its future role within Europe and beyond.
But as a sector full of budding start-ups and pioneering entrepreneurs, we’d be lying if we didn’t tell you we’re nervous. Banks and investors are already pulling funds out of the UK left, right and centre, and Berlin is waiting in the wings to snap up our talent. It may simply be a matter of waiting until the dust has settled to find out what the real impact of this upheaval has been, and we are a resilient bunch, but it’s a sad fact that some of us will not survive this.
We’re always up for a challenge, and we’ll work hard to keep our economy thriving and ensure the UK stays at the forefront of technological innovation for generations to come – but we need your help. A few promises to allay fears while you tackle some of the bigger fish will do just fine.
Please, reassure our talent
It’s no secret you’ve been vocal about your views on immigration as former Home Secretary – you were strict with foreign students applying for work visas here and have considered high entry requirements for those from outside of the EU previously. Then again, you were also instrumental in developing the Tech Nation Visa Scheme.
What we ask is that you consider the position of our current EU entrepreneurs and employees facing an uncertain future – they need to know that they remain welcome and that they can continue to develop their businesses and careers here for the long-term. Even with the best will in the world, we simply don’t have enough STEM graduates coming through the system to keep up with demand, so we must embrace foreign talent.
Reconsider the Snooper’s Charter
You put the Investigatory Powers Bill forward with good intentions to help tackle threats to national security – that in itself is, of course, no bad thing. But when that is coupled with authorising the state to bulk collect UK citizen’s personal data across every digital device they own, it’s something that few technology companies would condone or indeed want to be a part of.
Technology is a sector filled with unknowns, mysteries and jargon – the least we should be able to promise our users or customers is that their privacy is secure with us.
Allow us to abide by EU standards
In a similar vein, Europe is very particular about the way their citizens’ data can be used and stored due to privacy concerns – something that led to the collapse of the Safe Harbour arrangement last year and is bringing its replacement, the Privacy Shield, under intense scrutiny.
If the UK leaves the Union, the legislation will no longer directly apply – but unless we abide by the same standards, we will experience many of the same challenges currently being faced by the US and it could take years for us to rebuild these relationships. We’ll find ways to cross borders of course, but it’s just one extra hurdle.
Your gender shouldn’t define you – you’ve worked hard to get to your position and are extremely qualified for your new role on the global stage. Yet there’s no denying that you have navigated what is an extremely male-dominated sector, and for many, will represent a world of possibility as one of the few that ‘made it’.
Technology is an industry that faces similar challenges in diversity, all the way from the classroom, where few young women are opting for STEM subjects, right through to the boardroom. Help us reach minorities and let them know they all can and are very welcome to take leading roles within the digital economy.
We know you want to just get on with the job, so we won’t keep you any longer, but we hope you’ll take these requests into consideration to give the industry the best tools with which to face the fight ahead.
We wait with bated breath,
You can read an abridged version of this letter in City AM’s Letters to Editor, 15/07/16