Budget response

In response to the Budget, Alan Laing, Managing Director, United Kingdom and Ireland at Sage, provided the following comment:

Digital Skills:

"We welcome the government's additional funding and support for digital skills and retraining programme with the CBI and TUC – particularly in computer science and those jobs augmented by technology. In this "technological revolution", we must enable the UK to accelerate its ambition of closing the skills gap; and ensure all Small and Medium sized businesses receive the necessary support at local level to upskill workers and adopt readily-available technology applications to potentially unlock £39.9bn for the UK.

"Today, 120 days every year is being lost on admin within every Small and Medium business, equating to 5% of manpower, resulting in poor productivity and the stilted growth reported by the OBR today."

Technology & R&D:

"We welcome the £500m investment into the UK's technology sector, universities and R&D, but cannot overlook the need to invest in a wider understanding around bias and ethics to ensure that we are fully aware of how these technologies are being developed prior to applying them to our businesses.

"There is absolutely no need to fear AI if it is approached with the correct framework in mind, such as the ethics of code Sage produced. Sage research recently revealed public and business understanding of AI is optimistic: 4 out of every 5 people believe this technology has the potential to make their lives better. Technologies like AI have the power to augment human intelligence, support productivity growth and certainly will not displace jobs if we have flourishing economy.

"Almost 50% of the UK population have no idea what AI fundamentally is, and therefore we must ensure that appropriate attention is paid to the need for investment in education and skills. Sage are focused on developing AI to support every business, therefore we need a much more diverse approach to skills development – every child should have the opportunity to experience AI, to help upskill the UK's next wave of workers and entrepreneurs."

Productivity:

"We're pleased to hear the Chancellor acknowledge that productivity is at the heart of the Treasury's focus – and welcome news of the extension to the productivity fund. The UK's productivity levels for small and medium businesses, the backbone of our economy, have become a postcode lottery – and that has been echoed by the OBR today. Our research shows the most productive local authority is now four times more productive than the least. It also demonstrate that if productivity was increased by just 5% an extra £33.9 billion would be added to Britain's GDP per year.

"Despite creating 73% of all new jobs since 2010, our entrepreneurs simply aren't being given the level playing field that they require to flourish, meaning a fundamental refresh to the government's current one size fits all approach is required – from White Hall to Town Hall.

"We hope Monday's publication of the Industrial Strategy White Paper will be the vehicle to achieve this – bringing with it a heightened focus on a flattening productivity, which will be critical to the Chancellor's vision of a Global Britain."

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