Is the UK at risk of Digital Brain Drain?

The technology sector has experienced enormous paradigmatic shifts in recent years. With the explosion of the Internet, social media and the cloud, ‘technology’ has now split into web based, and traditional tech. As we know, everything is bigger in the USA, so while they have a silicon valley, we are left with a measly roundabout. But as the East London tech scene grows and flourishes under government backing, could we be about to see the spotlight shift to our side of the pond?

In an interview with the BBC, Bindi Karia, head of emerging business for Microsoft argued that the East London tech scene is booming, and this could provide the answer to our economic woes. But in response to this, Milo Yiannopoulos, founder of The Kernel, argued that we shouldn’t be thinking about competing with them as cloud technology is not something that we do well in the UK. The UK doesn’t have the venture capitalists to help launch obscure start-ups into OMGPop-like fame, and this is why we’ve never seen any of the big Internet giants coming out of the UK.

I’m sure you all remember that moment during the Olympic opening ceremony when Tim Berners-Lee was celebrated for inventing the Internet. The whole country was reeling – “I didn’t know we invented the Internet.” Until then, most people were content in the misguided notion that it must have been an American invention. So where does the problem lie? Why aren’t the next big Social Media networks coming from the UK? And why aren’t we pioneering the future of search?

In this TedX talent search talk, Tiffany St. James,  the Executive Director of the British Interactive Media Association and a prominent public speaker, tackled this problem head on. “We live in a world where technology can enable us to see through walls and around corners.” So who will be ensuring that in the future, our real-world problems are met head-on and solved through code? Children, of course!

Although steps are being taken to include coding and programming in the national curriculum, is enough being done to make sure those youngsters with the passion and enthusiasm to learn code are given the opportunity to do so? In the comments following  St. James’ video, Phil Archer writes: “Coding is not a specialism, it’s 21st century media literacy.”

There is the risk that without the booming start-up culture and supportive infrastructure in place, our most talented young coders will seek warmer climes, and funding, overseas. And with the Internet looking set to be the future, can the UK really afford to see a brain drain of this kind?