Panel Event – The rise of the machines: are people being left behind?

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The rise of the machines: are people being left behind? A discussion on tech, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what it means for the UK.


  • Alan Mak MP, APPG 4IR Chair
  • Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture
  • Louise Haigh MP, Shadow Minister for Digital Economy
  • Hugh Milward, Director of Corp, External and Legal Affairs at Microsoft
  • Anthony Painter, Director of the Action and Research Centre at the RSA


The APPG on the 4th Industrial Revolution [APPG 4IR] held its first Panel Discussion pulling together a wide audience from different backgrounds to unpack the term “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” and explore its multiple dimensions.

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, was the first speaker, starting off the event by recognizing that the launching of APPG 4IR was very timely and important for the UK in the upcoming years. He highlighted two areas of concern: infrastructure and skills. Regarding infrastructure, he emphasized the need for government to commit to increasing investments in 4G and 5G infrastructure to allow for data to move freely via applicable data pies. Regarding skills, he commented on the shortage of high-skilled workers currently in the UK, and encouraged the government to seek mechanisms to attract new talent by making UK an innovation-friendly environment. He finished his speech by expressing that the biggest challenge will be how society can use data in order to understand the world better while, at the same time, respecting privacy.

Louise Haigh, Shadow Minister for Digital Economy, took the floor, inviting the group to consider serious issues on the creation (or destruction) of jobs and the economic divide between the rich few and the poor many. She agreed with Matt Hancock that infrastructure and skills are two areas of concerns, and also commented on the importance of bigger access to everyone. From a policy perspective, she argued, the government needs to encourage a structural change to address those left behind and the working class.

The Director of Corporate and Legal Affairs at Microsoft, High Milward, spoke next and identified four spaces which the UK agenda needs to focus on. First, he called for the need to build cloud and technology that can be trusted. Second, he asked for responsibility and accountability in a way that people using technology can be protected. Third, he discussed the need for inclusivity. And, fourth, he also noted the need to develop skills to ensure success in this “new environment.”

The final speaker was Anthony Painter, Director of the Action and Research Centre at the RSA. Building on the other speeches, he also expressed his concern about the lower end of the market not benefiting from the revolution. He discussed digital platforms and how they can connect to real places and build learning networks (similar to recent developments at Brighton and Manchester).

Chair Alan Mak MP opened the floor to questions and comments. The group concluded that measuring the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution will be critical and a challenge that has to be faced as most of the outputs will be intangible.

The entire APPG 4IR shared many similar views on the issues linked closely to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Participants agreed there is an urgent need for the government and the general public to work together to foster a 4th Industrial Revolution that will benefit all. Ethical frameworks and behavioural standards need to be part of the overall strategy. UK has the potential of leading the world and APPG 4IR can serve as a platform for a joint effort among universities, start-ups, the corporate sector, and the government.

For a full copy of the Panel Discussion, please see attached file.

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