As Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister of the UK, noted during a keynote at the Innovate Finance Global Summit (IFGS) in London, attitudes towards the dream of the internet are in danger of souring.
The promise of tech driven progress has been tainted and, as the narrative goes, been scuppered by corporate interests, an engine of propagating falsehoods and misusing our data to manipulate our very thinking.
Is it time to break up big tech and limit some of their power? As Clegg highlighted, although the left and the right obsess about big tech for different reasons they, ultimately, share an aim to halt progress in a way that feeds into the rise of populist attitudes.
As for the established media, haven’t they been the most negatively impacted due the shift of advertising revenues to tech upstarts in a progressively digital world?
Taking stock of both the promise of tech and London’s role in driving the rise of fintech, he noted a need for optimism.
Technology has driven improvements across any number of areas – from health to transport and although there is a need to ensure that the benefits are widely spread we mustn’t lose sight of what has been gained.
Regulatory frameworks and tax regimes may well need to be revised and updated for the digital age but we must not ignore the benefits.
In further examining the factors contributing to London’s strength as a fintech hub, the role of the wider European markets and shared regulatory frameworks were highlighted.
Looking at what was the leading role of EU firms and standards in the rise of mobile, Europe’s assets in terms of supporting innovative start-ups were deemed significant.
It is not just the US that can generate world leading innovation and Clegg also noted the rigour of European anti-trust rules and their more supportive stance of greater competition which leaves Europe well-placed to be a hot spot of innovation in future.
Of course, the strength of the wider European market and common regulatory frameworks may well be assets that are of less importance to the UK in the near future.
The potential downsides to an unfavourable post-Brexit deal are of a real concern. Access to talent and markets, in particular, were still uncertain and were flagged not just by Clegg but loomed large in most conversations and sessions at the conference.
In regards to the question of pausing or stopping Brexit altogether, Clegg quoted David Davis, the UK’s Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, in noting that “if a democracy cannot change its mind then it ceases to be a democracy”.
By Lisa Moyle, director of strategy, fintech / director of partnerships, FinTECHTalents at VC Innovations