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10 Apr 10:00 BST / 05:00 EST

Talk to me: voice technology, are we there yet?

Hamish McPharlin
Head of Insight at BBC Global News
Sophie Hind
Managing Director at Voiceworks
Imogen Watson
Journalist at The Drum

Matt Hancock talks British & French tech relations, social media regulation & artificial intelligence

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, speaks to The Drum at Vivatech in Paris.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock has spoken of the country’s conversations with France over developing its technology sector and entrepreneurial drive.

A year after newly elected President Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to make France the world’s tech capital at Publicis Groupe’s Viva Tech event, Hancock used the same platform to talk about Britain’s offering.

Speaking to The Drum, Hancock explained that tech, particularly artificial intelligence, was growing strongly across Europe and how the strength of France’s sector helped also strengthen that of Britain.

“It’s more collaborative than previous waves of technology for instance with AI, the more data you have; the more powerful the algorithm will be. The value to working together internationally is very strong,” he added.

Asked about how Britain planned to further strengthen its tech sector, he claimed that last year there was four times more investment invested into London than into any other European city.

“We are determined to keep it that way, he continued. “Just last month we put £1bn into AI and we are hoping to be using the NHS data for AI, it’s one of the single bigger data sources. We think we have a strong system in the UK which we are hoping to strengthen further. We’re working with France and other partners around the world which is good for the UK too.”

He continued: “France is putting a lot of energy into moving in the right direction and, like us, they have an offer which is - what we are seeking to pull off to have an environment that is as friendly as possibly and as supportive for innovation as possible within a framework that ensures that technology works for society whether that is on data protection or the new legislation we have announced for social media safety and getting the balance between those two is very important. What we want it is mountain levels of innovation and mountain levels of protection.”

He also cited the £2.4bn injection into the economy from Cambridge’s tech sector, announced earlier this month, as another strong signal of growth.

Asked about what he thought about the impact of work with the continued evolution of AI, he was realistic: “The challenge to jobs is going to happen whether we choose it or not. The choice is have us whether we develop all new jobs. The goal with AI is meant to be a tool for people to be able to do jobs more easily, now there is a big disruption and we need to support people through that disruption but ultimately the question is whether we seize its advantages or if we try to stop it which ultimately would be futile.”

Finally, he claimed that he had received positive support for his weekend announcement over his intention to implement regulation around social media messaging.

“We are working particularly with the big tech companies, of which there are now more than a dozen,’ he explained of the project. “One of the reasons to move to legislation is to move to a level playing field: to keep people safe and to allow for innovation in the future particularly to allow start ups to thrive. So we are working with tech companies and society to make sure we get the balance right. I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to the decision to legislate. There is a clear mood for it and enthusiasm for it but we’ve got to get the details right which is why we’re working with other clients partner countries. We will do it anyway but if we do it in the same way as our colleagues around the world then it’s all for the good.”

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