Earlier this year the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport published its new Digital Charter. This short document outlines a UK rolling programme of work designed to make the UK a friendly environment to start-up and grow digital businesses. It is also designed to make the UK a safe place to be online. The charter will be updated as the government’s programme of work changes in response to technological advancements.

The goal of the charter is to establish rules and norms for the online world that can be put into practice.

Digital Charter

The principles outlined in the charter, guiding the government’s work, are:

  • the internet should be free, open and accessible;
  • people should understand the rules that apply to them when they are online;
  • personal data should be respected and used appropriately;
  • protections should be in place to help keep people safe online, especially children;
  • the same rights that people have offline must be protected online; and
  • social and economic benefits brought by new technologies should be fairly shared.

The seven work priorities are: (1) nurturing the digital economy; (2) protecting people from online harms (including building resilience and developing technological solutions); (3) examining online platforms’ liability for shared content; (4) ensuring artificial intelligence (AI) and data is used in a safe and ethical way, and that decisions based on data are fair and appropriately transparent; (5) ensuring digital markets are working well; (6) limiting the spread and impact of disinformation; and (7) supporting organisations to improve cybersecurity.

The government intends to work with a wide network of businesses, the tech sector, civil society and like-minded countries. The charter also praised steps taken towards the objective through the development of the Data Protection Bill and the Internet Safety Strategy.

Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation

The UK also reaffirmed its commitment to create a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation which was first announced in the 2017 Autumn Budget. A £9 million investment will be made, aiming to make the UK the leading country for businesses developing AI. The work of the centre will focus on measures required to allow safe, ethical and innovative uses of data-driven technologies. Like the charter, the centre will deliver on this through engagement with a range of stakeholders.


While the charter remains very high-level at the moment, the UK’s openness to promoting digital technologies and AI is welcome news for business. Some of the challenges for the UK will be balancing the benefits of openness and connectivity with a legitimate, clearly defined role for platforms to manage their online risks while ensuring the regulatory framework underpinning the charter is sufficiently adaptable to keep pace with the speed of technological development and changing patterns of data-usage.