Artificial Intelligence (AI) is likely to be the most transformative general-purpose technology of our time. Its development and adoption has the potential to accelerate UK growth and prosperity. In particular, AI has the potential to reform and improve delivery of the UK’s struggling public services. 

Compute capacity – referring to the physical infrastructure and capacity designed to handle intensive computational tasks – is essential for training and running AI models. In the future, reliable and secure access to cloud compute could become as important for the UK’s economy and society and security as reliable and secure access to the internet, oil, or gas.

In this report, jointly published with the UK Day One Project, we recommend the government invest £1.5 billion in publicly owned cloud compute – GB Cloud – to support AI in the public sector as well as UK based AI startups and researchers. 

A publicly owned GB Cloud would:

  • Reduce dependence on foreign hyperscalers and big tech companies. 
  • Support public services by providing the UK state with reliable, protected and publicly-owned data centres.
  • Protect data privacy by ensuring sensitive data used in the provision of public services (e.g. public health and DWP data as well as military, and intelligence data) is held and processed domestically and not shared with international, private compute providers.
  • Support UK growth and innovation by providing further cloud computing access to UK AI start-ups, universities and research labs where GB Cloud is in excess.
  • Provide an opportunity to underpin public trust in AI by engaging citizens in the decision-making processes about the public compute resource — for instance, how public compute resources are allocated (e.g. to which public services, to industry, or research) and where data centres are built.