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DIGITAL PARTY PLEDGES: WHAT DO THEY MEAN FOR THE DIGITAL SECTOR?

Tuesday 23rd May 2017
Voting registration is now closed. So as June the 8th draws nearer, each political party is busy delivering their manifestos on how they are going to tackle and respond to challenges that are being faced or may face our country over the next four years.

In the meantime we, the voters, have a lot to think about.

In recent years, digital innovation have been a focus for many political leaders. In this post we’ll break down just some of the pledges being made by the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats on how they are going to face digital challenges and support digital growth in our country over the next four years and beyond.

Internet access


It’s hard to believe in this day and age there are areas of the UK that do not have sufficient access to the internet. And in comparison to other parts of Europe, the UK is still somewhat behind when it comes to accessibility to quality internet when we need it. So what’s going to be done about it?

Tories: 
The Tory manifesto reiterates plans to give every household and businesses access to the internet (something they have highlighted in previous manifestos). They want everyone to haves access to super fast broadband at 24mbps by 2020.

They also promise to give full fibre optic connection vouchers to all companies by the end of 2018 and major fibre spines in more than 100 towns and cities by 2022 with over  100 million premises connected to full fibre and plans for national coverage over the next decade.

Labour:
Labour promises to deliver 30 mbps to all households by the year 2022. Also, making significant plans on how to roll out “ultra fast” broadband over the next decade.

Lib Dems:
Lib Dems ensure in their manifesto that broadband connection and services to be provided before 20/20, have a speed of 2gbs or more, with fibre to all premises (FTTP) as standard and unlimited usage by 2020 across the whole of the UK.

Data protection and cyber security


In the wake of recent events surrounding cyber-attacks and data leaking politicians have been forced to take more action and deliver strategies in making steps to make sure these events do not happen again.

Tories:
The party wants to create an ethical framework for how data is used and will launch a data use and ethics commission that will advise government and regulators on the nature of data use. They also want to bring forward a new data protection law, aiming to ensure there are standards in place for the “safe, flexible and dynamic” use of data. It also promises “unprecedented investment in cyber security and stronger cyber standards for government and public services”.

Labour:
Jeremy Corbyn’s party promises to maintain data protection rules to “protect personal privacy”, but offers no further explanation as to how it would do this. The party also pledges to introduce a cyber security charter for companies working with the Ministry of Defence, and provide “effective policing services” to deal with cyber-crime.

Lib Dems: 
Just as in the Lib Dems’ 2015 manifesto, the party wants to introduce a digital bill of rights to help the public protect their own information, civil liberties and personal data. It wants to end mass collection of communications data and roll back state surveillance.  It also promises to invest in security and intelligence services to combat cyber-attacks.

Investment in digital skills


We’ve all heard about the digital skills gap – it’s costing the UK economy an estimated £63 million per year! This issue needs to be tackled, the people with the right skills must meet the abundance of jobs there are. So what can be done?

Tories:
The Tories want to establish new institutes of technology that will provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) courses and apprenticeships, and will be run in partnership with industry.

On the other hand, the party also have plans to increase the TIER 2 skills visa from £1,000 to £2,000. In an industry that has previously welcomed international talent to it’s workforces, could this in turn widen the skills gap in the long run by making it more costly to join British technical teams?

Labour: 
There is no specific commitment to digital skills and education in Labour’s manifesto, however they have highlighted the need to develop skills fit for the digital world, and promises to maintain the apprenticeship levy.

Lib Dems: 
The Liberal Democrats promises to ensure coding continues to be a part of the national curriculum and to reinstate post-study work visas for STEM graduates. It also commits to growing the number of apprenticeships and building digital skills.

Research and innovation


Research and innovation has been celebrated by all three major political parties in the past, with the support of the future entry of autonomous vehicles on our roads, to the more prominent use of artificial intelligence.

Tories: 
Having already promised to increase the government’s investment in research and development (R&D) in the last autumn statement and Theresa May earlier this year promising to pump an extra £2bn a year into the area, the Conservative manifesto says it will support universities to lead the expansion of innovation. It will also invest in innovations such as driverless cars and reduce the administrative burden around claiming tax credits for R&D.

Labour: 
Labour promises that by 2030, the UK will meet its 3% R&D spending target. The investment in R&D will be covered by a national investment bank, which will provide “patient, long-term finance” to R&D investment, the party says.

Lib Dems: 
Promising to increase investment in R&D, the Lib Dems want to double the current spend across the country. The party will also campaign to ensure universities can still attract funding for research post-Brexit, as well as creating a number of research and innovation centres. 

What else?


All three parties’ manifestos also feature mobile phone signal and 5G, healthcare technology, and supporting digital developments across other industries.

Tories: 
The Tories promise that by 2027, most of the UK population will have access to a new 5G network, and Wi-Fi will be available on all train services. The NHS will undergo a review of its internal market and will see an ambitious tech investment programme. The Tories also promise to help the creative industries get the infrastructure and technology they need to prosper.

Labour: 
Labour says technology and innovation will be used to champion sustainable farming, food and fishing, and it intends to launch a £1bn cultural capital fund that aims to upgrade the cultural and creative industries to “be ready for the digital age”.

Lib Dems: 
The Lib Dems want to support innovative industries such as the space industry and use innovation funding to “promote GP-led multidisciplinary health and care hubs”.

Obviously there are more factors for voters to consider, outside of who may be best for the digital sector. However, with the statements above, which party do you think will offer the best digital future for our country?

Find more information on this article by Computer Weekly.
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