Analysis reveals differing digital focus of political parties

New analysis conducted by Agilisys has revealed the differences in prominence given to digital, technology and data by the main political parties in their general election manifestos.

Each party has offered a range of policies on tech and digital. Overall, the Conservative Party Manifesto makes 129 references to digital, technology and/or data, compared to 15 by Labour and 24 by the Liberal Democrats. However, many of the Conservative Party mentions appear to refer to actions already under way, rather than new ‘actual’ ideas.

“Given the enormity of some of the issues facing the country, it’s perhaps not surprising that technology, and digital technology in particular, is not consistently prominent across the party manifestos, said Jonathan Bradshaw, Director of Technology at Agilisys.

“Nevertheless, low productivity and the need to deliver efficiency and improvements in public services are national challenges that digital technology can play a major role in helping address.  It’s important that, whatever the outcome on Thursday, the next UK Government gives digital technology the support and funding where required to help maximise its impact across UK industry and public services.”

Here’s a round-up of some of the key digital pledges made by the parties that could affect you.

 

Conservatives

The Conservative Party Manifesto included a significant focus on security and prosperity in the digital age, putting digital government at the heart of its agenda. An eight-page section on ‘Prosperity and Security in a Digital Age was welcomed, as was a proposed new Digital Charter, Framework for Data and international agreement.

Other key points include:

  • The recognition that technology is one of the five ‘Giant Challenges’ facing Britain, along with Brexit and the ageing society.
  • The formation of a National Investment Fund with £740m digital infrastructure investment.
  • In order to create a sound ethical framework for how data is used, an expert Data Use and Ethics Commission will be set up to advise regulators and parliament on the nature of data use and how best to prevent its abuse.
  • Digital to be included as a subject in the new T-levels and the right to lifelong learning in digital skills to be introduced.
  • A pledge to create a new presumption of digital government services by default and an expectation that all government services are fully accessible online, with assisted digital support available for all public sector websites.
  • The publication of operational performance data of all public-facing services for open comparison as a matter of course.
  • More digital services to be incubated within government and the introduction of digital transformation fellowships, so that hundreds of leaders from the world of tech can come into government to help deliver better public services.
  • New providers seeking to use digital technology to monitor long-term conditions better, will be supported.
  • Verify to be extended, so that people can identify themselves on all government online services by 2020, using their own secure data that is not held by government. Verify will also be made more widely available, so that people can safely verify their identify to access non-government services such as banking.
  • A strategy to rationalise the use of personal data within government will be set out, reducing data duplication across all systems, so that we automatically comply with the ’Once-Only’ principle in central government services by 2022 and wider public services by 2025.
  • The relevant parts of HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey, the Valuation Office Agency, the Hydrographic Office and Geological Survey will be combined to create a comprehensive geospatial data body within government, the largest repository of open land data in the world.
  • A regulatory framework will be created to underpin the digital charter and ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers abide by the principles.

 

Labour

While the Labour Party Manifesto was short on mentions of digital, technology and data, what it did have to say on the subject has been welcomed by the sector. TechUK deputy CEO, Antony Walker, said: “We welcome the fact that the Labour manifesto adopts a number of the recommendations set out in techUK’s Inventing the Future Manifesto. They are right to recognise the importance of tech to building a forward-looking society.

“We are particularly pleased that Labour have backed our call for the next Government to ensure cross-border data flows are a key part of the Brexit negotiations and future trade deals. Allowing personal data to move swiftly and security across borders is vital for the future of the UK’s tech sector.

“The Labour Manifesto also adopts techUK’s call for a new Digital Ambassador. This is a positive recognition of the importance of tech to UK global trade post-Brexit.”

Key points include:

  • A commitment, although the method was unspecified, to grow the digital economy and maintain strong data protection.
  • A pledge to introduce a £1bn Cultural Capital Fund to upgrade cultural and creative infrastructure to be ready for the digital age invest in creative clusters across the country.
  • The party said it commit to recognising the ‘value gap’ between producers of creative content and the digital services that profit from its use.
  • Labour will work with all sides to review the way that innovators and artists are rewarded for their work in the digital age.
  • A digital ambassador will be appointed to liaise with technology companies to promote Britain as an attractive place for investment.

 

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto focuses on the importance of tech to the nation’s future prosperity, with a particularly strong emphasis on lifelong learning and education. The party’s commitment to invest in science and R&D has also been welcomed, as has a commitment to support apprentices in digital industries.

Key points noted include:

  • A desire to boost the number of apprentices in digital industries.
  • A commitment to provide children with basic digital skills, with coding to be kept on the national curriculum.
  • Business rates will be reviewed in order to support the digital economy. Support will also be provided for SMEs in the digital economy.
  • A new Digital Bill of Rights will be introduced.
  • The competition authority will address concentrations of power in digital.

 

Another manifesto

While the above outlines the digital thinking of the main political parties, techUk has provided an alternative view via its own 2017 manifesto that, it says, will help the next Government create a modern and dynamic digital economy.

The policies have been drawn up to deliver on four fundamental objectives:

  • boosting the UK’s productivity;
  • harnessing digital transformation to build a smarter state;
  • creating new jobs and a new skilled, adaptable workforce; and
  • protecting and empowering people in a digital age.

This manifesto provides a comprehensive set of policy recommendations that techUK believes will help the next Government achieve this ambition. Further information can be found here.

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