The Queen's Speech is due to be delivered today, setting out the agenda for the newly-elected Conservative government.
Prime minister David Cameron has promised to implement the Tory manifesto ‘in full’, so we can expect to see pledges on SME spending in Whitehall, broadband and public services tech fulfilled.
The new government is also likely to complete some unfinished business from the last Parliament, for example the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ which was blocked by Liberal Democrat ministers.
Here’s a run-down of the main tech-related pledges the government has promised to fulfil by 2020.
1. Communications Data Bill
Known as the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, the Communications Data Bill is a plan to force companies to collect and store records of each user’s internet browsing activity for a year. The Lib Dems blocked it in the last Parliament but now the Tories are governing alone, the Home Secretary Theresa May has hinted it will be quickly ushered through this year.
2. Superfast broadband rollout
Culture and communications minister Ed Vaizey MP is still in charge of delivering the Conservatives’ promise to provide superfast broadband coverage to 95 percent of the UK by the end of 2017, revised from an original target of 90 percent by May 2015. The party has also promised to support 5G research, currently being spearheaded in the UK by Surrey University.
3. The ‘Northern Powerhouse’
Expect to hear more about the Northern Powerhouse: the Chancellor’s plan to boost the economic output of England’s northern cities. This includes an investment to expand the tech incubator network in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield and plans to launch a £113 Cognitive Computing Research Centre in partnership with IBM in Daresbury, Cheshire.
4. More public services online
In their manifesto the Tories promised to save citizens “time, hassle and money” by moving more public services online. This work is the remit of the Government Digital Service, led by a new Cabinet Office minister: Matthew Hancock MP (pictured). Last week Hancock said digitising services is the only way to dramatically cut costs while improving quality.
5. Better use of tech and data in NHS
The government has created a new post: minister for ‘NHS productivity’, filled by David Prior. techUK has said ‘we can expect a strong focus on how the smart deployment of tech and use of data is fundamental to increased productivity in the health service’. The Tories also promised to increase adoption of new tech in the NHS to improve care.
6. Increased SME targets
The Tory manifesto promised a third of Whitehall spending will go to small and medium sized firms, up from the 25 percent target now. Ministers claim to have met the target though SMEs insist it is still too hard to work with government, with direct spending with SMEs (the official preference) actually falling from 10.5 percent to 10.3 percent last year.
7. Better police tech
The Tory manifesto committed to use the ‘Police Innovation Fund’ to push adoption of new technologies, for example better use of mobile devices by police forces. We can also expect to see the newly-operational Police ICT get to work removing waste and duplication by pooling the 43 forces’ requirements, once it has secured the £1.2 million funding it needs.
8. Invest in emerging sectors
The government has promised to support emerging technologies like driverless cars, big data, robotics and nanotechnology, led by new universities and science minister Jo Johnson.
9. Help for startups
The Tory manifesto included a number of proposals to support the startup sector, such as trebling the startup loans initiative, expanding the tech incubator network and offering tax reliefs. The government has said it wants there to be 100,000 more UK companies in 2020 than in 2010, exporting £1 trillion’s worth of products and services.
The government is keen to boost the fledgling fintech industry in the UK and is expected to consult the public and businesses on regulation of digital currencies like bitcoin this summer. The Tory manifesto promised to help challenger banks and fintech startups through the British Business Bank and the ‘Help to Grow’ scheme which helps small firms to secure finance.