With the political parties’ manifestos due to be unveiled next week and the general election just four weeks away, what can the tech sector expect from the two main parties? Here is a flavour of what Labour and the Conservatives have hinted so far.
1. Conservatives: Online tax returns
In his latest budget chancellor George Osborne promised to introduce online tax returns for 50 million individuals and businesses by the end of the next Parliament. However experts have warned the promised functionality is complex and will be difficult to deliver.
2. Conservatives: Support for startups
The Conservatives say they support small businesses and have promised to extend startup loans from £130 million to £300 million if elected. In government they have offered a number of tax breaks to SMEs and set up various tech incubators.
3. Conservatives: Emerging tech
The Tories have pledged support for a number of emerging tech sectors – £100 million for driverless cars, £40 million to support the Internet of Things industry, work to boost the ‘sharing economy’ and digital currencies and an ‘Alan Turing Institute’ for big data research.
4. Labour: Get 100 percent of the population online
The Labour Party has said digital inclusion will be its ‘number one priority’ in government, with a goal to get 100 percent of the population online.
5. Labour: Data sharing review
Ed Miliband has promised to set up ‘ethical guidelines’ for public sector data sharing, following a review. The party has warned public trust in data sharing schemes is at an all-time low after the care.data fiasco.
6. Labour: Improve civil servants’ digital skills
All civil servants should receive five days of training on digital skills over the next Parliament, equivalent to one day of training a year, according to a Labour-commissioned digital government report published at the end of 2014.
7. Both: Broadband
Both parties have promised to improve broadband infrastructure. The Tories say we’ll have superfast broadband in 95 percent of homes by 2017. Labour has criticised the current rollout for prizing speeds over coverage, and is mulling whether to make a universal service commitment.
8. Both: Local digital services
The Conservatives and Labour have both made proposals to improve digital services in local government. The budget said Whitehall, the Government Digital Service and local government will work together to improve local digital services, while Labour has said it will set up ‘local digital factories’ to build and share software among councils.
9. Both: Government as a platform
Both parties have enthused about the idea du jour, Government as a Platform’: moving to common, shared technology platforms across government. The outgoing administration has promised to build over 30 common platforms, starting with appointment booking, payments and messaging. Labour has said there is a ‘great opportunity’ for IT reuse and shared systems across government.
10. Both: Save billions replacing big IT deals
Whitehall departments have already started replacing single supplier IT deals. Tory Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the cost of providing tech to civil servants could be more than halved by using SMEs and more internet-based tools, saving at least £2 billion over the next Parliament. Labour has backed the approach of replacing monolithic, long-term, single-supplier ICT deals with multiple shorter-term contracts.