The IT industry has been left with an uncertain future after the General Election resulted in Britain’s first hung parliament in decades.
Conservative leader David Cameron insists Gordon Brown’s Labour party has "lost its mandate to govern", but without a clear Tory majority, efforts to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats continue.
Views on the election
Any coalition government, or a minority administration, could add not just to uncertainty affecting the country generally, but the IT industry in particular.
In the run up to the election all the parties insisted on major cuts in public sector spending with IT-driven efficiencies being counted on to protect service levels. Some existing projects are also likely to be axed – including the expensive and controversial ID card scheme. Shares in outsourcing companies have fallen heavilly since the result was declared.
The Conservatives used the election toreiterate existing plans – to freeze major new IT spending, and to make changes in government procurement by opening the market to smaller suppliers.
The Liberal Democrats called for improved government IT procurement, and encouraged greater use of cloud computing and open-source software.
Labour, which could yet lead an administration, made a particular focus of what it calls Digital Britain, pledging to support the IT industry including startup companies.
This year’s Budget promised some support for new workers, as Alistair Darling, the chancellor, announced funding for 20,000 higher education training places in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, and more support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The rollout of high-speed broadband across the country is also being touted by Labour as a way to boost industry.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have insisted they would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the green technology industry. The Conservatives, conversely, have made fewer specific announcements on the environment and related jobs.
In recent months, IT workers across the UK on public and private sector contracts have protested at difficult conditions, pay freezes and the limiting of their retirement benefits. A number of workers have even gone on high profile strikes, with HP and Fujitsu seeing major industrial action on key contracts.
All three of the large parties recognised the changing online habits of voters, some buying Google keywords to gain traction on the web. And after it emerged that the Conservatives had reportedly been sponsoring thousands of Google AdWords for more than three years, Labour’s former deputy leader John Prescott appeared on Twitter calling for Labour activists to click on the Conservative Party’s Google ads in an attempt to rack up costs for the Tories.
But Labour and the Conservatives faced controversy last month as they swept the new Digital Economy Bill into law, meaning users face being cut off if they access pirated material. While the Bill met support from creative industries and copyright holders, vocal opponents – including broadband firm Talk Talk and the Open Rights Group – said it limited free speech and imposed heavy burdens on internet service providers.
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