Autumn Statement 2014: Why did Osborne not use tech to improve public services?

The technology sector has criticised chancellor George Osborne for failing to use the Autumn Statement to highlight the benefits of using technology to improve public services.

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The technology sector has criticised chancellor George Osborne for failing to use the Autumn Statement  to highlight the benefits of using technology to improve public services.

More also could have been done to boost broadband connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, and he could have also focused more on digital skills, representatives said.

Lack of digital focus

Speaking to ComputerworldUK, shadow Cabinet Office minister Chi Onwurah criticised the lack of focus on the digital sector and digital inclusion.

She said: “It had nothing for digital inclusion and very little for digital generally. There were some background investment measures, but there was nothing about digital as a great platform for innovation, for the economy and as a driver of government for everyone. There was a real omission of discussing digital as an investment for our future.

“And there was absolutely no talk about how to use technology to redesign public services. He could have talked about it in the context of the cuts still required.”

Rachel Neaman, CEO of digital skills charity Go ON UK, agreed more needs to be done to help small businesses “develop the necessary digital skills to truly make the most of the opportunities available”.

Tech in public services

A number of commentators bemoaned a lack of focus on the role technology can play in improving public services.

Thinktank Police Exchange’s head of technology policy Eddie Copeland said: “George Osborne has warned of further cuts, but it would be nice to hear more recognition of the need to redesign rather than cut public services. There is a huge role for tech there.”

Digital imaging firm Ricoh’s government director Alasdair McCormick agreed, saying that “extra investment in the NHS must be met with an equally bold approach to IT”.

“Technology is key to creating a truly connected, cost efficient health service, and delivering this should be a number one priority for the government over the coming months,” he added.

Likewise database software company Filemaker said technology could be “the saviour to the current woes of the NHS”.

Director Tony Speakman said: “Technology is vital to drive efficiency, produce cost savings and improve patient care. Investing money in small efficiency improvements in a timely and cost effective manner will be a much more effective use of funding than either large IT projects or the abandonment of technology.”

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