General Election 2015: mixed reaction from UK IT sector

While tech sector figures have expressed relief over the clear result, there are concerns about the EU referendum, the 'Snooper's Charter' and ensuring the government does more to overhaul its use of IT.

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Tech sector figures have had a mixed reaction to news that the Conservatives have won power after yesterday’s general election.

“Certainty has to be a good thing”, said Georgina O’Toole, director at analyst house TechMarketView, a comment echoed by Antony Walker, deputy CEO of IT industry body techUK.

“My main concern was not really which party won but that we had a clear government. The nightmare scenario for us was months of uncertainty and no government at all,” said Harry Metcalfe, MD of web development agency dxw.

Government IT

The result is not expected to make a great deal of difference to the government IT sector, Metcalfe said.

However he and Suraj Kika, CEO of another SME (Jadu) that works with government, called for the government to do more to make it easier for small firms to do business with the public sector.

“Government has a long way to go with getting departments understanding how to do business with SMEs. Local government is far more mature,” Kika said.

There will be a big difference at ministerial level, as former Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude stepped down at the election after a full five-year tenure in post.

Maude is widely recognised by IT industry figures for overseeing the creation of the Government Digital Service, working to reduce bloated IT spending, make the government tech market more competitive, increase use of cloud computing, digitise public services and open up public data.

We can expect to see an acceleration in work to roll out cross-government technology platforms – dubbed ‘Government as a Platform’, according to Civica’s business development director Paul Bradbury.

However, O’Toole said she would like to hear less about cutting ICT budgets, as the real benefit “would come if the new Government began to invest in innovative ICT solutions to save money from the broader budget”.

EU referendum

A number of firms warned the promised referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will pose a risk to the IT industry.

Tech headhunters Campbell North said: “I find it difficult to see how pulling out from Europe will do anything other than pull the plug on London’s tech scene”.  Andy Soanes, CTO of Bell Integration, warned it will cause “market uncertainty”.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales went further, saying it would be a “disaster”. As recently reported in our sister title Techworld, Google is understood to be waiting for the referendum outcome before building its £650 million UK headquarters in Kings Cross.

There were also calls for the Conservatives to honour- and clarify- their commitment to ensure 'nearly all' of the UK has superfast broadband by the end of the next Parliament. 

"We can welcome a strong push on the introduction of ultrafast broadband (at least 100 megabits per second) to ‘nearly all UK premises’ and universal roll out of basic broadband," said Simon Colvin, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons. 

"We will wait to see how the ‘nearly all’ commitment is translated at policy level, recognising the challenges that come with creating a broadband market in the very hard to reach areas and seeking to bridge the digital divide."

Huppert loses seat

A number of individuals within the sector expressed sadness over the loss of Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert, who had been the only research scientist in the House of Commons but failed re-take his seat in Cambridge.

Veteran tech commentator William Heath, who set up Kable and Mydex, said it was a “terrible loss”, while Open Rights Group officer Ruth Coustick-Deal said she was “sad to hear” he had lost his seat.

“Sorry to see House now without Julian Huppert – strong and knowledgeable voice for science and tech absent,” tweeted Eddie Copeland, Policy Exchange’s head of technology policy.

‘Snoopers’ Charter'

A number of individuals expressed alarm at hints by Theresa May MP today that the government will reintroduce the Communications Data Bill, known as the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, now it does not need to rely on Liberal Democrat support.

Mobile developer Terence Eden tweeted it would be “potentially crippling for parts of the tech scene”, adding “why invest here with a user privacy hostile government”? ”I'm so worried for our rights this time round,” Coustick-Deal said.

Which of the new intake can we expect to see getting involved in the tech scene?

Heath tweeted he had been “advised Matt Warman [new MP for Boston and Skegness, previously head of technology at the Telegraph] is the top tip for the next-gen MP who is clueful on tech”.

Copeland said Warman and Alex Chalk [former barrister, now MP were “two tech-savvy MP additions to the HoC [House of Commons]”.

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