Conservative manifesto promises new tech for public services

The Conservative manifesto, released today, reiterated a promise to provide superfast broadband coverage to 95 percent of the UK by the end of 2017.

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The Conservative Party has promised to improve the use of technology in public services and move more government services online if it wins a majority in the general election next month.

Its manifesto, released today, features a raft of measures aimed at improving technology in the police, NHS and justice system.

The party said it would use the ‘Police Innovation Fund’ to push adoption of new technologies, for example more use of mobile devices by police forces.

It promised to use “the latest technology” to improve offender management and introduce new kit into jails, such as body scanners and mobile phone blocking tools.

The Tories said they would increase the use of new technologies in the NHS to improve care, conducting “large-scale trials of innovative technologies and health services”.

Cross-government tech platforms

The party promised to save citizens “time, hassle and money” by moving more public services online.

The Tories claimed to have launched 20 out of 25 digital ‘exemplar’ services promised, despite just 15 of the promised services currently being 'live'. The services, which were redesigned by the Government Digital Service, include apprenticeship applications and tax assessments.

The manifesto included a commitment to roll out “cross-government technology platforms to cut costs and improve productivity – such as GOV.UK”, hinting the party will work towards a ‘Government as a Platform’ model.

The party also promised to increase the target for SMEs' share of central government contracts to one-third, compared to 25 percent now.

The government recently claimed to have spent 26 percent with SMEs in 2014/15. However over that year direct SME spending dropped from 10.5 percent to 10.3 percent, with the rest made up by opaque 'indirect spending’ from subcontracted work from bigger suppliers.

Broadband

The Conservatives reiterated their promise to provide superfast broadband coverage to 95 percent of the UK by the end of 2017. This was revised from an original target of 90 percent by May 2015.

The manifesto said the party would “provide rural Britain with near universal superfast broadband by the end of the next Parliament” and ensure full coverage by installing satellite services in the most difficult to reach areas.

In its manifesto this week, the Labour Party said it would ensure all parts of the UK have access to “affordable, high speed broadband” by 2020 if it wins a majority in May’s election.

At the last election the Tories did not make any specific commitments on funding or deadlines for broadband. However the 2010 manifesto said they would require BT and other infrastructure providers to allow use of their assets to deliver superfast broadband across UK.

Startups

The party offered a number of proposals to support innovation and the startup sector.

The Tories said they would increase the existing network of ‘catapult’ technology incubators, boost support for investment into startups and direct more resources towards emerging technology sectors like robotics and nanotechnology.

The party promised to help challenger banks and fintech startups, for example, through the British Business Bank.

The manifesto reiterated plans to invest £2.9 billion into major research facilities, such as the new Alan Turing Institute.  

The centre will receive £8.4 million in government funding every year over the next five years and will focus on new ways of collecting, organising and analysing large sets of data, known as big data.

The manifesto also promised to provide free Wi-Fi in public libraries and ensure they are able to offer remote access to e-books.