With the election only a few days away and the polls suggesting a much closer race than anyone initially expected, more and more questions are being raised as to what these manifestos and promises actually mean for the technology industry.
Having gone through the manifestos and spoken to various leaders in the London Tech Scene, these are the main take-aways I have identified:
Growth and Business
The Conservatives want the UK to be the best place to start a digital business and have outlined plans to create a digital charter which will promote the growth of the UK technology industry post-Brexit. They also believe the UK can continue to be a leader in areas like Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and Fintech and hope to improve access to talent and investment by fostering a productive environment for businesses.
In terms of online security, the manifesto promises to make the online world as safe as the offline. May has also raised the issue of cybercrime and hopes to build a new infrastructure within the police force, consisting of existing transport police and nuclear staff to “bolster the response to cyber threats” should the Conservatives come to power.
May has promised to “have the majority of the population covered by a 5G signal by 2027.
Growth and Business
As part of their commitment to equality in business, Labour have proposed a commission to look at how the law ‘struggles to keep up with the ever-changing’ forms of employment and gig-economy, which is especially prevalent for many technology companies, will be reviewed.
To support the growth of more technology companies in the UK, the manifesto also outlines plans for a new ‘Digital Ambassador’ who will be appointed to work with technology companies to attract additional start-ups and scale-ups to the UK.
In a similar move to May, Corbyn promises to help under 18s remove any content they shared online as a child and has stated that technology companies will be “obliged” to protect children online and tackle abuse. Following the cyberattack on the NHS in May, they have also added a late section on cybersecurity, with a cybersecurity charter set to be introduced for companies working with the Ministry of Defence.
They have stated that they will “ensure all urban areas… have uninterrupted 5G coverage” and universal superfast broadband by 2022.
Growth and Business
Alongside encouraging technology within education by committing to keep coding on the national curriculum for children, the Lib Dems have outlined a number of initiatives to support start-ups in the UK. In the manifesto, they have mentioned the creation of a ‘start-up allowance’ along with assistance for scale-ups, who will be provided with mentors and assistance from the British Business Bank. Innovation centres will also be created around the country, with the Lib Dems saying it will “build on the success of Tech City, Tech North and the Cambridge tech cluster with a network across the UK acting as incubators for technology companies.” They were also the only party to comment on the buzzword of 2016- driverless cars, pledging to “encourage the swift take-up” of driverless vehicles.
The party have outlined a new law titled the ‘Digital Bill of Rights’ which will protect people’s powers over their data and preserve net neutrality. In response to the Wannacry hacking they have also stated plans to stop the bulk collection of communications data and internet records, wanting to “roll back state surveillance powers.”
Plans have been announced to start a programme of installing “hyper fast, fibre-optic” broadband across the country and have gone as far as saying that all properties in the UK will have 30Mbps download speed by 2022.
I was impressed by the Conservatives proposal of a new digital charter and plans for greater infrastructure within the police force to deal with cybercrime, as security is one of the hot topics in the industry today – even more so post the NHS / WannaCry hacking.
However, I feel their plans, as well as Labour’s, who in my opinion are the furthest away from a credible tech manifesto, are a host of buzz words rather than practical plans. Stating that the UK needs to be leaders in AI, VR and Fintech is great but it’s not that simple. This is very like the idea of “the majority of the population covered by a 5G signal by 2027”. 5G is only a pipe dream in the UK, with the very first adopters not expected to roll out until post-2020 so the idea of widespread coverage is deluded and there merely to placate the industry. Claims like this are hollow and will endanger our growth as a tech nation if not supported by credible substance.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the diversity of Lib Dem plans, being the only party to mention driverless cars and create firm plans on developing tech clusters and incubators across the UK as a result of their recent success, creating pockets of innovation from all corners, vitally many outsides of the Capital. Further investment in support and guidance, something the industry has been canvassing the government for for years, is essential to build and grow companies to emulate recent British success stories from Improbable and ARM.
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