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TechUK manifesto calls on next government to put strong focus on digital

TechUK’s digital vision sees the government placing digital technology at the heart of the UK economy, refreshing Gov.uk Verify and prioritising tech in Brexit negotiations

Ahead of the general election next month, techUK has launched a digital manifesto calling on the next government to place digital at the heart of its economic policy.

The document, entitled Inventing the Future: the techUK manifesto 2017, sets out the trade body’s digital vision for 2020 and beyond.

It sets out a series of government policy recommendations covering five different areas, including making Brexit work for the tech industry, economic growth, building a smarter state, skills and jobs, and “guaranteeing a safe and secure digital world”.

Increase investment in cyber security

As part of the proposals, techUK calls on the government to increase its national cyber security budget by 10% to invest in public service security.

The trade body wants the government to support the development of cyber security tools and make the UK a world leader in the field. The recent WannaCry ransomware attack that hit the NHS and businesses highlights the “ever-increasing cyber threat” the world faces, the manifesto said.  

“This shows the critical importance of maintaining the highest level cyber defences,” it said, pointing out that the government’s current investment in cyber security – having committed £1.9bn in last year’s cyber security strategy – was welcome, but that more was needed.  

“TechUK calls on the new government to provide a 10% increase in the total National Cyber Security Strategy budget to strengthen government and public sector ICT. This would equate to almost £200m in extra funding,” the manifesto said. 

“The next government should allocate £1bn a year for digital transformation in the NHS to provide new technology and more efficient service delivery to support patients and improve outcomes”
TechUK manifesto 2017

TechUK CEO Julian David said digital security was “fundamental” to the UK. “That’s why techUK’s cyber proposals would triple the funding for protecting government ICT and securing online services based on the previous budget,” he said.

The trade association also called on the government to get to grips with barriers stopping digital innovation in health and social care. The government has already committed to a paperless NHS at the point of care by 2020, which includes integrated digital care records across health and social care, but spend on digital technology in the sector remains low. 

“To provide the financial capacity needed to undertake true technological transformation within the NHS, the next government should allocate £1bn a year for digital transformation in the NHS to provide new technology and more efficient service delivery to support patients and improve outcomes,” the manifesto said.

“This would mean an increase in the sustainability and transformation budget from 2% to 3% of NHS England spend, bringing it closer to average private sector IT spend.”

Review data practices

TechUK also called on the government to launch a review of current NHS data practices and develop an “open data plan” that would allow businesses to use NHS data to develop new technological interventions.

“Such a plan could include requirements that these interventions are provided at a reduced cost to the NHS by the data supplier before they are exported around the world to other health providers,” the manifesto said.      

As well as investing in cyber security and a digital NHS, techUK also called on the government to increase research and development (R&D) spend.

Echoing calls from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which earlier this year asked the government to raise R&D spend to 3% of GDP by 2025, techUK said the government should adopt the 3% R&D spend target, which would send an “important signal to foreign investors that the UK will remain a leading hub for innovation and scientific collaboration post-Brexit”.   

Put tech at the heart of government 

Focusing on tech within government, the trade body wants Westminster to give one minister in each government department a clear responsibility for technology, and give the secretary of state for culture, media and sport a place on “committees of key importance” to the tech sector, such as those dealing with the economy, Brexit, security and public services. 

It should also adopt a “formal target” of digitising the majority of government transactions by 2020, the manifesto said.  “In addition, the 150 highest volume digital transactions, including benefit transactions, should be entirely digital by default by that time,” it added. 

“The next government must refresh Verify, with a clearly defined strategy for its roll-out across government”
TechUK manifesto 2017

The manifesto said the government’s identity assurance platform, Gov.uk Verify – which was recently slammed in a National Audit Office (NAO) report claiming it had been “undermined by its performance” and failing to achieve the projected number of users – should also be given a “refresh”.  

“The next government must refresh Verify, with a clearly defined strategy for its roll-out across government,” it said. 

Secure success for post-Brexit UK 

As the next UK government takes the country through Brexit negotiations, techUK wants a trade deal that ensures “success for tech”. 

“A trade deal that fails to cover services or that increases friction in our customs arrangements will choke the growth engine of the UK economy. Equally, tech must retain access to the global talent that played a significant role in making the UK Europe’s leading tech hub,” the manifesto said. It added that a “watertight agreement” on cross-border data flows was key to a modern, data-driven economy.   

TechUK also highlighted the need for superfast broadband, and wants the government to identify and address obstacles to broadband take-up. 

“Gaps in broadband connectivity must be addressed urgently to avoid the emergence of a new digital divide”
TechUK manifesto 2017

“As the UK looks towards a post-Brexit environment, one of our key differentiators must be world-leading connectivity,” the manifesto said. “Where there are gaps in connectivity, these must be addressed urgently to avoid the emergence of a new digital divide, and the government must reach out to the millions who are still offline and include them in our connected future.” 

TechUK also wants a digital ambassador to promote the UK digital sector across the world and boost exports, as well as “ring-fencing £250m per year, raised by the Immigration Skills Charge, to help fund major and world-leading domestic digital skills programmes fit for global Britain”.

Read more about tech in the general election

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