The Liberal Democrat party has highlighted the need for superfast broadband, innovation and less state surveillance in its 2017 manifesto.
The 100-page manifesto promises to foster digital innovation across industries and ensure small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are more visible in the digital sector.
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Among the party’s promises, the Lib Dems plan on a post-general election spending review, aimed at delivering efficiency, local and community integration and investing in technology “to get public services and front-line staff online”.
“In the knowledge-based economy of the future, scientific research, innovation and skills will be crucial to prosperity. The advent of robotics and increasing artificial intelligence will also change the nature of work for many people,” the manifesto said.
“The government needs to act now to ensure this technological march can benefit everyone and that no areas are left in technology’s wake.”
This includes plans to double the number of SMEs contributing to the digital economy through “supporting ICT capital expenditure by businesses in non-digital sectors”.
The Lib Dems also want to create a network across the country which can act as incubators for technology companies, much like Tech City and Tech North already do. It also wants to create innovation and research centres and double innovation and research spend.
The party pledged to keep coding as part of the national curriculum and expand apprenticeships, as well as to reinstating post-study work visas for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) graduates.
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“We will develop a national skills strategy for key sectors, including low-carbon technologies, to help match skills and people,” the manifesto said.
Also high up on the agenda for the Lib Dems is superfast broadband, promising a minimum of 2Gbps broadband speed and fibre to the premises (FTTP) as standard, including unlimited usage, by 2020.
The manifesto promises to ensure “that every property in the UK is provided, by 2022, with a superfast broadband connection with a download speed of 30Mbps, an upload speed of 6Mbps, and an unlimited usage cap” and the party will invest £2bn in “innovative solutions” to ensure rural areas get the same level of connectivity.
In a recent opinion piece for Computer Weekly, Lib Dem shadow business secretary Susan Kramer said the information age “raises big questions around privacy and control” and that the party wants to protect civil liberties and personal data.
In its manifesto, the party commits to introducing “a digital bill of rights that protects people’s powers over their own information, supports individuals over large corporations, and preserves the neutrality of the internet”.
The party wants to “roll back state surveillance powers by ending the indiscriminate bulk collection of communications data, bulk hacking, and the collection of internet connection records” and “oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption”.
Kramer said the party had repeatedly voted against the “Snoopers’ Charter” and wanted to end the “mass collection of communications data”.
In his manifesto foreword, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said young people in today’s society “want to live in a country where the state isn’t snooping into their emails and tracking their internet use”.
It also promises to invest in security and intelligence services, ensuring the country is prepared to counter cyber attacks.
Other key commitments in the manifesto include encouraging online, phone and Skype appoinments in GP surgeries and using innovation funding to “promote GP-led multidisciplinary health and care hubs”, including mobile services to keep people out of hospital, and a new business and retail strategy highlighting the impact of technology.