A Budget for IT? Just let us get on with it

Tomorrow (24th March) is Budget day – or more accurately, the effective start of the General Election campaign. The next six weeks or so are set to be a defining time for businesses and public sector bodies in determining how – and maybe even if – the UK’s recovery proceeds from here.

Everyone is waiting to see what happens, and what effect the next government’s policies will have on their strategy, spending and staffing.

The good news for IT managers is that the sector goes into the election in improving health. Recent employment surveys have highlighted that IT recruitment is one of the fastest recovering, and the mood around the IT profession sees a cautious return to longer-term planning and new project initiatives.

The UK IT industry – through the medium of trade association Intellect – says that the right policies and government incentives would lead to the creation of 250,000 new technology jobs over the next 10 years.

The government’s National Strategic Skills Audit, published last week, highlights the IT and telecoms sectors as the two most economically significant industries for UK growth, not just for their own prospects but as catalysts for other areas too.

The Tories say they want to see the next Google be a British company. It’s a fine aim, certainly worth a few headlines, but is that the right future for UK IT? Policies to support IT need to recognise what we are good at, and be aware of our strengths and weaknesses rather than trying to copy what Silicon Valley does.

We don’t have to create a global giant company to be a global giant as a nation.

The UK’s historic technology strengths are innovation and invention, intellectual property and the global reach that comes from being a hub between the US, Europe and the Commonwealth. Our success stories are in software, services, communications, and creative industries. We invented the web, after all – well, one of our citizens did, at least.

The best that any government can do is ensure a supportive environment for those strengths – then stand back, and let the talent in UK IT get on with it.