It’s been said that the general election this week is the most important for a generation. That’s probably true on a number of levels – and certainly within the microcosm of the IT and digital community.
Technology is not going to decide who wins, but it is going to underpin the delivery of almost every major policy enacted over the next five years by whatever parties make up the new administration. This will be the most digital government ever – frankly, whether they like it or not.
Fortunately, the politicians appear to know this. Every major party’s manifesto recognised the importance of broadband, startups, education, research and digital public services.
The IT community expects and demands that it receives the same sort of favourable political treatment as financial services, manufacturing or construction. We’re not there yet. But a digital Britain ticks every box in terms of the issues that will determine the economic success of the new administration – rebalancing the economy, growing new businesses, reversing the export trade gap, and more.
In healthcare, there is simply no way the NHS will be able to meet demand without a radical growth in technology adoption and innovation. In education, children will not meet the future needs of employers unless they have computing skills. Name a policy priority, and tech is at its heart.
This criticality must be acknowledged by the next government in its support and policies for the technology community. We will need a dedicated digital minister, with a far-reaching brief to promote the digital economy and to push through IT-enabled change in Whitehall. We need to build a broadband infrastructure that will meet the needs of the next 20 years, not just the next five. We need digitally enlightened policies that recognise how technology can radically transform the business of government, not simply automate the way things have always worked.
There has been good progress over the past five years, but there is a lot more yet to do – and a lot more benefit to be achieved in terms of cost cuts, service improvements and government efficiency. There is a digital dividend awaiting a government that gets it right. We hope and expect that they accept the challenge.