Who is going to be the big digital winner after the 2015 general election? Congratulations to anyone involved with smart ticketing on public transport – you’re in for a good time. The one area that all three of the Conservative Party, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have committed to in their election manifestos is to develop nationwide smart ticketing, particularly on the railways. Who’d have known?
As for the rest of the technology sector, while there is not quite the same universal commitment as those lucky smart ticketing types (and by the way, sign up whoever does their lobbying now), there is enough common purpose to get a view of the digital priorities of the next government, whoever they may be.
High-speed broadband roll-out is assured – if you’re in the 95% of easiest to reach properties at least. If you fall outside that area, best vote for the Lib Dems and their promise of 99.9% household availability.
The future of the Government Digital Service (GDS) is secure – even if Labour has taken the opportunity to score a few political points in blaming the outgoing coalition for GDS failing to hit its target of having 25 “digital by default” exemplar services live by the election. The Lib Dems’ manifesto was the only one to specifically mention extending the GDS remit to local government, but Labour has previously made a similar promise and Tory chancellor George Osborne made it a Budget commitment last month.
The parties all recognised the importance of backing and investment – in varying degrees – for the UK’s science and technology research base, for digital skills and apprenticeships, and for helping to create and grow tech startups.
But the most contentious topic remains that of data privacy and state surveillance. The Lib Dems stand out as the party offering most change, with their digital bill of rights. With Labour and the Tories, we’re likely to see continuance of internet snooping by the security services, albeit with slightly more oversight under Labour.
But has any party really given us a vision of a future digital Britain? Not really – it’s mostly different flavours of the same trends seen across the past five years. There are still so many more things we could do for the benefit of us all, if only our political leaders had a grasp of the potential.
So here is one policy we would like to see delivered by the time we come to the next scheduled election in 2020 – for politicians to be educated in the true opportunity for technology to radically transform the UK for the better.