Why it's time for the IT community to engage with politicians

No blood was spilled, but listening to the three main political parties debate their digital policies together for the first time this week laid out the battleground for their likely general election technology manifestos.

Computer Weekly, with help from TechUK and the BCS, brought together the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties to face questions from an audience of IT executives about their priorities for supporting the tech sector and growing the UK’s digital economy.

Reassuringly, there was much agreement between the three. On further support for the burgeoning tech startup sector; on expanding the work of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and supporting local authorities in their digital plans; and on the need for reforms around data protection and privacy – all three parties concurred.

You can read all about the debates in our coverage here:

And you can watch video highlights from the event here:

But perhaps the most significant theme from the debate was the need for better engagement between politicians and the IT sector.

In past elections, the IT community has been at the back of the room, desperately waving its hand in the air for the politicians to take notice, trying to tell them how important it was. This year, for the first time, the main parties have invited us forward to sit closer to the front.

There is widespread recognition – at last – that technology can and must play a major role underpinning some of the major reforms needed in the UK in the next five years, in the economy, health and social care, national security, education and welfare.

The IT community has, justifiably, pointed to the lack of digital literacy in Parliament, urging MPs to become more aware of how technology can help deliver the changes they all call for. But all three of our panelists – digital economy minister Ed Vaizey, shadow digital government minister Chi Onwurah, and the LibDems’ Julian Huppert, agreed that IT itself needs to become more politically aware too – “The challenge for the tech industry is to meet politicians half way,” said Vaizey.

And they’re right. For the digital community, your time is now – the doors are open at last. There has never been a better opportunity to engage with the UK’s political leaders and show them how technology can make all our lives better.

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Bryan,

Having watched the debate, and corresponded with both major parties in the past, I believe the parties are already aligned with today's industry agenda of better interoperability (systems integration is bound to work eventually!) and new web front-ends for citizens (see GDS examplars).

Therefore there was no debate, only concurrence.

Only a disruptive new design can maximise the potential of public service computing.

See http://goo.gl/duUZdf

This is the sort of alternative that needs to be debated.

The current groupthink is most unhealthy.


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