IT looks set to be the topic of many political debates and events this autumn both in public and behind the scenes.
During September and October a series of discussions organised by the Parliamentary IT Committee (Pitcom) will be held at the main political parties' conferences (see box). The events signal a period of considerable planning for the parties, which are all likely to feature themes of the "information society" in their general election manifestos.
Some of the IT-related policies will affect IT directors more directly than others, but the issues emerging from the work of think tanks such as the Institute for Public Policy Research, and Parliamentary/industry groups such as Eurim, are generally relevant to all.
Manifestos are expected to address concerns that with the global convergence of broadcasting and broadband communications, the UK will fall behind the Asia Pacific region. Improving the reliability and resilience of broadband communications and catching up with the huge advances in low-price, high-bandwidth connectivity widely available in Asia is a priority.
E-crime and internet abuse
We can expect to see an emphasis on making the internet and its interlocking technologies safe and reliable both for home users and businesses. There is likely to be a move away from reactive government agendas to better partnerships between industry and law enforcement agencies to track and trace digital transactions. The importance of computer forensics is now widely recognised.
Manifestos may include broad general infrastructural provisions to keep the UK competitive in the global knowledge economy to ensure that, for example, London remains a trusted centre for international commerce over the next five years.
In public sector IT we can expect calls for reforms around delivering joined up government. This is necessary not only to overcome cultural barriers, but also to untangle the regulatory confusion and governance issues necessary to ensure effective sharing of government information.
Ensuring the UK has world-class technology skills will also be on the agenda, especially with regard to those already in the workforce. Incentives to retrain staff and encourage ongoing professional development could be offered.
Government IT projects
The need for good practice in public IT programmes is major theme across the political spectrum. Expect to see in the manifestos calls for mechanisms for more openness and accountability in large-scale government IT programmes and policies that build on the work of the Office of Government Commerce in this area.
IT issues on the political agenda
- E-crime and measures to eliminate internet abuse
- Keeping up with Asia on broadband communications
- Maintaining UK competitiveness in a global economy
- Delivering true joined-up government
- Improving and updating the IT skills of the UK workforce
- Openness and accountability in government IT programmes.
Forthcoming Pitcom meetings
- Liberal Democrats Conference, 20 September, Bournemouth. Speaker: Malcolm Bruce MP
- Labour Party Conference, 27 September, Brighton. Speaker: IT minister Stephen Timms
- Conservative Party Conference, 5 October, Bournemouth. Speaker: Stephen O'Brien MP