TechUK, the UK's technology trade association, has launched a digital manifesto detailing how the next government must turn the UK into a digital leader over the next five years.
Securing our Digital Future: The TechUK Manifesto for growth and jobs 2015-2020 urges politicians from all parties to recognise the significance of the digital revolution as they produce their own political manifestos over the coming months. Digital public services, network infrastructure, suppliers, skills and migration were a few of the topics raised in the document.
“Over the next five years, the UK has the opportunity not just to be a digital leader, but to use digital technologies to address the fundamental long-term social and economic challenges that will determine our future, and that of our children and grandchildren,” reads the manifesto.
TechUK – the body that represents the technology industry in Britain – calls for the next government to use technology-led innovation to deliver high quality public services, as well as increase productivity and secure a million new jobs in digital.
Plan for the future
According to the document, 65% of voters believe the government is responsible to plan for the future, and the manifesto sets out what the next government must do to secure the UK’s digital potential.
Julian David, CEO of TechUK, says: “Tech and digital have a fundamental role to play in almost everything the next government will need to do as we continue to rebuild our economy for the 21st century. That's why today TechUK is launching its manifesto as a roadmap to 2020. The key message for politicians is that voters and industry alike want the Government to secure our digital future.”
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But David believes the UK government is already moving in the right direction. “There has been a step change in understanding just how significant these changes are and that we are in a global race,” he said.
“The next five years must be about bringing greater scale and pace to the digital transformation of our country. From skills to infrastructure, digital government to digital health, we have to think big and get the job done. Get it right and the action we take over the next five years can secure our digital future for the next thirty," he added.
Under the coalition government, the Government Digital Service (GDS) will move 25 of the most used government services online. The government claims digitising public services will make cumulative savings of £1.2bn in this parliament, rising to an estimated £1.7bn a year after 2015. Labour has openly recognised the efforts made by GDS and said that they would build on its successes if it came into power next May.
The TechUK manifesto now calls for the digitisation of 150 of the main government transactions by 2020, which will only be possible by increasing the digital talent within government.
“Groundbreaking progress has been made in the approach to digital government over the last four years which the next government must build upon, bringing greater scale and pace to the process of public service transformation,” said the report.
TechUK also wants the next government to work with industry to deliver its vision of the digital economy
“The next five years should be remembered as the period when the UK started to truly rebuild its public services for the 21st century, delivering the quality of service that its citizens expect at a cost which current and future generations of tax payers can afford.”
To ensure this digitisation takes place, TechUK also wants to see dedicated digital ministers in every department, as well as a new chief privacy officer to strengthen public confidence in the use of data. The manifesto also said the digitising of central government should be replicated in local government.
TechUK also wants the next government to work with industry to deliver its vision of the digital economy. It believes the government should strengthen its engagement with the private sector because it “cannot deliver on the vision of a digital economy alone".
Being the body which represents the technology industry, it was not surprising that one of the recommendations was to “make contracting with the public sector easier for all suppliers, regardless of size, so that government can draw upon the widest supplier base possible".
TechUK wants the next government to set science and research budgets for the next 10 years
Over the last couple of years, the government has been trying to break the oligopoly of suppliers within Whitehall by pushing for departments to concentrate their spend on SMEs, which has resulted in a dwindling share of contracts for some of the big suppliers.
TechUK’s recommendation stated that by embracing the full supplier ecosystem, government will be able to “take advantage of the capabilities of companies large and small, and tax payers don’t have to bear the additional costs of overly complex procurement processes.”
Other calls to action
It also wants the next government to set science and research budgets for the next 10 years, while implementing a ‘smart migration’ policy to allow high growth companies to access the world’s best talent. It also asked the next government to become a world-leader in data protection , and to deliver a digital inclusion programme to ensure everyone has basic online skills by 2020.
It also stated that urgent action is required to meet superfast broadband and mobile coverage targets, and the government must lower communications network infrastructure costs, as well as enabling better access to public sector land and street furniture.