This article is part of our Essential Guide: A guide to a digital government: General election 2015

Labour election manifesto highlights technology and digital skills

The Labour Party's 2015 election manifesto puts technology at the heart of policies for growth, education and public sector reform

The Labour Party has released its 2015 general election manifesto, placing digital technology at the heart of many of its policies for growth, education and public sector reform.

Almost every major section of the Labour manifesto makes mention of the importance of technology and innovation in supporting its proposals for the next government. In March 2015, the party released a report highlighting its digital government policies in more detail, several of which are mentioned in the full manifesto.

Labour identified digital technology as key to its plans for improving the UK’s productivity and industrial strategy.

“Labour’s longer-term approach will drive innovation and build on our strengths as a leader in digital technology. We are just at the start of the internet revolution. Digital technology has transformed startup costs, making it easier to run your own business. There is a widening in the application of new transformative technologies in the fields of robotics, genetics, 3D printing and big data. Our economy is developing a network of connections that will revolutionise innovation,” said the manifesto.

The party also wants to improve broadband and mobile availability across the UK.

“Labour will ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high-speed broadband by the end of the Parliament. We will work with the industry and the regulator to maximise private-sector investment and deliver the mobile infrastructure needed to extend coverage and reduce ‘not spots’, including in areas of market failure,” said the Labour manifesto.

Read more about Labour's digital plans

Transparency in government spending

In education, research and skills training, Labour said it wants to improve the nation’s technical capabilities.

“Scientific discovery and technological innovation will drive economic advancement this century. We will introduce a new long-term funding policy framework for science and innovation, providing the stability and continuity our companies and research institutes need to succeed,” said the manifesto.

“Our universities are among the finest in the world. Some are already helping our regional economies by forming strong links with industry and creating high-tech clusters. They have already spun out hundreds of companies creating thousands of jobs. We will support this model of knowledge clusters, especially outside the south-east.”

IT suppliers winning government business will be expected to offer apprenticeships – and will also be subject to freedom of information laws to improve transparency on government spending.

“Every firm getting a major government contract, and every large employer hiring skilled workers from outside the EU, will be required to offer apprenticeships… We will make sure apprenticeships can lead to higher-level qualifications by creating new Technical Degrees,” said the party manifesto.

Digital technology in public services

“Our freedom of information laws have shone a light into the darker corners of government and are a crucial check on the power of the executive. We will extend their scope so that public services run by large private companies are included.”

And Labour said it will help to ensure digital skills for more people: “We will support community-based campaigns to reduce the proportion of citizens unable to use the internet and help those who need it to get the skills to make the most of digital technology.”

The manifesto outlined the importance of technology to delivering public services and reforming the way government works if Labour were to win the election.

“We will use digital technology to create a more responsive, devolved and less costly system of government,” it said.

“Labour will use digital technology in reforming our public services. People will be able to feed back on services quickly and simply, making sure their voices are heard, stimulating improvement and saving on the costs of service failure.

“We will further develop digital government to enable better communication, more collaboration and sharing data between services. It will make services and transactions more efficient and simpler for people to use. To create a more connected society, we will support making digital government more inclusive, transparent and accountable. We will continue to back the principle of ‘open data by default’, releasing public-sector performance data wherever possible.”

Review of Universal Credit

The party intends to review Universal Credit – the controversial welfare reform introduce by the last government plagued by IT problems in its early stages – and that review is likely to include the approach to future IT development.

“We support the principle behind Universal Credit – that there should be a smooth transition into work – but it must be affordable and fit for purpose, so we will pause and review the programme,” said the manifesto.

Labour acknowledged the need for data privacy and the role of technology in the intelligence services, but stopped short of any commitments to curtailing mass internet surveillance – unlike the Liberal Democrats, who have called for a digital bill of rights to protect citizens online.

“We will need to update our investigative laws to keep up with changing technology, strengthening both the powers available and the safeguards that protect people’s privacy. This is why Labour argued for an independent review, currently being undertaken. We will strengthen the oversight of our intelligence agencies to make sure the public can continue to have confidence in the vital work that they do to keep us safe,” said the Labour manifesto.

The Conservative Party’s general election manifesto is due to be launched tomorrow (14 April 2015).

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