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What Does The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement Mean For UK Tech?

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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NEWS ANALYSIS; Budget cuts, digital investment, broadband – how will the Chancellor’s plans impact the UK technology industry?

Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review has given the technology industry much to ponder.

Billions of pounds has been pledged to support digital initatives, cyber security and the Government Digital Service (GDS), but local government budgets are likely to be squeezed again, and it is hoped tech can help authorities become more efficient. There was also precious little said about future plans for broadband.

But what did the industry make of it?

James Norman, UK public sector CIO at EMC

george osborne tech city engineering office“We saw billions of investment announced today to ensure we continue to grow as a Nation and lead as a stronger country. This is a fantastic step forward and clearly shows that the Government is starting to listen to industry more. But where was the investment in our digital foundation?

“Did Matt Hancock’s promise of tackling the sharing and linking of data come through? To an extent yes, by promising to eradicate paper processes by creating the most digitally advanced tax system and investing £1.8 billion for digital transformation, of which £450 million is for Government Digital Services over the next five years.

“However, despite the boost in funding for health, it wasn’t the amount that was expected. It will be interesting to see which areas they prioritise as they progress the Five Year Forward View. But we don’t just need a well-funded GDS and NHS – what we need is a digital foundation built on data and transparency, as well as a smarter approach to drive efficiencies within government, whilst improving services for citizens.

“If the Government is to meet the needs of the ‘information generation’ and deliver against demands for more online services in business support and personalised healthcare, as revealed in our recent ‘Future of Government Digital Services’ report, the digital foundation needs to be clearly mapped out and strong enough to weather the storms ahead.”

Mick Wayman, head of public sector at Vodafone

“Today’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review re-confirms that the challenges the public sector faces will continue, with local government seeing a budget reduction and no increase in funding for police. Although no immediate cuts have been announced for the NHS or policing, all public sector organisations will still have to seek genuine transformation in order to continue to provide core public services. The public sector needs to do this in the face of increasing demand and in a challenging financial environment.

“Technology has a role to play in this transformation, above and beyond what has happened to date. It can create long term savings and drive up productivity in a relatively short time frame, enabling our UK public sector workers, both on and behind the frontline, to be more productive and efficient. Not only that, but this can all be done while delivering services to citizens in the way they want and need them.

“The public sector cannot afford to continue delivering services as they do today. The technology to support some of the changes needed in order to make sustainable savings already exists. It offers rapid return on investment while maintaining, and sometimes improving, services to citizens.

Elizabeth Kantar, director of government relations and public policy, Global Corporate Affairs at SAP

government parliament big ben public sector bus clouds © CristinaMuraca Shutterstock government parliament big ben public sector bus clouds © CristinaMuraca ShutterstockTo achieve the results the Government has proposed today, the Government must do more than talk about the benefits of digital transformation, it must become a ‘data leader’.

“While it’s encouraging that digital transformation has enabled savings of 18 percent at HMRC, the Government must now follow through with a commitment to similar innovation in those departments being asked to make equally significant cuts.We firmly believe that unlocking the value of government data will be critical to delivering this next wave of public sector productivity.

“However, leveraging data alone isn’t enough – departments will require access to skills and technology that can harness, analyse and derive insights from government data. This means an investment in data infrastructure as well as the skills base needed to support data-driven decision making. It’s these investments that will enable government to make more informed decisions faster across departments and, ultimately, do a better, more effective job – doing more with less.”

Matthew Hare, CEO of rural FTTP provider Gigaclear

“The fact [BDUK] has come to a close I don’t think is a bad thing personally. What we and others like us have shown is that the assertion that there is no commercial case for building networks in rural areas might have been true [eight years ago] but is not true now.

“The business case that didn’t work eight years ago, does work now. I would question if that money has benefited anyone but BT. The fact that scheme has come to an end, we’re not worried at all. What it may have done is brought forward investment by BT that might have happened anyway.”

“We’re a very small beneficiary of the [super connected city voucher scheme]. If you look at it, BT has again been the main beneficiary … even if not at a retail level.”

“The [potential alternative network fund] could be attractive. We already have the support of two pretty big institutional investors, but putting it bluntly, putting new fibre networks is expensive.”

Neil Crockett, CEO of the Digital Catapult

tech support“It is great that the government’s vision for a stronger UK has digital at its heart. We are delighted that the Chancellor recognises the value of government as a platform as envisaged by the Government Digital Service and that there is a clear plan for the Northern Powerhouse and devolved nations.

“We naturally welcome the continued support for the Catapult centres and research at time when the UK needs to maintain its global lead in digital innovation.  It is also important to remember that digital transformation is not just needed in the public sector, but across businesses of all sizes to drive economic growth and productivity. We are looking forward to learning more about the Digital Transformation Plan and to understand how we can play our part in unlocking the potential value from sharing data.”

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