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Election 2017: What Do The Major Parties Plan For Technology?

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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GENERAL ELECTION 2017: Read our party-by-party guide to technology policy

The 2017 General Election is arguably the most significant in a generation. The outcome will determine how the UK leaves the European Union (EU) and what impact this will have on the tech sector.

Theresa May’s Conservatives are strong favourites but what seemed a foregone conclusion only weeks ago is a little less certain following Labour’s impressive campaign performance.

But what do the major UK parties think about technology? Here are their views.

Parliament Government London © anshar Shutterstock 2012

Conservatives

Support for the UK tech industry:  The Tory manifesto nominated “fast changing technology” as one of five main challenges to be addressed in the next parliament. It wants the UK to be the best place to start a digital business and wants the country to be a leader in areas like Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and fintech.

A digital charter will promote the industry and there are commitments to visas and funding for research.

Communications:  The Conservatives will deliver a universal service obligation (USO) for 10Mbps broadband and have promised a “full fibre” voucher scheme for SMBs similar to the previous programme. 

The party said mobile coverage on major train routes would be improved, as would on-board Wi-Fi, and that 4G coverage would reach 95 percent of the UK landmass by 2022. However this is a hollow promise given EE has pledged to reach that target by 2020. There was also a promise to bring a 5G service to 95 percent of the UK population by 2027 and plans for more spectrum.

Regulation & Brexit:  The Conservatives have promised to continue with digital government and have pledged to share data among different departments. However the biggest issue is cybersecurity and a pledge to make the rules of the offline world apply to the online.

The manifesto said that if elected for another term, they would make the internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, more accountable for objectionable content such as cyberbullying, pornography and terrorism.

The Conservatives are in favour of Brexit.

Read the full Conservative breakdown here

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Labour

Support for the UK tech industry:  Labour has committed to a £250 billion National Transformation fund, to boost technical education and to create a digital ambassador that will support tech startups.

The party also promised the highest number of ‘high skilled jobs’ within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development by 2030.

Communications:  Labour will support a broadband universal service obligation (USO), improved 4G connectivity across the UK (including on major rail and rail routes), support for 5G and Wi-Fi in libraries. It has also pledged to push ultrafast broadband, although BT Openreach has promised to bring G.Fast or fibre to the premise (FTTP) to the ‘majority’ of the UK within a decade.

Regulation & Brexit: Labour respects the decision of the EU referendum but wants to remain part of the European Single Market and to guarantee the rights of EU citizens. It says digitial services must not be inhibited by national borders.

If elected, Labour would invest in R&D using a National Investment Bank and would aim to keep the UK within EU research initiatives like Horizon 2020.

Read the full  Labour breakdown here

Read about the Lib Dems & SNP on Page 2….