GE2017: Tories want the UK to be the best place to start a digital business and promise to make the online world as safe as the offline
The Conservatives have promised to create a digital charter that will promote the growth of the UK technology industry post-Brexit, ensure the rules of the offline world apply online, and ensure more efficient public services, if the party wins the 2017 General Election.
The party’s manifesto nominated “fast changing technology” as one of the five main challenges to be addressed during the next parliament.
It says the UK can continue to be a leader in areas like Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and Fintech but the issues of cybersecurity and physical wellbeing are threats to this ambition.
Conservative manifesto technology
“For the sake of our economy and our society, we need to harness the power of fast-changing technology, while ensuring that our security and personal privacy – and the welfare of children and younger people – are protected,” said the document.
“If we are going to respond to rapid changes in technology, we need government to make Britain the best place in the world to set up and run modern businesses, bringing the jobs of the future to our country; but we also need government to create the right regulatory frameworks that will protect our security and personal privacy, and ensure the welfare of children and younger people in an age when so much of life is conducted 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.
Support for digital
Aside from these concerns, the Tories claimed they would make the UK the best place to start a digital business, by improving access to talent and investment, and by fostering a productive environment for businesses.
In the manifesto there is a commitment to research and development and funding, alongside education initiatives such as technical education, ‘T-Level’ qualifications and apprenticeships backed by leading employers and universities. The visa system would also be looked at to ensure digital firms can get access to the best international talent, something that will be of particular concern when the UK leaves the EU.
The Conservatives have reiterated the desire for a universal service obligation (USO) that will allow anyone in the UK to demand a broadband connection of at least 10Mbps 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.
Despite some setbacks at Whitehall, the Conservative Party have promised to continue with a digital government drive if it wins the election. This includes a commitment to open data and common platforms across local and central governments, such as Verify.
It has also committed to the sharing of data between departments across central government by 2022 and more public services by 2026.
This will be backed up by ‘digital literacy’ campaigns in the workplace to ensure citizens can maximise the benefits of these initiatives and ensure the digital divide does not widen.
“It is a political first to have such a significant focus on security and prosperity in the Digital Age. Tech firms will sit up and take note of this ambitious digital agenda,” commented Antony Walker, deputy CEO of industry body techUK.
“Putting these commitments into practice will not be easy. There is a fine line between creating an enabling framework that supports a thriving digital nation and over reaching regulation that constrains the creativity of businesses and citizens.
“The UK cannot afford to get this wrong – one of the main reasons that the UK is a global tech hub is due to its environment of regulatory certainty and that must continue.”