After the Tories released their manifesto,PublicTechnology takes a look at the three main parties’ plans for digital and technology ahead of next month’s general election.
The Conservatives’ manifesto tops 30,000 words over 88 pages. There are a whopping 66 mentions of ‘digital’, 30 of ‘technology’, 26 of ‘online’ and 12 counts of ‘cyber’.
Digital even makes it into a chapter title for the Tories: Prosperity and security in a digital age, and a section on digital government and public services.
Chalk it up
The Conservative Party manifesto makes a commitment to “digital government and public services, using data and digital technology to transform school choice, local services and issues like planning and social care”.
These reiterate many of the commitments made in policies and strategies published by the party in the past year, mainly from the Government Transformation Strategy, such as digital government services by default, digital transformation fellowships for international partnerships and to roll out GOV.UK Verify.
The Tories say they will “incubate more digital services within government”, and support new providers seeking to use digital technology for healthcare, such as in monitoring long-term conditions.
There will be a “strategy to rationalise the use of personal data within government, reducing data duplication across all systems, so that we automatically comply with the ’once-only’ principle in central government services by 2022 and wider public services by 2025”.
Other commitments to open up data include offering more information on public services, such as schools, transport and traffic, and publishing operational performance data of all local and central public-facing services “as a matter of course” in an open format (data would be aggregated and anonymised).
The party promises to create a comprehensive geospatial data body within government, made up of “the relevant parts of HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey, the Valuation Office Agency, the Hydrographic Office and Geological Survey”. This will be “the largest repository of open land data in the world”, and the body will set standards to digitise the planning process and “help create the most comprehensive digital map of Britain to date”.
A digital charter, created with industry and charities, to make the best place for digital business and the safest country to go online, and that “balances freedom with protection for users, and offers opportunities alongside obligations for businesses and platforms”.
Underpinning this will be a regulatory framework in law that will “ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers abide by these principles”, with a sanctions regime where regulators that can fine or prosecute those that don’t.
A Data Use and Ethics Commission will be established to “advise regulators and parliament on the nature of data use and how best to prevent its abuse”. It will develop rules and principles to create a new data protection law “to ensure the very best standards for the safe, flexible and dynamic use of data and enshrining our global leadership in the ethical and proportionate regulation of data”.
In addition, the manifesto commits the Tories to putting the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care on a statutory footing @to ensure data security standards are properly enforced”.
On healthcare, the manifesto says patients will be given more options to book appointments digitally or over the phone, restates the commitment to increasing the number of healthcare apps, and pledges to pilot live publication waiting times data for urgent care services.
Businesses will have the right to “insist on a digital signature and the right to digital cancellation of contracts”, while digital companies will be obliged to provide digital receipts and clearer terms and conditions.
On broadband, 19 out of 20 businesses will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017; every home will have high speed by 2020; and there will be work done to provide Gigaspeed “to as many businesses and homes as possible”.
The already announced National Productivity Investment Fund has committed £740m of digital infrastructure investment, and £250m to improve skills by 2020.
There are commitments to autonomous vehicles and using digital technology to improve railways, which were announced in March’s Budget statement.
The Migration Advisory Committee will be asked to make recommendations on the visa system, which is likely to include setting aside visas for workers in “strategically-important sectors, such as digital technology”.
The Tories will introduce a right to lifelong learning in digital skills, alongside existing commitments to literacy and numeracy, and a new institute of technology in the UK dedicated to world-leading digital skills, run in partnership with the tech industry.
Social media companies will be required to delete information about young people as they turn 18.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn officially launched his party’s manifesto on 16 May.
It focuses on increasing the role of the state, with plans to nationalise the railways and utilities, boost NHS funding, create a national education service and scrap university tuition fees, funded by increasing taxes.
On Brexit, Labour says it accepts the referendum result, but aims to appeal to those who don’t want a hard, “Tory Brexit”. It promises to protect workers’s rights and “provide certainty” to EU nationals, while developing new, “fair immigration rules”.
Chalk it up
Labour’s full manifesto is just under 25,000 words and runs to 128 pages. It mentions ‘digital’ nine times, ‘technology’ and ‘cyber’ four each, and ‘online’ three.
What’s in there for digital?
Labour will create a digital ambassador to “liaise with technology companies to promote Britain as an attractive place for investment and provide support for start-ups to scale up to become world-class digital businesses”.
Universal superfast broadband will be available by 2022 (although the speed is not set), and Labour will, “on day one”, ask the National Infrastructure Commission to report on how to roll out ultrafast 300Mbps broadband across the UK in the next decade.
Labour promises free WiFi in city centres and on public transport, investment in 4G and work to ensure all major roads and railways and urban areas have 5G coverage.
On data sharing and privacy, the party says it will ensure that trade agreements “do not impede cross-border data flows, whilst maintaining strong data protection rules to protect personal privacy”.
Labour commits to lifelong training to boost skills and increase productivity as work patterns and roles are being changed by technology. Responsibility for skills will be devolved, “wherever there is an appetite”, to city regions or devolved administrations.
Extended use of technology in the court service to enhance access to justice, resolve disputes more quickly and improve administration. There is no other mention of digital government or using technology to improve public services.
Cyber security will form “an integral part” of Labour’s defence and security strategy, with a cyber-security charter introduced for companies working with the Ministry of Defence, and greater support for the police to tackle cybercrime.
Labour promises “proportionate and necessary” use of investigatory powers, with reintroduction of judicial oversight of how and when they are used. Security agencies will have the “resources and powers they need”, but not in a way that weakens individual rights or civil liberties.
The Freedom of Information Act will be extended to private companies that run public services.
Young adults will be able to remove content they shared on the internet before they turned 18, while tech companies will “obliged” to take measures to protect children and tackle online abuse.
Legislation allowing online balloting for industrial action will be introduced.
The Liberal Democrats, led by Tim Farron, published their manifesto on 17 May.
The party, which had just nine MPs when parliament was dissolved, positions itself as the voice of the opposition and calls on voters to stop prime minister Theresa May “walking away with a landslide”.
Front and centre is a pledge to fight against a hard Brexit: the party is the only one asking for a referendum on the final deal. There are also promises to lift the 1% public sector pay cap, legalise cannabis and boost NHS funding with a 1p rise in income tax.
Chalk it up
The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto runs to around 22,000 words over 100 pages. There are ten mentions of ‘technology’, eight of ‘digital’, five of ‘online’ and two counts of ‘cyber’.
What’s in it for digital?
The manifesto commits to rolling back state surveillance powers – it will end bulk collection of communications data, bulk hacking and the collection of internet connection records, as well as opposing attempts to undermine encryption.
It also says that, if it can be done “without jeopardising ongoing investigations”, innocent people who have been placed under targeted surveillance will be told.
There will be a digital bill of rights that “protects people’s powers over their own information, supports individuals over large corporations, and preserves the neutrality of the internet”.
The Lib Dems will make better use of data to improve policing, for instance through crime maps, and all front-line police officers will wear body cameras. A line on cyber crime says just that it will be tackled by investments in the security and intelligence services.
The party says it would carry out a spending review that focuses on efficiency, with investments in “technology to get public services and front-line staff online”. GP surgeries will have more online, phone or Skype appointments.
On broadband, the party commits to an investment in hyperfast, fibre-optic broadband, saying it will aim for speeds of 2Gpbs or more by 2020, with SMEs prioritised for hyperfast speeds, while every property will have download speeds of 30Mbps, upload speeds of 6Mbps and an unlimited usage cap by 2022.
The Lib Dems say they will retain coding on the national curriculum and meet all basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills needs by 2030, and pledge to extend the number of apprenticeships for digital industries. A business and retail strategy will assess how technology is affecting jobs in the sectors.
Support for ICT capital spending in businesses in non-digital sectors will help to double the number of SMEs playing a part in the digital economy, while a network of technology clusters like Tech City and Tech North will be set up across the country.
The manifesto also commits to protecting the science budget and ensuring UK scientists can benefit from EU funding programmes, as well as promising more funding for technology and innovation centres.
This article will be updated as the other parties publish their manifestos