THE 2015 GENERAL ELECTION is fast approaching and the Labour and Conservative parties have released manifestos outlining what the technology sector can expect if they are elected in May.
We've rounded up the main tidbits from both manifestos below, and will update this article when we hear more.
Improving broadband is a key part of the Conservative manifesto, and follows commitments by David Cameron earlier in the year to throw £50m at bringing free WiFi to trains by 2017.
Building on this, the manifesto promises "superfast broadband" for 95 percent of the population by 2017, along with the "ambition that ultrafast broadband should be available to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable".
Mobile coverage will also see a boost. The party promises to improve mobile infrastructure and "hold the mobile operators to new legally binding agreements to ensure that 90 per cent of the UK landmass will have voice and SMS coverage by 2017".
The Tories also plan to ensure that "Britain seizes the chance to be a world leader in the development of 5G".
As mentioned in the 2015 Budget, the Tories will support a number of emerging technologies. The manifesto outlines plans to invest £40m in the Internet of Things industry and £100m into the development of driverless cars, and to create an Alan Turing Institute for big data research.
Further scientific and technical institutions will be created too, according to the manifesto, including the Royce Institute for Advanced Materials in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield, the National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation in Newcastle, and the Cognitive Computing Centre in Daresbury.
This will be backed by support for small businesses and startups. The Conservatives promise to extend startup loans from £130m to £300m if elected, and will boost apprenticeships in science and technology.
Digital services were also promised as part of this year's budget. Chancellor George Osborne promised to introduce online tax returns for 50 million individuals and businesses.
GCHQ snooping had a fleeting mention in the Tory manifesto, albeit a vague one. It says: "We must always ensure our outstanding intelligence and security agencies have the powers they need to keep us safe. At the same time, we continue to reject any suggestions of sweeping, authoritarian measures that would threaten our hard-won freedoms."
On the subject of security, the Conservative manifesto also touches on previously announced plans to equip police with new technologies, including mobile devices and body-worn cameras.
An investment in improving cyber security is also on the cards with a promise to "invest in our cyber defence capabilities". This will be achieved with police training and an expansion in the number of volunteers.
No specific figures have been bandied about, but the Labour party is also promising a boost to the UK's broadband services to "ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high speed broadband by the end of the Parliament". Labour has criticised the current rollout for prioritising speed over coverage.
Mobile coverage is also in Labour's sights, and the manifesto promises to put an end to rural 'not-spots' with an investment in infrastructure.
The party touches on emerging technologies and, while the manifesto is somewhat vague, it mentions areas including robotics and 3D printing. It reads: "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."
No exact plans or details of funding were mentioned, but it concludes: "There is a widening in the application of new transformative technologies in the fields of robotics, genetics, 3D printing and big data."
In terms of startups and SMBs, Labour said that it has a number of plans to help fledgling tech firms get off the ground and succeed. It promises to freeze business rates for small companies and to boost lending through a new British Investment Bank.
Labour also echoes the Conservatives with plans to introduce more digital services, but the manifesto says only that the party "will use digital technology in reforming our public services".
"We will further develop digital government to enable better communication, more collaboration and sharing of data between services. It will make services and transactions more efficient and simpler for people to use," it adds.
Meanwhile, Labour also promises to "strengthen the oversight" of the intelligence agencies that conduct widespread surveillance, such as GCHQ and MI5, but again does not provide any specifics about how it would do this.
It also offers a plan of action when it comes to cyber security, saying that it would require every company that works with the Ministry of Defence to sign a cyber security charter.
Liberal Democrat Party
The Lib Dems have become the latest to reveal their manifeso, which offers a number of commitments for the technology industry.
Kicking things off is a promise that the party will progress with the current superfast broadband rollout, with an aim to reach 99.9 percent coverage of the UK. However, there was no word as to when it aims to complete this goal, nor how it would fund the rollout.
Small businesses and startups also got a mention, albeit a vague one, with the Lib Dems outlining plans to build on the success of London's Tech City and other technology clusters such as Tech North and the Cambridge cluster to support fast-growing businesses that could create a million jobs over 20 years.
The manifesto also claims the party would would channel more funding into ‘catapult' innovation and technology centres in the UK. It would also look to boost talent in the technology sector in the form of foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Higher Apprenticeships, and a "major expansion of high-quality and advanced apprenticeships"
Digitalisation of the public sector would also be part of the Lib Dems' technology agenda if the party gains a parliamentary majority after the General Election. The party claims it would "continue to release government datasets that can facilitate economic growth in an open and accessible format, including on standards in public services".
The Lib Dems' manifesto briefly mentioned cyber security, with the party committing to a strategic defence and security review to give the police and intelligence agencies the resources to combat threats, and promising to invest in the security and intelligence services to counter cyber attacks.
"[We will] use the [review] to establish a Single Security Budget, including not just conventional defence spending but the work of our security agencies, cyber defences and soft power interventions," the manifesto said.
In terms of GCHQ spying, which has gone largely unaddressed across most parties, the Lib Dems are claiming that a Digital Bill or Rights would protect people's online freedom against in the security and intelligence services to counter cyber attacks.
The party claims that "people will no longer be worried that the government is monitoring their every keystroke".
We'e still ploughing our way through the Green Party manifesto, which has not-so-handily been made available online as in unsearchable PDF format.
The manifesto so-far has touched on the party’s plans to aid small businesses, with plans to make it easier for startups to employ people and to improve competitive position of small firms It promises to make it easier for small businesses to employ people and to improve the competitive position of small firms - maintaining corporate tax for small firms at 20 percent, raising to 30 percent for larger firms.
The Green Party also says it will "give BT and other public telecommunications operators an obligation to provide affordable high-speed broadband-capable infrastructure to every small business."
The Green Party has been the most vocal when it comes to chatter about digital rights and GCHQ surveillance, with its manifesto outlining that it "supports a world of open, freely flowing information" and opposes "any case for secret unaccountable mass surveillance of the type exposed by Edward Snowden."
The party has called for any surveillance to be “proportionate, necessary effective and within the rule of law,” noting that it wants want a "transparent state" with "control over the data that our digital lives create."
The manifesto also outlines plans to replace the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which it claims has failed to support legal confidentially or to enshrine an open and effective right of redress,
The Green Party also says it would introduce a more "satisfactory law" for so-called malicious comments made on social media, than the "blanket and crude" section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. µ
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