Jun 5th 2017

Manifestos, tech, and who you should vote for on Thursday

General Election fever has returned to the Babel office.

In true British form, few have openly divulged who they’re voting for. However, from various indirect conversations I’ve had, not all minds are yet made up.

So I have taken it upon myself to help in the decision making process, and have looked at a brief breakdown of the technology policies which feature in the major manifestos (thanks to TechUK!). If this blog does influence your vote, please remember that there is no guarantee that any of the parties will actually deliver on these promises.

Conservatives:

Top points include protection of personal data, and to “institute an expert Data Use and Ethics Commission” to advise parliament. They could have established this in time for the leave campaign, but better late than never.

Cybersecurity is something that the Conservative Party has been going on about for a while. They’re now pledging to build on the National Cyber Security Centre and continue the promised £1.9 billion investment in cybersecurity more generally.

An expansion of mobile coverage is planned; to 95% of the UK by 2022, and there’s also good news for 5G. Spectrum will be released from public sector use to allow more private sector access for 5G network deployment which should lead to “gigaspeed connections for your smartphone”. This seems pretty ambitious, but won’t mean much to the majority who don’t have VoLTE.

Verdict? This seems good. Mobile coverage can lead to more broadband coverage, diminishing the digital divide we see between city and country, and more investment into cybersecurity can only be a good thing, given the changing nature of crime. However, the prospect of Theresa May continuing to govern the country terrifies me.

Labour:

I like Labour’s idea of a Digital Ambassador. Given our departure from the EU, a need to promote Britain as a great place to start a digital company is crucial. The economy is data driven and if we don’t support digital firms we could hit a data recession. Now there’s a buzzword.

On data, provisions will be made for officers, community support officers, and civilian staff to provide them with the “equipment and people they need to provide effective policing services, including from the growing threat of cybercrime”.

When it comes to digital communications infrastructure, Labour has pledged universal superfast broadband availability by 2022! Seems like a running theme, or rather a continuation of a theme we have heard of time and time again.

Mobile coverage and 4G will be improved, through the expanded provision of free public Wi-Fi in city centres and public transport. Labour has also promised uninterrupted 5G coverage in city centres, major roads, and railways. Good to see, although similarly, it might be sensible to have nationwide 4G coverage first.

Verdict? The Digital Ambassador got my attention, other than that; it’s kind of the same as the Conservative manifesto. Another similarity: the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn governing the country terrifies me.

Liberal Democrats

The promise to build on the success of various incubators such as Tech City, Tech North, and the Cambridge Tech Cluster stood out. We’ve seen the benefit of the Cambridge Tech Cluster ourselves, opening an office there last year.

The Lib Dems have called for a Digital Bill of Rights – a Magna Data if you will – protecting powers of the individual over their own information, supporting citizens over large corporations. Whilst a good idea, what will it mean if people don’t want their data kept on the world’s largest ad platform and search engine? Will that lead to profit loss and Google’s exit from the UK? Doubtful, but something to consider in the long run.

The plan for digitisation of public services sounds good. With the private sector transforming digitally, it makes sense for the public sector to follow suit.

Verdict? This one seems like it has some substance to it, rather than just ideas. However, the prospect of Tim Farron governing the country terrifies me.

Conclusion:

So who to vote for? I can’t help you there, but if it makes you feel any better I, too have no idea. The important thing is to get out there and vote.