Spectrum use, superfast broadband and digital skills are key areas that the next UK government must address to ensure that the nation is a digital leader by 2020.
This was the consensus of a panel of tech leaders from BT, ARM and Fujitsu, as well as digital skills charity Go On UK, who were speaking at the 2014 Parliament and Internet Conference attended by V3.
They urged all the political parties to consider their points and include them in any manifesto for the forthcoming election year.
Simon Blagden, non-executive chairman at Fujitsu, said one area that needed continued investment was broadband. He claimed that, even with the current superfast broadband initiative, the government has not pushed the development of a robust communication infrastructure rigorously enough.
"I think this current government has made some attempts to support further investments in infrastructure, but quite frankly it is not enough," he said.
Blagden suggested that an investment on the same scale as the £43bn High Speed 2 rail line, but in broadband and spectrum infrastructure, would have a much greater impact on the economy than a rail link to Birmingham and Manchester.
Garry Miller, head of policy at BT, was more upbeat on the state of broadband, perhaps understandably given BT's role, but acknowledged that there are areas to improve around digital infrastructure.
He said the government needs to do more to extend its regulation of fixed networks to spectrum allocation to help achieve ubiquitous wireless and mobile coverage, and to open access to more companies rather than limiting it to a few major operators.
"Can we reduce our need for all this extra spectrum by being much more efficient and effective in how we use the chunks that are out there already?" he asked.
Gary Atkinson, director of emerging technologies at ARM, also said that spectrum needs to be managed more effectively given its importance to the internet's future.
In particular he said that chunks of valuable spectrum currently allocated to television broadcasting could be freed up for other uses, given that more content is now viewed online than on television screens.
"In the current age where you can get content and information from all sorts of different sources, I would argue that you don't need as much for broadcasting television," he explained, adding that spectrum owned by broadcasters could be sold off to network operators.
This is something the EU has already mooted as it looks to ensure spectrum allocations are properly managed.
Bo Olofsson, head of Bell Labs, also agreed that the allocation of spectrum will be an important factor for the next government to consider.
He said that spectrum should not be rigorously allocated to certain sectors and organisations and should be managed more flexibly.
"Instead of giving spectrum on a hard geographical timing and frequency, you can actually manage spectrum more intelligently," he said.
Digital skills was also highlighted as a major area any incoming government will need to address.
"Digital skills are now a universal and essential element of any effective modern society," said Rachel Neaman, chief executive of skills charity Go ON UK.
"I'd like to see [digital skills] as the fourth pillar of literacy: reading, writing, mathematics and digital skills.
"And I think that needs to be reflected across all levels of education and skills delivery, because there is a clear link between equipping individuals with basic digital skills today and acquiring intermediate and advanced digital skills tomorrow."
Referring to the technology industry's struggle to fill technical and specialist jobs, Neaman added: "Bringing basic digital skills to everyone in the UK is not just a nice to have or an irrelevance, it's actually the key to unlocking the UK's full social and economic potential."
Blagden further emphasised Neaman's points: "Believe me, in 10 years' time if you come out of school and you don't have digital skills you will be left behind."
He added that apprenticeships are a valuable way of establishing digital skills and called for the government to do more to promote apprenticeships in schools.
Neaman and the panel said that such an approach would have real long-term economic benefits for the UK. "By spending millions we can actually recoup billions," she said.
Such an investment would be particularly pertinent given plans to digitalise public services, which will require the skills to carry out the transformation by 2020.
Broadband infrastructure was also much discussed, after the government's efforts over the past four years were described by Labour as a waste of money.
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