Better broadband, improved support for tech startups and new laws to bring adequate oversight to surveillance practices form some of the key policies that Labour is hoping will sway voters in the General Election in a month’s time.
Labour outlined its stance on five key tech issues facing the UK in response to questions from V3 as we profile the parties on their tech agendas in response to numerous issues that will face whichever political group wins the election.
Broadband for all
Unsurprisingly, Labour is critical of the government's achievements in terms of nationwide broadband access over the past five years, claiming that it has failed on its promise of fast and reliable access for all.
Labour said that it would “redouble” efforts to ensure that all homes and businesses can access high-quality broadband services.
“This will include superfast broadband being available to all parts of the UK that are not economic for the market to serve unaided,” a Labour party spokesperson said.
“We will also work with the regulator to ensure the right framework is in place to maximise the potential of private sector investment in broadband networks.”
However, Labour did not provide any specific figures on what it considered 'superfast' or what speeds it would mandate for nationwide coverage. More information may be forthcoming in its manifesto, which is expected soon.
Startup and SME success
The importance of tech startups and SMEs as a whole to the UK economy has long been understood. Labour said that if elected it had a number of plans to help fledgling tech firms get off the ground and succeed.
“We will cut and then freeze business rates for small business properties while ensuring Britain has the most competitive corporation tax rate in the G7,” the party said.
“We will boost lending to SMEs through a new British Investment Bank, deliver a revolution in vocational education and apprenticeships to ensure businesses can get the skills they need to grow, and improve support for entrepreneurs and SMEs who want to grow rapidly.”
Getting businesses to share information on cyber security threats has been a major battle for governments around the world.
Labour said that, if elected, it would consider making it a legal requirement to report serious cyber attacks as part of efforts to ensure that the UK can defend against this growing threat.
"A Labour government will consult on the prospect of creating a statutory requirement for all private companies to report serious cyber attacks threatening our national infrastructure," it said.
The party also reiterated its call to get any company that works with the Ministry of Defence to sign up to a 'cyber security charter' so that hackers can’t gain entry to major systems via small suppliers.
The government has made notable strides in improving the way the public sector uses IT, ranging from the G-Cloud to the opening up of public data through public-facing sites like Gov.UK.
Continuing on from this, Downing Street recently touted plans for the creation of a government-as-a-platform suite of services and tools that would allow departments to embrace digital services more efficiently.
“We will incentivise the growth of a digital platform for government to provide a common approach to building and delivering public services whilst also opening up government data to give people ownership and control of their data and create savings,” said the spokesperson.
Labour also said that it would continue efforts to move way from large-scale IT contracts and try to be more flexible in its creation of IT deals.
“We will use the expiry of major government IT contracts to save taxpayers’ money by breaking up IT services into smaller and more flexible components that provide opportunities for small and medium-sized companies,” it said.
The fallout from the 2013 leaks by Edward Snowden continue to dominate the headlines and the government has promised that it will make overhauling the laws governing surveillance a top priority if re-elected.
Labour too said that, while it is vital that the UK can protect itself and its ctizens by using technology, it recognised a need to shore-up the legal frameworks governing such work.
“The existing oversight and legal frameworks are now out of date, and there are difficult wider challenges about privacy, data and the private sector, and how we protect British citizens’ interests in a global internet where everyone follows different rules,” the party said.
“This is why Labour pushed for the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism legislation to review the legal framework governing surveillance and set out detailed proposals for reform, looking at the capabilities and checks and balances that are needed.
“In government, we will examine the findings of this review and take the necessary action to update our response and keep the country safe.”
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