The Liberal Democrat party has released its manifesto, offering commitments to bolster technology skills, complete superfast broadband rollouts, support startups and digitalise the public sector.
However, the party is vague on how these goals will be achieved in terms of defined policies, initiatives and financing.
The party said thatit will conduct a major spending review to set out long-term plans for capital expenditure if it wins the General Election.
The Liberal Democrat Party manifesto (PDF) also sheds light on how the party would tackle cyber security and online freedom pertaining to government snooping.
A Lib Dem government would progress with the current superfast broadband rollout, and the manifesto outlined a goal of reaching 99.9 percent coverage across the UK, with a focus on small businesses and rural areas.
However, the manifesto did not say whether the party would revise the 2017 deadline for widespread broadband or how it would fund its continued rollout.
Unlike the Conservative manifesto, the Lib Dem's did not outline any ambitions to open up public sector spectrum for the private sector or explore the development of 5G.
The Lib Dems would 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.
But the party failed to provide details of this support and how it would be funded.
The Lib Dems were clearer about support for innovation from smaller organisations, and the manifesto claims that the party would channel more funding into ‘catapult' innovation and technology centres in the UK.
The manifesto also highlighted that the party will ‘ringfence' the UK's science budget to ensure that capital and revenue spending increases at least alongside inflation by 2020.
Digital by default
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.
Maintaining and developing the Government Digital Service would form a core part of this objective, which would see the extension of the coalition's digital by default policy into local government.
Open public data would be another focus. The manifesto explains that the party 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 promise to introduce Technology Impact Assessments into government policy design processes to ensure that the benefits of technology in government activity are realised.
Solving skills supply
The Lib Dems would take a strong stance on filling the UK's digital and technical skills gap. The manifesto explains that the party would develop cutting-edge digital skills courses for young people and the unemployed through partnerships between the private and education sectors.
More higher vocational training would be provided to solve the lack of advanced technicians in the UK in the form of foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Higher Apprenticeships.
The party also promises to a deliver a "major expansion of high-quality and advanced apprenticeships" which it says would offer "vocational education on a par with academic qualifications, backed up with new sector-led National Colleges".
However, the manifesto does not outline any preliminary policies which would drive the provision of improved and wider vocational training.
In stark contrast to the Tories, the Lib Dems are keen to reinstate the post-study work visa that allows non-European immigrants to work in the UK after they have completed their studies.
"We will reinstate post-study work visas for science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates who can find graduate-level employment within six months of completing their degree," the manifesto explained.
The party would support investment in energy storage and smart grid technology to facilitate more reliance on renewables.
The Lib Dems would also pursue funding for ‘green' innovation from the Green Investment Bank.
Part of the commitment to skills would also involve developing a national skills strategy aimed particularly at developing skills in the low-carbon sector.
Cyber security and online freedoms
Much like the Labour manifesto and that of the Conservatives, the Lib Dem manifesto also addresses cyber security.
The party would commit to a strategic defence and security review to give the police and intelligence agencies the resources to combat threats.
"[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.
The party would also recognise the expansion of warfare into the "cyber sphere" and invest in the security and intelligence services to counter cyber attacks.
A Digital Bill of Rights enshrined in the principles of privacy and an open internet would protect people's online freedom against snooping from intelligence agencies.
The party claims that that "people will no longer be worried that the government is monitoring their every keystroke".
Author's view: The Liberal Democrat manifesto shows that the party understands the importance of technology to the UK's industry, society and public sector.
But it is difficult to get a clear idea of how the party would deliver on its commitments to digital skills and startups when it has few clearly defined policies or funding strategies.
As a party that had a share in the last government, it could be argued that more insight and clarity would be expected from the manifesto.
Nevertheless, it is promising to see a commitment to some of the better received initiatives and policies of the coalition government, such as the digitalisation of the public sector and the rollout of widespread broadband.
Given that there has never been a government with the Liberal Democrats solely at its helm, many could argue that such commitments are moot regardless of their significance or paucity.
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