So this week is ‘manifesto week’; Labour went first on Monday closely followed by the Conservatives on Tuesday and the Lib Dems released theirs on Wednesday morning.
With bated breath I searched through each one to see how much digital – skills, digital government, broadband access and mobile coverage – featured in each one.
“We will support community-based campaigns to reduce the proportion of citizens unable to use the internet and help those who need it to get the skills to make the most of digital technology.” A great commitment to increasing digital skills.
“We will save you time, hassle and money by moving more services online, while actively tackling digital exclusion.” A big more vague, but still promising.
“We will uphold the highest standards of accessibility in digital services and maintain government programmes in digital inclusion.” Maintenance is good, growth in programmes is better.
They outlined the important role that technology will play in the role of changing the way in which public services are delivered.“We will use digital technology to create a more responsive, devolved and less costly system of government.” They also went on to say: “We will further develop digital government to enable better communication, more collaboration and sharing data between services. It will make services and transactions more efficient and simpler for people to use. To create a more connected society, we will support making digital government more inclusive, transparent and accountable.”
“We will ensure digital assistance is always available for those who are not online, while rolling out cross-government technology platforms to cut costs and improve productivity – such as GOV.UK.” A good statement supporting Assisted Digital, always good to see that those who aren’t online will still get help to use an improved service (that’s digitally delivered of course).
“Focus on delivering efficiency, funding proven spend to save initiatives and investing in technology to get public services and frontline staff online.” Quite a broad statement but like the other parties it seems like a commitment to ensuring that the government evolves to become as digital as possible.
When it comes to broadband infrastructure the Labour party have committed to the following – “Labour will ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high-speed broadband by the end of the Parliament.”
The Conservatives have hedged their bets a little more; they have made one commitment to provide the majority of people with broadband access. “We will secure the delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017.” When it comes to providing broadband access for the whole of the UK they have been much more vague: “we have set an ambition that ultrafast broadband should be available to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable.”
“We will complete the roll out of high-speed broadband to reach almost every household (99.9%) in the UK.” Like the Labour statement, the Lib Dems are committing to completing the job of getting the infrastructure right.
“We will work with the industry and the regulator to maximise private sector investment and deliver the mobile infrastructure needed to extend coverage and reduce ‘not spots’, including in areas of market failure.” A statement which I pretty much expected – ensuring that mobile coverage is as good as it can be.
“We will hold the mobile operators to their new legally binding agreement to ensure that 90 per cent of the UK landmass will have voice and SMS coverage by 2017.” The Conservatives gave a little more specificity than Labour, demonstrating that there is a legal binding agreement to get better mobile coverage.
There was no mention of mobile coverage in their manifesto.
A promising start
Overall, I don’t think there have been any big surprises in the manifestos and digital inclusion has featured as much as we thought it would. There’s hope in all three, and certainly the promise for us to carry on with the work we are already doing. And there’s plenty here we can build on, no matter the decision of the voters on 7th May.
We’ll be looking at the rest of the Party manifestos next week, and I’ll do another round up of SNP, Green and UKIP to see where they stand.
Remember, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, 20th April!