275 pages later – do the latest Manifestos include digital inclusion?

I have to admit feeling disappointed not to have seen more about digital inclusion in the manifestos that have been released over the last few days. The most prominent mention was from the SNP, who have said they want to deliver a future-proofed infrastructure, which will include tackling the digital divide. This is good news for over a million people in Scotland who still lack basic online skills. The other parties have given digital a mention, but not specifically about getting people online.

The SNP also included improved broadband connections, as did Plaid Cymru who placed real emphasis on Wales getting people the access they need at home in order for them to connect with society. The SNP are committed to making sure that access to the internet is affordable and reaches those in the most disadvantaged communities; they also intend to invest £1.5m to increase the free provision of wifi in public buildings. Good to see, however skills need to be addressed alongside this.

There was a focus on young people across almost all the manifestos with UKIP pledging to address the important issue of online child safety. Plaid Cymru would introduce key skills into education to ensure that all young people have IT skills and can understand the technology that surrounds them. UKIP and Plaid Cymru also agreed that the tuition fees for technology-based degrees should be removed to encourage more people to pursue careers in the tech field.

The Green Party manifesto took a slightly different approach to digital by promising to support and protect ‘internet freedom’, with an emphasis on ensuring controls over the data that our digital lives create is maintained and not privatised.

There isn’t as much promise in these manifestos when compared to the three main parties but like I said in my last post, whatever the outcome on May 7th, there’s plenty for us to build on.

328 pages of Manifesto pledges and promises, but does digital get a look-in?

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.

Image via Huffington Post

Image via Huffington Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Skills

Labour

“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.

Conservative

“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.

Lib Dem

“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.

 

Digital Government

Labour

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.”

Conservative   

“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).

Lib Dems

“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.

 

Superfast Broadband

Labour

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.”

Conservative

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.”

Lib Dems

“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.

 

Mobile Coverage

Labour

“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.

Conservative

“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.

Lib Dems

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!

The Final Countdown: A Digital Democracy Toolkit

Over the weekend I couldn’t help but think about Jack, a young guy I met last August when I was at Starting Point in Stockport to talk about the role of digital technology in democracy, during a roundtable discussion for the Digital Democracy Commission. I was reminded of Jack because it’s now only a month until the General Election, and there are only 14 days left to register to vote.

A Digital Democracy Toolkit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I first met Jack, at Starting Point – that’s part of Taylor’s Fish and Chip Shop – he’d never had anything to do with politics. He had no idea what a polling station was and definitely had no interest in voting but by the end of our chat something had changed. He now knew that politics is something that affects everyone, not just “the men in suits in Westminster”, and that by voting everyone has a say in how the country is run. He knew he had a role in the politics of the UK, and he had a choice in who should represent him.

Not only was he showing an interest, but he was angry at the fact that no-one, including his school, had made the effort to provide him with even the basic information about what democracy is, how the UK political system worked and his role in it.

I hope the discussion I had with Jack did a little to inspire him to vote in a month’s time – and I certainly hope he has at least registered to vote. If Jack does decide to vote, I wonder if he’s got enough information to make his decision as I know it can be hard navigating the rhetoric and the 24 hours news cycle in order to decide who is the right party/representative for you.

With this in mind, the Tinder Foundation team have put together a Digital Democracy Toolkit – some of the brilliant resources from around the web on Community How To so that everyone has the chance to make that decision. Whether you’re unsure who your current local MP is (take a look at Find Your MP), or you want to know what’s actually going on in parliament (TheyWorkForYou will help) there’s so much on there.

Bite the ballot

And of course, there’s a link to registering to vote on there too! If you think there are any tools missing then do just register on the site and add them yourself.

Here are the key dates:

  • 20th April last day to register to vote
  • 7th May polling day (from 7am to 10pm)
  • 8th May (or maybe a little after that) we find out who is our next Government.

I’m a passionate advocate of democracy, and I would like everyone to feel informed and included enough to exercise the right to vote on the 7th May and to shape the future we want for our country. I hope you find the new toolkit useful as you make your final decisions on where to place your vote in one month’s time.

And here’s a tool to make your own countdown clock to May 7th and election day.