(programme for 2014 being agreed and to be mounted shortly)
1) To produce well-researched and peer reviewed proposals and implementation plans on technology related issues for serious consideration by those responsible for policy formation
2) To produce briefs, including possible parliamentary questions for use by our parliamentary members, which help the coalition government to join up current policy implementation across departmental and other fault lines
The remit is to address those technologies and related issues which are not covered by other groups affiliated to the party and/or we have been asked to look at by those responsible for party policy. Where there is overlap we would aim to work in co-operation with other relevant groups
To identity those areas of interest to members (parliamentary and non-parliamentary) and assemble teams to:
1) collate authoritative material on problems and possible solutions, identify those best able to comment on the practicality of implementing politically acceptable solutions
2) draft analyses and recommendations for peer review and
3) summarise the results in publishable studies
To identify those willing and able to help parliamentary members respond to technology related problems raised by their constituents and to provide feedback on report those which raise policy issues.
To identify potential speakers for constituency and other party events and bloggers for on-line forums who are capable of explaining issues in plain English and putting them into political context.
Towards a market-driven, technology investment led, economic recovery
There is widespread agreement on the need for a comprehensive economic strategy but the macro-economic solutions proposed do not address the systemic reasons that have brought the UK to its current situation. They need to be complemented by micro-economic actions.
The past failure of UK central government planning (from picking winners to regional policies) gives no confidence that this government can do any better. The UK is the last of the “20th century, steam age, centralised nation states”. Over a third of the members of the European Union (and nearly two thirds of US states) have smaller populations than Yorkshire or Scotland). Those that are larger and do not have Federal Constitutions (like Germany), are in the process of decentralising (like France or Spain) or are similarly bankrupt (like California). We have to take the “big society” approach seriously using IT as the great enabler for efficient devolution, diversity and local democratic accountability not an excuse for centralisation, standardisation and bureaucratic regulation.
Hence the first policy theme:
1) The use of technology to help focus public funding on services that meet local needs
This will entail not just the reform of planning and procurement routines but a change of attitude to policy formation and implementation to include a mix of political and professional peer review before the “doctrine of ministerial infallibility” kicks in, as well as improved scrutiny of secondary legislation and departmental and regulatory “guidance” (e.g. security and data protection). A key objective will be to reduce the risk of IT-related political banana skins during the run-up to the next election
Related to this is the need to stop the haemorrhage of tens of £billions in fraud and waste that could otherwise be used to help reduce our debts and improve public services. Hence the second theme:
2) Making a reality of partnership in the fight against cyberfraud and waste
The current agenda is largely focussed on cyberwarfare, anti-terrorism and the theft of defence related intellectual property. These are indeed most important but must be much better linked to the agendas of those who are seeking to defend themselves and their customers against organised crime (now one of the world’s largest industries) before we seek to encourage the most vulnerable in society to transact with government on-line. The suffering (let alone expense) if their identities are systemically stolen will also be disastrous to those who permit it to happen during the run-up to the next election.
3) Removing the regulatory overheads that are driving on-line businesses off-shore
Organisations face conflicting requirements to keep information confidential, (deleting it when no longer required for the original purpose) and to retain it, in case a regulatory or law enforcement agency might want it. The sharing of information is mandated or forbidden according to circumstances that require judgements on which few can agree, and where the consequences of a wrong decision by an over-worked and under-trained junior member of staff can lead to personal tragedy or corporate bankruptcy.
We need urgently need a regulatory regime that attracts and fosters reputable, wealth-creating businesses by supporting and encourage good practice, including secure interoperability with trusted partners in other parts of the world under different legislative and regulatory regimes.
4) Local access to a world-class, sustainable education and training infrastructures
The UK is now a net importer of English language education and training materials, let alone skilled staff. That is testament to the failure of a regime based on experts planning public funding to meet future needs. The fundamental disciplines of learning change slowly, if at all. But the skills for employability are changing increasingly rapidly. We need to better distinguish between education and training and move towards market-driven solutions to deliver the latter where, when and how needed. The aim is to remove the incentives to employers to recruit rather than retrain, import skilled staff from abroad when they cannot recruit locally and move jobs off-shore if they cannot get the visas.
5) Linking the Communications (Broadband), Network Resilience and Green Agendas
Massive sums are quoted for new smart metering, smart grid and fibre networks as our fixed and mobile communications and other utility networks come under increasing pressure but 80% of the cost is for physical infrastructure that could be shared. More-over the UK targets for 2015 are modest compared to what could be achieved if currently agreed public funding and that available from industry were joined up, regulatory and planning obstacles removed and 4G spectrum made available at the same time as the rest of Europe. We need to look at what can and should be shared, what cannot and the obstacles to drawing in funding from those investing overseas rather than in the UK
6) Liberating direct investment in the infrastructures, industries and jobs of the future
The industrial revolution, canals and railways were funded by local tradesmen and land-owners, with bills of exchange and municipal bonds, issued and traded locally, not by banks or government. We need to once again free up such direct investment (angels, public prospectuses, community enterprises and co-partnerships and well as conventional venture capitalists), allowing businesses to grow on positive cash flow and ending incentives to invest in property rather than job creation. We need to remove the layers of regulation and distortion that route our savings into government stock and property.