The Conservative Party has revealed which government IT projects it will drop or change if it takes power, and how it will balance citizens' privacy against commercial interests, among other issues.
The interview is part of ZDNet UK's Tech election 2010 series, where we ask the nation's parties to outline their technology policies in the run-up to the May general election.
The Conservatives, who are looking to gain power for the first time in 13 years, want to break up big government IT contracts and ensure high-speed broadband for most of the UK. In today's interview, a spokesperson for the party outlines what the tech industry can expect if the Conservatives are voted back into office.
Q: What would your party do to promote and strengthen the UK technology industry?
A: Our key aim for the digital economy is to make Britain the first major European country to have super-fast broadband in a majority of homes by 2017.
What is your long-term strategy for the digital economy?
Firstly, we will force BT to open up access to its underground ducts and overhead telegraph poles. This will allow other internet service providers to lay cable at much lower costs, and encourage the rollout of broadband across much larger parts of the UK. Greater competition in the market will, we envisage, lead to rollout of broadband across the areas of the country where BT has failed to lay fibre.
A Tory government will force BT to open up access to its underground ducts and overhead telegraph poles.
We will also look at the case for changing business rates to ensure that no disadvantages to new market entrants remain in place and look at the case for opening up other utility infrastructure so that broadband can be delivered through sewers or over electricity pylons.
We recognise, however, that the market alone will not provide to the whole country — in particular rural and remote locations where it is not commercially viable to lay fibre. That is why we have said that we will use the portion of the licence fee currently set aside for digital switchover to fund broadband rollout where the market has failed to do so. This fund will be allocated in innovative ways — for example, match funding and low-interest loans — to ensure that as much of the country as possible can access super-fast broadband by 2017.
This will ensure that small and medium-sized businesses outside of our major cities will have the digital infrastructure needed to compete in a digital world. Such businesses are often the lifeblood of local communities, and our plans will protect these businesses and the vital jobs that they support.
What role should technology play in government transparency and interaction with the public?
As we've laid out in our technology manifesto, we will publish online every item of central government and quango spending over £25,000, including every contract in full. We will also publish online all government tender documents for contracts worth over £10,000 via the existing Supply2Gov website.
This will create new jobs by opening up government procurement to more SMEs. We will also publish online every item of local government spending over £500, including every contract in full.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron visits The Royal Marsden Hospital in London Credit: Andrew Parsons
We will legislate to enforce the freedom of government data. We will create a powerful new 'right to government data', enabling the public to request and receive government datasets. This will radically increase the amount of government data released and will provide a multi-billion pound boost to the UK economy.
What role should open-source software play in local and national government use, and what would you do to promote its use over that of proprietary software?
We will create a level playing field for open-source IT by implementing open standards across government IT systems. Open standards will also enable large contracts to be broken into small modular components, so reducing risk and enabling more small businesses to bid for government IT contracts.
How would you balance citizens' online privacy against protecting commercial interests? The cases of Phorm and the Digital Economy Bill's copyright clauses are relevant to this question.
Online piracy is a big problem, and it needs to be tackled. We welcome the government's attempts to rectify illegal online activity in the Digital Economy Bill.
While we are happy to consider the use of technical measures against the most extreme offenders, we believe...