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Labour manifesto launch: All the tech pledges unveiled

Universal broadband, ID cards, open data, fighting piracy and more...
nick-heath.jpg
Written by Nick Heath on

Universal broadband, ID cards, open data, fighting piracy and more...

Labour yesterday unveiled its manifesto, setting out the measures it would take to boost technology in the UK if elected for a fourth term in office.

The manifesto covers everything from the party's plans for next-generation broadband to cuts to the National Programme for IT. However, the manifesto contains few surprises, largely restating or tweaking pledges already made in the past 18 months.

The technology proposals in the manifesto:

Broadband

The manifesto's broadband pledges are taken from the Digital Britain report, the government's blueprint for the nation's tech future, published last year.

The manifesto pledges virtually every household in the country will have a service of at least two megabits per second by 2012 - a step up from the government's previous commitment of "up to" 2Mbps.

It also commits to a superfast broadband network to be rolled out to 90 per cent of Britons over the next seven years through a mixture of private investment and a £1bn subsidy from government. This subsidy will come from a "modest levy" - most likely the £6 annual tax on fixed landlines which the former Labour government was unable to pass into law before Parliament was dissolved.

The remaining 10 per cent of the population, mostly living in remote areas where it is not profitable to build a high-speed fibre optic broadband network, will receive broadband through satellites and mobile broadband.

gordon brown

Labour party leader Gordon Brown. In the Labour manifesto released yesterday it pledges to build a superfast broadband network and to boost IT skills
(Photo credit: worldeconomicforum via Flickr under the following Creative Commons licence)

Online piracy

Labour says it will "update the intellectual property framework that is crucial to the creative industries" - and "take further action to tackle online piracy".

Recently, Labour passed the Digital Economy Act, which introduced measures that could see people pirating copyrighted material online disconnected from the internet.

Open data

Under the manifesto, Whitehall departments would have to publish online all of the non-personal data they hold unless they can publically justify why the information should be withheld, leading to the publication of a Domesday Book listing all non-personal datasets held by government departments and their agencies.

Digital services

A Labour government would increase the number of services available online and make certain services only available over the internet, reducing the cost of delivery.

The number of places where the public can access the internet for free, such as libraries and UK Online centres, would also be increased.

The manifesto also commits to allowing citizens to influence government decision-making by commenting on draft policy online.

Support for tech start-ups and SMEs

Vocational and university students will be offered lessons in how to start and run a business to create a new generation of entrepreneurs.

A fund worth between £2m and £10m will be made available to high-tech SMEs to encourage "innovative and fast-growing companies".

Research and development

A network of technology and innovation centres will be created, to develop "technologies where the UK has world-leading expertise". This complements the recent announcement of the creation of the Institute of Web Science, a centre focusing on developing semantic web technologies.

University research will be supported through the Higher Education Innovation Fund and through the development of a new University Enterprise Capital Fund.

Universities will also be encouraged to strengthen international research partnerships.

In addition, exporters will be given support to help them to increase market share in Europe and the US, and to break into the emerging markets of China, India and Brazil.

A "new gateway for the export of NHS intellectual property and cutting-edge services" will also be created.

Science and technology skills

The Finance Bill, passed last week, provided funding for universities to offer places to an extra 20,000 students in the next academic year.

Of these additional university places priority will be given to people studying science, technology, engineering and maths.

IT skills

The Labour government provided funding for an extra 20,000 university places targeted at people studying science, technology, engineering and maths subjects
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

IT spending cuts

IT will be targeted as an area where spending will be cut as part of a drive to reduce inefficiency.

Efficiency cuts will help save £20bn per year by 2013, on top of £15bn annual savings cuts that are already being delivered this year.

The National DNA Database

A Labour government will retain the DNA profiles of people arrested but not convicted of a crime for six years on the national database.

ID cards

ID cards, which are already available to British citizens and foreign nationals living in the UK, will be issued to "an increasing number of British citizens", presumably a reference to plans to make the cards available to the general population in 2012.

Over the course of the next Parliament the £5bn scheme will become self-financing, according to the manifesto, with the costs being covered by fees for the cards and the savings from reductions in fraud as a result of their introduction.

National Programme for IT

Earlier pledges to cut about £600m from the cost of the £12.7bn scheme to revamp NHS IT over the next four years are repeated in the manifesto.

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