Conspicuously absent; why is technology so low on the UK political agenda?
Ten years ago technology and particularly information or digital technology would have been confined to the quirky slot at the end of the Ten O’Clock News, along with the singing dog and the cute local school children meeting Princess Anne. Nowadays, by way of contrast, technology stories such as the new iPhone, EU legislation on tech companies and the latest TV gadget are headline news and of huge interest to the consumer and businesses alike.
Technology is now mainstream and worth a much greater level of government and political focus. It affects everything. From the way we live, to the way we work; how we play and even how we learn. Given technology’s universal relevance and ability to make our lives easier -from easing congestion on our roads and railways, to putting more nurses on the wards and teachers in the classroom, I am surprised at the relatively low billing of technology on the political manifestos.
I recognise that often it is easier to talk about the negatives of technology and the failures of IT, but there is a huge opportunity being missed to put the transformational impact of digital technology at the forefront of the agenda of an innovative and already world-leading United Kingdom.
As a nation, we should be setting our sights much higher. We have real strengths in research, technology and creative industries that we should be shouting much louder about. The Internet is just about to take another leap in capability in what’s called the Internet of Everything, where billions of previously unconnected things are connected and made smart. Cities get smarter and reduce congestion, buildings adjust themselves to save cost and carbon, and by smartly analysing “big data” we are able to make better decisions about which drugs to prescribe or when to dispatch office supplies.
In the UK, we have fantastic capability, expertise and leadership in this area, and thankfully the government has started to invest, but we could do so much more. As a country, we can and should be setting our sights higher. We need to have more ambitious ambition. We want world leading capabilities not just world matching as we are aspiring to today.
One of the party manifestos issued last week says “ultrafast broadband should be available to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable” why stop there? Why not Gigabit broadband capacity everywhere?
There are potentially a million jobs for our young people in digital technology over the next decade; with better education and ambition we could double or treble that number.
Whatever flavour of government we end up with, we need to aim high, have ambition and lead the world. It is headline news.