We know that technology is increasingly important to the UK. The recent TechUK report, Securing our digital future: The TechUK manifesto for growth and jobs 2015-2020 makes 24 recommendations, claiming that “it is make or break time to secure the UK’s digital future”. In particular, TechUK calls for a “single, joined-up, digital strategy with a dedicated cabinet minister”. Part of this strategy also has to recognise the importance of immigrants in bringing us the skills we need, especially as we simply are not producing sufficient digital engineers ourselves.
With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to Google “What will the political parties do for technology in the election”. The results were slightly surprising. Most were about politics and political parties in general and there were only three that really addressed the search string: first, a Daily Telegraph article about ‘general election policies compared’ and then a really interesting one (of which more below) before the final link to an article in the science magazine Nature, about ‘political parties respond on science’.
In other words, even the world power that is Google, doesn’t seem to show a lot of interest (at least in as far as its algorithms determine what I should see) in the relevance of technology to the election. However, undeterred, I went to the Telegraph link, only to find that it was assessing (from the Telegraph’s Conservative viewpoint) the plans of all the major parties for education. Given that this is central to the development of future talent in technology and engineering, I thought this would make interesting reading. It does.
Of all the major parties, only one explicitly makes a big play about STEM subjects, at least according the Telegraph’s writer. That party is UKIP (which the Telegraph is opposed to on the grounds it might take votes from the Conservatives). According to the Telegraph, “subject to academic performance, UKIP will remove tuition fees for students taking approved degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering, maths on the condition that they live, work and pay tax in the UK for five years after the completion of their degrees”. There is nothing remotely like this in the Telegraph’s assessment of the other parties’ views on education. The rest are more obsessed by private v public funding, fees for universities, free school meals and whether children should start school until the age of seven. At this point I feel I have to say that I’m not advocating you vote for UKIP (it’s a free country and you can vote for whoever you want), but it’s still interesting to see they do seem to be saying some of the ‘right’ things about technology. To some extent, this is repeated in the link to the article in Nature magazine, which you can see here.
The final link I clicked on looked at how the parties could use technology to their own ends. It would be hoped that the party that makes best use of technology might, in turn, be most likely to be its strongest advocate in driving economic growth, and would therefore grasp fully the power of YouTube, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook et al. Given that all parties are well aware of the difficulty of engaging with younger voters, who are generally assumed to be less likely to vote than the older generation, doesn’t it make sense to speak to them on the channels they use rather than, dare I say it, through the pages of the Daily Telegraph, Times or Guardian? Politics unites and divides us and I’d be interested to see what you think about the political parties and which will be best for the country and is more likely to create the conditions to develop the technology – and the talent - we need to succeed over the five years of the next parliament.