The top four highlights from Labour's digital Government plans

The Labour party published its proposals for Digital Government last week. This interim report is part of their wider zero-based spending review of Government.

The report has a number of recommendations and we have picked out a few that we think are most interesting. All of the recommendations below are already being tackled in some form by the current Government.

1. "Incentivising the growth of a digital platform for Government"

In its first recommendation, the report outlines plans to create a common approach to building and delivering public services based on open standards. The Government Digital Service (GDS) has already started looking at this through its 'Government as a Platform' initiative.

techUK hosted a debate on this very topic with GDS recently and is firmly behind the principles of building a single platform for public services based on open standards. It's good to see cross-party support for 'Government as a Platform' but the devil is in the detail.

The need to engage in a nationwide discussion with users, industry and Government departments will be important and any 'platform' should be based on open standards, consolidating demand, and creating an ecosystem of suppliers who can help deliver the innovation Government needs.

2. "Examining the potential for accelerated digital inclusion to improve people's lives"

Digital inclusion has been an important part of the current Government's work over the last five years, and we are pleased to see Labour recognise the significance of this topic too.

The digitalisation of our public services is no longer an option and whilst we call for greater scale and pace to public services transformation through better use of tech, it is vital that the needs of citizens of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds are addressed through universally accessible public services, and that we provide support to the digitally excluded in accessing online services.

3. "Using the expiry of major government IT contracts to break up services into components that form part of a flexible and enabling architecture"

Whichever party forms the next Government, they will have to tackle the challenge of Government's ageing technology infrastructure.

Significant legacy IT contracts will be expiring in the next five years, and, given the need to reduce public spending, the next Government will have to ensure that it puts in place the best technology to deliver digital services at the best value to the taxpayer.

It is critical that Government departments work closely with industry and engage the whole of the market, both large and small, at the earliest stage possible to ensure its commissioning approach is one that delivers the best value to the taxpayer. As the report sets out, "Major projects also require greater effort to identify the right skills and leadership which need to be secured at the earliest possible stage."

In January, we held a market engagement event with HMRC whose Aspire contract is due to expire in 2017. A team of senior architects from the department presented their technology blueprints for replacing the Aspire contract to companies that were not already known to HMRC, which is key to accessing the very best our industry has to offer.

Government departments must follow HMRC's lead and Government must incentivise behaviours which allow more and better pre-procurement market engagement with industry.

4. Commitment to "a review that will establish a coherent and ethical approach to the use of data"

Mike Bracken was last week appointed as Government Chief Data Officer and we think this will be is vital to providing senior level leadership to drive this important topic.

However, as this recommendation highlights, it will be important to strike a balance between open data and inspiring confidence in the general public in how government uses their data. It's important to remember that this also includes the management of commercial business data, which if not managed correctly could impact businesses and jobs.

It's been a busy time for tech watchers. Last month's Budget saw the announcement of multiple tech-friendly policy initiatives. Baroness Martha Lane Fox's lecture this week called for greater take up of digital across the board.

The role of digital in this election is far more significant than ever before and similarly the next Government, whatever form it takes, will be the most digital government ever. We look forward to seeing how this trend will be reflected in the manifestos.

This blog is part of techUK's wider engagement with all political parties ahead of the 2015 General Election, building on our asks of the next potential government as laid out in Securing our Digital Future: the techUK manifesto for Growth and Jobs 2015-2020.

Contact: conor.murray@techuk.org