General Election 2015: The view from the tech sector

We've read the manifestos, heard the promises and seen the leaders in action and now it's our turn. After months of campaigning, debating and arguing, the time has finally arrived for us to cast our votes on who we want to see running the UK for the next five years.

Digital pledges have been some of the stand-out points of this years election campaign, with each party putting forward their plans for areas such as broadband, the digital economy and London's IT infrastructure.

With that in mind, various technology professionals have offered their thoughts on the election and what we need to see from the next Government.

Mark Morley, Director of Manufacturing at OpenText:

“Since the last election, Big Data and data analytics has become much more mature from a technology point of view. Political parties have learnt that it is not just how you gather and archive information that counts, but how you use it to develop an action plan and strategy.

"By using Big Data and analytics tools, political parties can take advantage of the digital information they have, allowing them to react strategically in near real-time.

"In previous elections it was the spin doctors and the media that influenced the election outcome, perhaps in 2015 it will be the data scientists who have the most influence.

“As each election comes and goes, every party acquires a valuable data set that can then be used to drive party activities, messages and manifestos next time around. The parties with the best insights, the best Big Data analysis, will be able to plan better, more targeted campaign strategies at future elections.

“Big data is election jet fuel. The proprietary Big Data sets that were collected from previous years will drive the approach and election strategies in the future. Politics will become increasingly ‘data’ driven and the party that best embraces a digital first philosophy, leverages technologies such as Big Data and analytics, will certainly have a much better chance of success."

Chris Averill, CEO of customer experience specialists, we are experience:

“We’ve seen mixed results from the previous government, particularly when it comes to SMEs. They account for 60 per cent of UK private sector employment, and the UK now leads the world as an entrepreneurial nation, particularly in technology and product design.

"No longer limited to London we have Tech Cities all over the country, yet the government have done little to reduce red tape and taxation, or incentive growth and reinvestment. The new government has a chance to change this and place the UK firmly on the global stage and push the boundaries of innovation and creativity.

"A government that looks to push the UK's entrepreneurial capability through changing legislation will be able to tap into a rich seam of business growth, exportable products and services, and more than off-set the jobs that will increasingly be lost to human computing over the next 20 years. It's time for the government to enable the new industrial revolution and show the world what innovation really is."

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Elizabeth Varley Co-founder and CEO of TechHub:

“It’s clear that the main parties are keen to get the support of the UK startup community. A majority of the parties have pledged to boost funding for entrepreneurs in some shape or form, whether that’s through private investment or lending schemes. To enable these startups to grow, the next government needs to help enable old institutions like banks to work with early-stage companies that are inherently riskier propositions.

"The Conservative party is pledging to expand on its small business funding initiatives such as the British Business Bank and will retain the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) in order to encourage investors to back new businesses. It also plans to reduce the cost of lending to small businesses.

"Labour intends to create a British Investment Bank to lend money to new and growing businesses which “will make it easier to start and grow a business”. All funds will be raised from the planned increase in the licence fees for the mobile phone spectrum – estimated to be up to £1 billion in the next Parliament. The Green Party also plans to introduce a network of local community banks to provide a new source of finance for small businesses.

“Additionally, when it comes to funding, the Conservatives have even gone as far as to vow to make Britain the technology Centre of Europe by trebling the Start Up Loans programme providing 75,000 entrepreneurs with the chance to borrow money to set up their own business.

"However, I think it’s safe to say that London is already the technology centre of Europe. A booming tech start-up community already exists within the UK and as well as increased funding these startups need further support such as a reduction in regulations and also the necessary advice and support to enable them to grow.

“Each of the parties are proposing new regulations to reduce the burden of Red Tape on businesses with Conservatives introducing a ‘one in one out’ rule when it comes to new regulations and Labour proposing the introduction of Small Business Administration (SBA) body to cut unnecessary regulations.

"Additionally, both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are looking to open up government procurement. The Conservatives are claiming they have surpassed their goal of 25 per cent of government contracts going to smaller firms, although much of this is still ‘indirect’ spending via subcontractors.

"Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats are pushing for a third of contracts to go to small and medium sized businesses. Interestingly, Conservatives have also outlined plans to build a ‘network of business mentors’ to support start-ups."

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Andy Soanes, CTO at Bell Integration:

"While the horse trading could go on for some time, there are some things we can already say with certainty. Austerity will continue in one form or another, meaning that government IT projects on the local or national scale are likely to see their budgets squeezed.

"Similarly, in the private sector keeping the recovery on track means ensuring that projects can be completed on time, on budget and with a definite return on investment. For private or public sector organisations, the effects of a poorly planned or implemented project can therefore have even greater repercussions than usual. Patience with delays or extra expense will be at an absolute minimum, and IT teams could well suffer the consequences.

"In order to avoid this, going into any project of any size with the right knowledge will be crucial. At the very minimum, teams should follow three golden rules:

"1) Knowledge is power - Know exactly what is currently being delivered, how it is being delivered, what needs to change, and what the project’s goals are. Without knowing the precise start and end points, a project could meander anywhere

"2) Know your limits - Unless you know precisely what your organisation, and people, are capable of; what they desire; and what level of change they will accept, you can’t tell if a project is achievable, will require outside help, or is a lost cause.

"3) Stay in control - Whatever type of change you’re going through, the buck always stops with the CIO. If a project is at risk of spiralling out of control, then the organisation needs to once again question whether this is the change it needs, and whether it is being done in the best way.

"These aren’t an automatic fix for every potential issue, but they will at least help make sure that, whatever uncertainty the next weeks and months bring, IT projects won’t be included."

David Fisk, EMEA sales director at Quorum:

"You would be pretty worried if you didn’t have fire safety and evacuation plans in your office, so why would you not put the same risk assessment strategy in place for your data? Too many businesses and councils are relying on chance.

"This year we have seen one of the post popular and debated elections and millions of people across the country are set to vote, but what if the vital election register fails? Without a DR plan in place millions of people risk not been able to vote, or worse their votes been lost in the system."