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2015 election manifestos: Digital economy pledges are just "same old songs"

Last week, the Labour and Conservative parties issued their 2015 general election manifestos, with several pledges focused on the UK digital economy.

Peter Hopton, founder of Sheffield-based clean tech company Iceotope, believes these pledges fail to address many key issues and provides his comments below:

“Our political parties seem to agree that digital is the foundation for a better economy, but recent pledges have done little to demonstrate their commitment to solving the real problems at hand.

“Once again, it’s speed and rural taking centre stage. Politicians have been singing the same olds songs about faster broadband speeds and greater rural penetration for the last 20 years. What the nation really needs is a more reliable internet. If your phone line goes down, BT is required to fix it within a set number of hours. However, there are no such requirements for broadband even though it probably affects a much larger proportion of the nation and downtime arguably has greater ramifications.

"Businesses don’t fully utilise technologies like video conferencing because it’s not seen as reliable enough and connectivity issues like this are holding back the UK digital economy as a whole.

“Broadband isn’t the only digital issue I’d like to see addressed by political parties ahead of the election either. London is believed to contain 50 per cent of all the servers in Europe, due in part to a high volume of financial transactions, but there’s no more power available today.

"London’s IT infrastructure is at a standstill and can’t expand until we make radical changes. Any prospective government should do far more to regulate power use in these facilities, as well as incentivising and showcasing energy efficient technologies. Over the course of the 2012 Olympics, data centre facilities in Docklands had to run additional generators to cope with increased workloads because these facilities require so much power. This is far from ideal, but seemingly not a priority.

“I’d love to see a Government that truly encourages digital growth – one that champions reliable broadband and truly green technology, as well as regulating facilities that are no longer fit for purpose and penalising organisations where required.

"These days, you can’t deny the criticality of a reliable internet connection, and if parties started making appropriate commitments, such as free Wi-Fi in every public place, they would pick up a huge number of votes.”