• Monday, September 25, 2023


Parties present their digital visions and genuine choices to the electorate

Kulveer Ranger

By: Sarwaralam

THE future is digital and the political parties may have finally woken up to this fact. So what can the next government do to learn from the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Deliveroo and build innovative and truly citizen-centric modern public services?

The Conservative manifesto promises to create a new a new presumption of digital government services by default and an expectation that all government services will be fully accessible online, with assisted digital support available for all public sector websites.

It also pledges digital transformation fellowships so hundreds of leaders from the world of tech can come into government to help deliver better services.

This is welcome news and builds on the digital strategy launched earlier in the year.

There were also promising signs in the Labour manifesto, with a digital ambassador to liaise with tech companies to promote Britain as an attractive place to invest.

The Lib Dems also pledged to build on the success of Tech City, Tech North and the Cambridge tech cluster with a network across the country acting as incubators for technology firms. All progressive stuff, but there is so much more that can be done.

As someone who has worked in, with and to deliver new tech over the past two decades, my top asks from the next government are, set up a dedicated Whitehall unit specifically charged with building on the concept of the citizen digital ecosystem and learning the digital lessons from the private sector.

Evolve procurement models to harness the best digital innovation from SMEs. Continue to focus and progress the industrial digitisation stream, supporting the development of the industrial strategy, and encourage “digital devolution” by the new mayors establishing
digital city strategy plans that address transport planning and management, retail, and housing development through data-modelling and wellbeing policies underpinned by analytics.

We are entering a citizen-centric digital age that requires government to have a digital vision. The challenge to deliver services and innovations that will enhance the lives of the many is not new. It is a consistent priority of government.

But the opportunity that digital transformation and maturing digital technologies brings provides the next government with the chance to champion a new digital vision for Britain.

It’s not whether you wobble, but how quickly you stabilise. This is not an old Chinese proverb, but a saying any political strategist worth their salt would recognise.

Political policies by their nature will not please everyone. They are an attempt to please more people than they upset and demonstrate they will solve problems rather than create them. However, you may recall these words from this column four weeks ago.

Normally, election policies, manifestos and even slogans are drawn up over months of intense discussion and deliberation. Much is done to understand what the public want, or rather what certain segments want, so a collective group of policies can be brought together to appeal to the largest potential voting base.

This is not the case for this election. There has not been the time to fully understand and compile a collection of coherent policies.

In this election campaign so far we have witnessed more wobbling policies than jelly desserts at a kids’ birthday party.

Last week the number one issue was the Conservative policy on capping social care costs. It has been a challenging moment for the prime minister. Strong and stable has had to be more listening and consultative.

Theresa May acted quickly to deflate an issue that though not fatal, could have caused even more political harm than it did.

To be clear, there will be more policy wobbles, changes in positions, promises of more money (from Labour it was another £9.5 billion of free student fees) and poll fluctuations than ever before.

In this election there are real differences between the parties and voters have a choice –
perceived populism versus perceived pragmatism – you have to decide which is which.

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