Jul 2024

Has tech been sidelined in election promises?

Written by Ali Negus

Has tech been sidelined in election promises?

As the UK gears up for the new Government, various sectors have meticulously analysed party promises to understand how potential policy changes might impact their industries. However, for the tech sector, this exercise has proven to be more frustrating than illuminating.

At first glance, the major parties’ manifestos seem to paint a rosy picture for the tech industry. They all claim to champion the UK’s position as a global tech leader, promising investment-friendly regulations and support for research and development. But upon closer inspection, these commitments appear to be little more than vague platitudes, lacking the substance and specificity that the rapidly evolving tech sector desperately needs.

AI aspirations: more hype than substance?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has unsurprisingly emerged as a hot-button issue in this election cycle, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attempting to position the UK at the forefront of the AI revolution. The world’s first AI Safety Summit held at Bletchley Park last year was indeed a commendable initiative.

However, beyond this headline-grabbing event, there’s a concerning lack of concrete policy proposals to nurture and regulate this transformative technology. With France making sure to focus on hefty investment into AI development, it’s on its way to becoming a significant player in the global tech community and potentially taking our AI crown. Now is not the time to slow down on AI. 

The manifestos also fail to address critical issues in any depth such as data privacy regulations, support for tech startups, and actual strategies to bridge the digital skills gap. These omissions leave the tech industry in a state of uncertainty, unable to plan for the future or make informed decisions about investments and growth strategies.

Economic blindspot: underestimating tech’s importance

The lack of tech-focused policies raises questions about the parties’ understanding of the sector’s importance to the UK economy. In a post-Brexit landscape, where the UK is striving to maintain its competitive edge, a thriving tech industry is not just desirable – it’s essential.

Post election day, the tech industry will find itself in an unenviable position. Instead of clear roadmaps and targeted policies, we’re left with ambiguous promises and glaring omissions. This lack of clarity not only hampers the sector’s growth potential but also puts the UK at risk of falling behind in the global tech race.

Cybersecurity: a dangerous omission

Perhaps most alarming is the glaring absence of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy from any of the major parties. In an era where digital threats are increasingly sophisticated and pervasive, vague promises like “investing in cybersecurity measures to safeguard national infrastructure and public services” simply don’t cut it. The tech industry requires detailed, actionable plans that address the complex challenges of our digital age.

The recent swarm of cyberattacks on UK government institutions should have served as a wake-up call. Yet, the manifestos suggest that political leaders have either underestimated the gravity of these threats or are ill-equipped to address them effectively. This oversight is not just disappointing; it’s potentially dangerous for national security and economic stability.

The way forward: urgent need for a comprehensive tech strategy

The next Government, regardless of which party takes power, must prioritise developing a comprehensive, forward-thinking tech strategy. This should include robust cybersecurity measures, clear AI governance frameworks, and targeted support for innovation and skills development.

While the election manifestos pay lip service to the importance of technology, they fail to deliver the detailed, actionable policies that the sector needs. As we head to the polls, the tech industry is left hoping that whoever forms the next government will recognise the urgent need to fill these policy gaps, particularly in cybersecurity. The future of the UK’s digital economy – and indeed, its global competitiveness – may well depend on it.

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