The Labour Party Manifesto 2010 which I referenced for the purpose of this blog can be accessed on this link.
The most relevant mention of harnessing the power of Information Technology can be found in section 9:5 of the above listed document. The extract for the purpose of easy reference is as below;
“Public services in the digital age Citizens expect their public services to be transparent, interactive and easily accessible. We will open up government, embedding access to information and data into the very fabric of public services. Citizens should be able to compare local services, demand improvements, choose between providers, and hold government to account. We have led the world with the creation of data.gov.uk, putting over 3,000 government datasets online. Entrepreneurs and developers have used these datasets to unleash social innovation, creating applications and websites for citizens from local crime maps to new guides to help find good care homes or GPs. We will now publish a Domesday Book of all non-personal datasets held by government and its agencies, with a default assumption that these will be made public. We will explore how to give citizens direct access to the data held on them by public agencies, so that people can use and control their own personal data in their interaction with service providers and the wider community.
Opening up government central and local in this way offers huge potential for Britain. We can use new technologies to give people a say on policymaking; enable citizens to carry out more of their dealings with government online; and save money for taxpayers as we switch services over to digital only delivery. Digital government also demands digital inclusion. So we will build on our network of UK Online centres and public libraries to spread free internet access points within the community, and develop new incentives for users to switch to online services. “
Without overanalysing the above content, first impression which it left with me was, it is a decent and purposeful direction to have. It is essentially targeting for shift towards an “online mode” for certain services and opening up access to datasets. However, in my opinion this is not enough ambitious and under utilises the abilities of Information Technology. For instance, in addition to simply going for “yellow pages approach” of online listing of datasets, why can not the government of future set target for better disaster management leveraging the social media and better connected integrated multiple response?
Example is recent travel chaos resulting from the Icelandic volcanic ash. It took a good couple of days, combination of TV coverage for general public to come to terms with scale of the chaos. Could government have managed proactive, timely and accurate distribution of information to the affected travelling public? All of us have by now heard and read stories of stranded passengers complaining about lack of information about travel chaos and any possible alternate arrangements. Surely in this day and age of social media and digital age recurrence of such scenarios can be and should be avoided in future. Vision in this regard is clearly lacking in this manifesto.
And how about boosting and encouraging innovation in the field of Information Technology? Why not be ambitious about supporting seed projects, labs, grants, funding, joint public-private efforts to boost next generation applications, infrastructure in the field of information technology? If Russia can be plotting creation of a new Silicon Valley why can we not be half ambitious and promote bold new initiatives for young technologists and entrepreneurs?
By the way this is by no means critic of Labour Party Manifesto as such. I will be reviewing both the Conservatory and Liberal Democrat Manifestos in coming days for exactly the same issues and opportunities. My objective here is not be critical but simply review and point out gaps in political vision towards an important industry that is the Information Technology.