Election Day – what it means for IT

Today is Election Day. With all three main parties close together in the polls, we take a look at their pledges for IT professionals and the IT industry.

Labour, Tories and Liberal Democrats are all promising major cuts in public sector spending with IT-driven efficiencies being counted on to protect service levels.

IT is also important in the plans to deal with unemployment caused by the recession. Labour has made a particular focus of what it sees as Digital Britain, pledging to support the IT industry including startup companies.

This year’s Budget promised some support for new workers, as Alistair Darling, the chancellor, announced funding for 20,000 higher education training places in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, and more support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The rollout of high-speed broadband across the country is also being touted by Labour as a way to boost industry.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have insisted they would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the green technology industry. The Conservatives, conversely, have made fewer specific announcements on the environment and related jobs.

In recent months, IT workers across the UK on public and private sector contracts have protested at difficult conditions, pay freezes and the limiting of their retirement benefits. A number of workers have even gone on high profile strikes, with HP and Fujitsu seeing major industrial action on key contracts.

All three of the large parties have recognised the changing online habits of voters, some buying Google keywords to gain traction on the web. And after it emerged that the Conservatives had reportedly been sponsoring thousands of Google AdWords for more than three years, Labour’s former deputy leader John Prescott appeared on Twitter calling for Labour activists to click on the Conservative Party’s Google ads in an attempt to rack up costs for the Tories.

But Labour and the Conservatives faced controversy last month as they swept the new Digital Economy Bill into law, meaning users face being cut off if they access pirated material. While the Bill met support from creative industries and copyright holders, vocal opponents – including broadband firm Talk Talk and the Open Rights Group – said it limited free speech and imposed heavy burdens on internet service providers.

Labour’s election manifestorepeatedly referred to IT, including previously announced spending cuts in the NHS, and the rollout of fast broadband across the country. But it detailed few new substantial promises for the industry.

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