Public Services > Central Government

Conservative Party manifesto highlights cyber, digital and data ethics initiatives

David Bicknell Published 18 May 2017

Commitments include an expert Data Use and Ethics Commission, a new data protection law, strengthened cyber security standards and reduced data duplication across government


A Conservative Government elected on June 9 would embark on a number of digital initiatives outlined in its manifesto published today.

The manifesto seeks to make a major statement about digital technology, with the last section entitled, “Prosperity and Security in a Digital Age.”

Key ‘digital’ commitments made in the manifesto, some of which may previously have been signalled, include:

  • By the end of this year, 19 out of 20 premises will have access to superfast broadband with by 2020 every home and business in Britain having access to high speed broadband.
  • By 2022, there will be major fibre spines in over a hundred towns and cities
  • There are also plans to extend mobile coverage to 95% geographic coverage of the UK, with all major roads and mainline trains enjoying full and uninterrupted mobile phone signal, and a guaranteed WiFi internet service on trains.
  • A conservative government plans to have the majority of the population covered by a 5G signal by 2027

In terms of data ethics, the Conservatives plan to create a  “sound ethical framework” for how data is used, and will institute an expert Data Use and Ethics Commission to advise regulators and parliament on the nature of data use and how best to  prevent  its  abuse.

A Conservative government would also bring forward a new data protection  law, “to ensure the very best standards for the safe, flexible and dynamic use of data and enshrining our global leadership in the ethical and proportionate regulation of data.” It would also put the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care on a statutory footing to ensure data security standards are properly enforced.

Perhaps with last week’s cyber attack in mind, the manifesto says it will continue with its £1.9bn investment in cyber security and “strengthen cyber security standards for government and public services, requiring all public services to follow the most up to date cyber security techniques appropriate.”

As well as a commitment to using the Verify identity assurance scheme by 2020,  the Tories plan to incubate more digital services within government and introduce “digital transformation fellowships, so that  hundreds of leaders from the world of tech can come into government to help deliver  better public services.”

The Tory manifesto also promises a continued drive for open data, “maintaining our position as the world leader.”  It has also set out a strategy to rationalise the use of personal  data within government, “reducing data duplication across all systems, so that we automatically comply with the ’Once-Only’ principle in central government services by 2022 and wider public services by 2025.”

Commenting on the manifesto, Antony Walker, deputy chief executive of techUK, said, “The recognition that government itself must be at the forefront of using digital technology is highly welcome. Digital transformation will be vital to creating a Smarter State - protecting public services amid rising public sector debt and demands on usage.

“The focus now must be on ensuring focused delivery, an effective refresh of the Verify programme, and ensuring that this scale of ambition happens at local as well as central government. As the UK exits the European Union, it is crucial that the UK has a public procurement environment which is open to new innovative solutions in public service delivery."

On data, he said, “The desire to boost public trust in data use is to be praised. The digital revolution depends on public trust. techUK has been a vocal champion for an independent data ethics council and the next government should make this a priority. Data is the lifeblood for the 21st century economy and the Smarter State and this institution would play a central role in creating a new social contract on the transformational power of data.”


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