Budget 2015: George Osborne remains The Big Data Chancellor

JS54677094This Wednesday will be the first opportunity for a Conservative majority government to deliver a full budget announcement since 1997.

George Osborne has waited a long time for this moment, having suffered the friction with his Liberal Democrat colleagues for the last five years, tinkering with his every announcement and proposal.

The Chancellor is well known for his love of science and technology, and more importantly the role these industries will play in driving economic growth for Britain.

Over one year ago he announced a major £42million investment in Big Data research. Earlier in the Spring he announced a further £140million fund supporting research into the Internet of Things, driverless cars and smart cities.

Many politicians talk about technology to make the headlines, few understand its importance and economic potential. Confounding this stereotype, Osborne has repeatedly proven himself to be remarkably in touch with the latest technology trends and providing hard cash to support their development and implementation.

Top of his list needs to be a commitment to closing the digital skills divide through smart city connectivity initiatives. Inequality in Britain has been unacceptably high for decades, with wealthier families often having access to the latest technologies to provide faster learning for their children.

Poor connectivity in British homes means many children from poorer households have no access to the Internet. This scenario denies them access to learning materials, including online seminars and lessons. As they enter their teenage years, this lack of computer literacy puts them at a disadvantage compared with their peers, meaning they find it harder to apply for jobs and build a credible CV.

Britain is home to some of the world’s finest cities, London, Manchester and Birmingham are hubs of technology and business innovation, producing and supporting brilliant careers for the next generation of young people. So Osborne needs to continue his noble Northern Powerhouse initiative, energising our towering metropolises and providing opportunity for all.

Connected cities bring with them faster trading and exchange of information. Improved management of transport, people and services, saving money and creating the kind of working environment that global investors will want to play a part in.

George Osborne has proved he can get the nation’s finances in order, and for that he should be praised. However, phase two of his long-term economic plan should be to ensure the necessary investment in technology infrastructure programmes to give businesses and individuals the support networks they deserve.

The Big Data Chancellor has the vision, now he just needs to put this into practice.

Steven George-Hilley is director of technology at the Parliament Street think tank

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