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UK Budget 2014: Where was focus on tech, says industry

Sam Shead | March 21, 2014
Chancellor's performance underwhelms many across tech and IT

George Osborne's 2014 Budget has left many of those working across IT and technology disappointed after the Chancellor failed to go into details on new reforms and neglected certain issues altogether.

His plans include opening a new big data institute in honour of World War II code breaker Alan Turing, as well creating 100,000 new apprenticeships and supporting the commercialising of next generation "wonder" material graphene.

Shortly after Osborne finished his speech to the House of Commons, Techworld was flooded with comments expressing dismay at the lack of prioritised investment for the technology and digital sector and the vagueness of the announcements that were made.

Duncan Higgins, a director at Virgin Media Business, said he was concerned at the lack of reference to digital technology in the Budget.

"To use Osborne's words, if we want to 'outsmart the rest of the world', we need to be more switched on to the power of digital," said Higgins. "Given that Britain's digital economy will be 10 percent of GDP by 2016, it's surprising that there was just one mention of the word 'technology' and no mention at all of 'digital' in the Chancellor's Budget."

Meanwhile, Jonny Rose, founder of Croydon Tech City, said: "The Budget was curiously scant on detail regarding investing in Britain's burgeoning digital, tech & creative economy - be it in East London, Croydon Tech City or across the country. As one of the country's growth industries - that are actually producing a product, rather than services - that seemed like an oversight."

Others criticised the Chancellor's lack of vision in backing the right technologies.

Gary Calcott, technical product manager at software firm Progress, said: "Following on from his recent 'Year of Code' announcement, I'd have liked to have seen him providing resources that will ensure children of all ages are given 'hands on' access to 'ease of use' technology that can stimulate their interest in science and technology.

"For example, giving students the ability to build an application by using a simple 'drag and drop' interface is a great way of introducing them to the world of programming, without bogging them down in the complexity of having to learn a new programming language."

Also absent from the Chancellor's speech was any mention of cybersecurity, a threat that many businesses and governments around the world are struggling to deal with.

"If we are going to win this war, then real businesses must be encouraged and supported in implementing their own defences," said Rob Cotton, CEO at NCC Group. "I'd like to see real financial support to help businesses protect themselves - and the country. This will make a real difference to our levels of protection as a country and will send an important message to business leaders about how serious the threat is."


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