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May 6, 2015

5 ways tech has affected General Election 2015

#GE2015 has been shaped by several trends in the tech world.

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A lot has changed since Gordon Brown was ousted from Downing Street in 2010 by the Conservative-led coalition, and nowhere is this more true than in the technology world. CBR rounds up five ways that technology has changed this election.

1. Social media

Social media was a major force in 2010 too, which was pegged as the ‘first social media election’ because of the high level of voter activity on Facebook and Twitter. However, the last five years have seen it becoming a key tool in the modern politician’s arsenal. At the beginning of 2010 neither the Conservative David Cameron nor Labour incumbent Gordon Brown, the two major candidates in the election that May, had Twitter accounts. Cameron hastily joined in January, but Brown’s debut didn’t come until November, six months after the election. This absence would be inconceivable now.

2. Policies

Technology policies have received a considerable airing in the manifestos of the major parties. From the broadband trumpeted by the Conservatives, to the net neutrality principles set out by the Liberal Democrats in their digital manifesto, to Labour’s commitment to ‘knowledge clusters’ and the Greens’ focus on protecting citizen’s data, the major parties have made sure to put digital front and centre in their manifestos and statements. This shows the value that the industry brings to the UK economy, as well as the populace’s growing engagement with tech.

3. Big Data

The rise of Big Data analytics has given election strategists a valuable new weapon. According to City University, the Conservatives use software called ‘Merlin’ from EMC, while Labour uses ‘Contact Creator’ and ‘Voter ID’, coded by Labour supporters. The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, use a programme called ‘Connect’. With the 2015 election seemingly the most unpredictable for decades, the parties have seized upon analytics to provide more targeted campaigning as opposed to a broad-brush focus on a voter ‘category’.

4. Smartphones and citizen reporters

Gaffes are a healthy and natural element of politics and are nothing new. Politicians did, however, used to be safe unless they kept on message in interviews and didn’t forget if they were being recorded afterwards. With a phone in every hand and a camera on every phone, politicians need to be far more wary of citizen reporters. Incidents that would previously only have been reported by word of mouth are now recorded and eternally hosted on Youtube for posterity. Even so, the election campaign has been disappointingly gaffe-free – there was no repeat of Gordon Brown’s infamous ‘Bigotgate’ incident in 2010.

5. Media

According to an Ofcom report, 2014 saw digital news become as popular as newspapers for the first time. The two categories were preferred by 41 percent and 40 percent of respondents respectively in 2014’s News Consumption in the UK report. Online reporting is known for favouring a different type of news, with the success of the Buzzfeed model awakening the industry to new techniques for attracting traffic to websites.

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