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July 8, 2015

Can tech tackle austerity? 5 techies react to the Emergency Budget

George Osborne emphasised productivity in his emergency budget.

By Alexander Sword

The focus was always going to be on the controversial welfare cuts in George Osborne’s most recent budget, but individual industries will have been running through his words with a fine-tooth comb. CBR spoke to technology experts to get their views on the budget.

 

1. Julian David, CEO at techUK, commented on the budget’s take on productivity:

"Whilst the headlines of the Budget may not offer up much on tech and digital, we look forward to seeing a greater focus on how digital technologies play a fundamental role in driving economic success right across the UK in the forthcoming ‘Productivity Plan’ led by Lord O’Neill."

"In order to tackle the UK’s productivity challenge we must improve performance across the whole of the UK economy. Investment in the adoption of digital technologies will be fundamental to achieving this goal.

"In addition, technologies such as smart cities and the internet of things must be at the heart of the Chancellor’s vision for devolution and securing our long-term economic future."

"Ambitions to increase the number of apprenticeships are to be applauded but Government must work closely with industry on implementation to ensure young people are trained for the jobs of the future."

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"There are a number of interesting announcements in the Budget document, including £23m for six ‘Next Generation Digital Economy Centres’ and seed funding for innovative business cases to deliver efficient public services fit for the digital age. The tech industry welcomes these initiatives and is eager to engage in making them a success."

 

2. Neil Crockett, CEO at the Digital Catapult says:

"The message from this budget is clear and we are encouraged by the strong focus on productivity, as well as the continued emphasis on building the Northern Powerhouse and investment in the Digital Economy Centres. These initiatives are all aligned to the Digital Catapult’s current focus and activity.

"Since the last Budget we have opened three Digital Catapult Centres across the UK, in partnership with LEPS and Universities, with two of these based in the North.

"Having worked with our partners and local councils to create the Greater Manchester Data Synchronisation Programme, which unlocks value for local authorities, business and community alike, we are confident that devolving more power to the Greater Manchester area is a good move by the Government.

"This, paired with the new round of enterprise zones across the country, will create greater opportunities for business, academia and public sector to collaborate and grow. We look forward to working with the Digital Economy Centres to deliver maximum impact for the UK."

 

3. Rakesh Harji, UK MD of predictive analytics business Blue Yonder says:

"The thing the budget overlooks is that we live in the digital era. Technology can have a hugely significant impact in combatting this issue, increasing collaboraton, efficiencies and innovation.

Moreover, 99 per cent of operational (vs strategic) decisions can and should be automated using Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Data Science.

"An example is replenishment in retail. Using data, technology can predict when a retailer is going to run out of apples and therefore when more need to arrive on the shelves. This will lead to more productivity allowing employees to focus on what’s going to really drive value to the business.

"Technology has the power to create flexibility and allow for innovation which ultimately drives business growth – sometimes in the most unexpected areas of the business.

Take food chain EAT. for example, by using predictive applications to control stock levels, the marketing and product development departments have been able to produce more products to fulfil consumer needs.

"The technology is out there. The key is to identify where productivity could do with a boost and implement the right kind of technology solution for your business."

 

4. Vijay Chandiramani, COO, CapacityGrid explained how analytics can be used by local governments to meet austerity targets.

"Today’s budget re-affirms the ongoing austerity measures facing local government. The challenge of balancing cost savings against service delivery remains; however, greater efficiencies can be achieved if business processes and systems are shared more readily across local councils.

Take the problem of managing fraud and error in Council Tax Reduction and Housing Benefit. Councils across the UK all follow similar processes, yet many design, procure and build their own bespoke systems at considerable cost.

We are now working with a number of local authorities concurrently to directly support their fraud and error initiatives, by creating a standard approach and rich analytics with local data-sets.

These authorities are now benefiting from the economies of scale that come from using the same processes and toolsets. Ultimately, this is helping to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs at a time when every penny counts."

 

5. Andy Soanes, CTO of Bell Integration, gave some advice on how the public sector can use IT to cope with cuts.

"As expected, the public sector will see significant cuts. What this means is that departments implementing new IT projects, as well as the £28bn worth of major ICT projects already underway, will be under pressure to do so a lot more efficiently.

"National and local government IT projects across the board, from Whitehall to Whitby, will be feeling the impact of reduced budgets. In this environment, a poorly planned or implemented project could have even greater repercussions than usual.

"After all, if a project goes over-budget, where do you take the extra investment from? Quite simply, delays and budget overruns will need to be kept to an absolute minimum, since projects can’t simply be put on hold indefinitely until austerity ends.

"In order to avoid this, whether moving services to the cloud or updating Windows, any project should be mapped out from the start with minimum potential for disruption.

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