Summary of Digital Age Discussion

In response to our discussion on the challenge and opportunities of the digital age, we received submissions from 97 CPF groups representing 127 constituencies and at least 851 members across the country, a similar level of engagement to the recent environment policy discussion. Since last year’s general election a total of 218 CPF groups, 261 constituencies and at least 2,877 members have participated in CPF policy discussions.

What follows is an overview of the key points raised by CPF groups. A more detailed collation of policy suggestions has been presented to the Director of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit, the CPF Chairman and the Party Vice-Chairman for Policy. We also look forward to publishing a formal response to members' ideas in due course.

Overview of Key Points

Half of all CPF groups (50%) view the digital age as a force for good; a further third (33%) did so but acknowledged it can be harmful; around 1-in-7 (13%) were evenly split; while the remaining handful (4%) view it as neutral.

1-in-3 groups (30%) raised concerns about information manipulation, disinformation and so-called “fake news”. 1-in-4 (25%) expressed concern that some people, especially the vulnerable and older people, may be excluded.

More than 1-in-5 (22%) groups said internet companies should have no tax or regulation advantage (or disadvantage) over conventional business enterprises.

1-in-3 groups (31%) expressed concern about online bullying, grooming and abuse.

A half (48%) of all groups indicated their broadband has not recently improved or has even deteriorated; about 1-in-3 (30%) have seen improvement, while the remaining 1-in-5 (22%) reported mixed experiences.

More than 1-in-10 groups (11%) called for protection to be given to British-developed intellectual property.

1-in-4 groups (24%) support curbs on anonymity. 1-in-7 (15%) raised mental health concerns in connection with social media.

Almost 3-out-of-4 groups (72%) insisted that they shared no concerns that automation could lead to mass unemployment, with just 1-in-7 (14%) expressing reservations.

3-in-5 (60%) called for increased opportunities for retraining and lifelong learning.

Government priorities in relation to technological development should be:

  • National and personal security;
  • Education to match the needs of the 21st century working environment;
  • A financial and regulatory environment that encourages innovation, growth and vision.

Top policy suggestions in the various sections include:

  • Introduce an internet sales tax.
  • Mandate for broadband to be treated as another utility with a right to universal access/provision with Service Level Agreements.
  • BT Openreach should be subjected to an Ofcom investigation to review its performance and targets and should be forced to license out its contracts if it is unable to deliver.
  • Invest more heavily in 5g and the future 6g.
  • All universities and FE colleges should run local digital training courses for business owners and start-ups.
  • Every town should have a virtual business hub.
  • Require providers of social media platforms to establish and enforce codes of conduct which reduce the opportunity for misuse and abuse.
  • Enhance the rewards and support for innovators through schemes such as R&D tax credits.
  • Ensure usable protection to those who publish, support and bring product to market.
  • Train the thousands of skilled workers needed to install 4 and 5G networks and develop, test and maintain systems and devices for the smart buildings, transport, cities, transport, energy, agriculture and healthcare of the future.