Budget 2015 wasn’t just about money and “fixing the roof”; it had significant digital implications too
Sometimes the impact of technological change comes with a big bang such as Steve Jobs striding on stage to unveil the first iPhone. But there was no similar moment for Tim Berners Lee and the birth of the worldwide web because more often it is the incremental, step-by-step indefatigable march that brings about the change even without the headline-grabbing moment. The worldwide web’s tentacles spread far and wide before getting headlines.
That’s how we might see Budget 2015. Technology did not grab the major headlines, even with George Osborne’s joke about how the internet of things would help the fridges in Ed Miliband’s two kitchens communicate with each other. Indeed, the very fact that Osborne’s joke had to be preceded by an explanation of what the internet of things is shows limited understanding of digital language in Parliament.
Away from the headlines and pointed jokes, technology underpinned many of the budget announcements with significant developments that not only matter for government, but also for the future of brands too.
The news that small sums of government funding is going into the internet of things and related technologies is handy even if – compared to the budgets of the tech sector behemoths and even venture capital funded start-ups – the amount is pretty small beer.
More important are the standards and regulatory changes coming. This includes the push to have ultrafast broadband for nearly all UK premises, which involves increasing broadband standards for rural areas and the clearing of key spectrum space to enable even faster and more reliable mobile connectivity. All of these will be usable by both employees (rural or otherwise) doing work and employees taking a break to look at cats and interact with brands online.
The budget also pushed technical developments, including regulatory support for the sharing economy and the introduction of new regulations around virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. Those regulations are designed not only to fight crime but also to give ordinary consumers more confidence in using them. With the Bank of England also researching how central banks could run their own digital currencies, Bitcoin may not be the one that dominates in future, but digital currencies of one form or another look likely to grow – with important implications for anyone who wants to sell online.
Important too will be the banking application programming interface (API) that is going ahead, requiring all banks to provide secure, easy access to third-party applications in the future that want to help people manage their finances. In part, this is about making it easier for people to find out which bank account is best for their particular financial situation and patterns of usage.
It also opens up the door to all sorts of other apps. Imagine an online dating service where in the future you can claim you are young, beautiful and rich, and the API will verify the last item is true. Or an environmental pressure group that uses the API to analyse your finances and sends you campaign messages each time money flows out to a company in their campaigning sights.
A further boost to new services will come from plans to open up the Gov.uk verification service to the commercial sector. The idea is that once someone has verified their identity with the government, they can use that proof of identity across a range of other online services immediately stripping out a whole raft of identity and anti-fraud headaches for others. As a result, this could empower startups freeing them from lots of admin.
The robots are coming
With £100m to be spent on ‘intelligent mobility’ we can expect new developments in automation primarily driverless cars and the infrastructure to support them. What will drivers who no longer have to look at the road do in the future? Perhaps good old fashioned books will make a comeback in this newly freed up time. Whatever it is that does eat up the newly freed up time, it’ll be the smartest brands who are thinking ahead who will benefit the most.