The UK could save £24bn every year if the public sector adopted new technology to a similar extent as the private sector does, according to new research from an independent think tank.
In its Technology Manifesto report, the Policy Exchange (PE) urged political parties to place greater emphasis on technology in their election campaigns next year, insisting that it is the "foundation on which the UK's economic future will depend".
The document lays out policy recommendations to improve technology for individuals and business as well as within the government and public sector.
The think tank, which worked with EMC and Google on the report, praised the government's initial efforts to embrace a digital-first government, claiming that from next year, digitalising public services will save about £1.7bn a year.
"But there is still a very long way to go," it said.
"If the rate of public sector productivity growth can be accelerated to match that in comparable parts of the private sector, by 2020 a digitally transformed government could be up to eight per cent more efficient than if it continued doing business as usual. This could free up to £24bn a year to be spent on improving public services, expanding digital skills initiatives, or deficit reduction."
PE urged policy makers to consider a flurry of recommendations to improve the use of technology within government, including initiatives discouraging the use of paper in favour of online activity.
"Electronic purchasing, based on open standards, should be the default for government departments," it added. "Government is a major purchaser but is not as nimble as it should be. A widely adopted electronic platform for government buying could significantly lower prices and reduce bureaucracy."
The UK ought to be the best place outside Silicon Valley for tech entrepreneurs and startups to set up shop, claimed PE's report, which said more needed to be done by the government to allow firms to flourish.
"If Britain is serious about creating companies of the size of Google, Facebook or Twitter, finance must be available to help businesses scale fast," it said. "As the digital economy matures, the next government should work with banks, private investors and the venture capital industry to help plug the current funding gap."
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