Labour should put technology at the 'forefront' of its thinking if it wins the next general election, according to a prominent group within the party.

In a report published today, Labour Digital, a network of Labour supporting technology experts, set out 82 recommendations which it hopes the party will adopt ahead of the general election in May 2015.

The authors said they would cost less than £10 billion over the next five years to implement but "deliver UK digital leadership worth hundreds of billions and public services substantially more impactful than those imaginable today."

'Government as a Platform'

Open APIs for government transactions, standardised data formats, high-quality assisted digital services and simplified procurement processes all feature on the group's wish list.

The report said Labour should commit to the wholesale adoption of an open standards-based 'Government as a Platform' model.

This would entail the Government Digital Service (GDS) creating common platforms - for example for booking or registering - for the whole of government to reuse.

Another prominent idea was to set up a 'National Institute for ICT Excellence' to help reform government's IT procurement procedures.

It would be a permanent body comprising "experienced civil servants and industry specialists" providing expertise and advice for government when procuring digital services and investment, the authors said.

'Digital impact assessments'

The report added that all parliamentary bills should undergo 'digital impact assessments' akin to how HM Treasury assesses financial implications of legislation.

These would "assess the scope and impact of digital processes on a given bill" and "ensure that the gains from all forms of digitisation are maximised", the report said.

It added that the government should commit to digitise 150 of its highest volume transactional services by 2020.

The authors also backed the idea of a local government digital service (GDS), a concept which is gaining traction.

The report echoed right of centre think tank Policy Exchange by calling for a new advanced analytics team in the Cabinet Office to help departments share and analyse data. It added that GDS should work to 'rationalise' spending on technology consultancy across government.

Data debate

Theo Blackwell, who sits on Labour Digital's board and serves as a cabinet member at Camden Council, told ComputerworldUK: "We need to get away from arguments about pipes. Technology has moved on. We need to think about how people will connect to the internet, be it mobiles, tablets, whatever, and make that top priority."

Blackwell added that in the light of the controversy over, an NHS scheme to set up a database of people's GP medical records, the party needs to examine how government uses citizens' information.

He said: "We need to have a real debate on the use of data, what its acceptable limits are and to what extent it can be used in the public interest. Politicians have to step up to the plate and talk about this."

Rapid change

Blackwell hopes that the report will help to usher in a greater focus on technological change within the party, both within government but also society as a whole.

He said: "Slowly but surely there's been a realisation that Labour needs to frame much more of its focus around technology.

"We're saying to Labour: you need to express the scale of your ambition here. Connectivity, big data, skills, privacy and identity; all of these things need to be addressed by the Labour party if it wants to be serious and credible.

"It is not just austerity impacting on people's jobs and careers, services and the high street, there's also the speeding up of the digital revolution. And any credible political party needs to reflect that much more centrally in what it says to people."