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Should George Osborne embrace tech not cuts?

George Osborne is putting forward the first Conservative budget since 1996 and has tabled £12bn of cuts for his appearance in parliament tomorrow, expected to come largely from caps on in and out-of-work social security payments.

Cloud collaboration platform Huddle has other ideas, meanwhile, conducting research around the potential for the cloud to drive efficiency savings across government.

But the prognosis isn’t great, just 35% of public sector staff and 47% of IT teams in a survey of 5,000 workers said they are comfortable using cloud IT.

A total of 36% said they had never even used this kind of software, with 92% of those surveyed saying they don’t trust the security offered by cloud computing.

“The strange thing is that some of these organisations are just as happy to take a CD containing confidential records, stick a 1st class stamp on it and pop it in the post,” said Tim Deluca-Smith, VP of marketing at Huddle.

“Much of the issue here is down to the words that are used. I’d venture that 99% have used a cloud service, even in their private lies, and it’s probably something as well-known as Facebook.

“Very often organisations are quick to start talking about the benefits of cloud computing rather than benefits of collaborative working,” he explained, “they’re still relying on decades old technology without identifying that if you share something via email, you end up having 12 versions that need to be rationalised.

“A lot of work in private and public sector is not about deploying tech and hoping it works – it’s about working on a cultural level to change their working methods.”

Deluca-Smith explains that Huddle has worked with organisations that have been found to have upwards of 50 different tech solutions being used as staff incorporate their own personal habits into their work life.

“It gets to a point where there are several thousand private accounts and people are expensing it back to the company. This is a nightmare for IT as you can’t audit it or track who it’s been shared with.”

Although the government has met its target of ensuring that 25% of government spend went to SMEs by the end of the last parliament, many of those surveyed were unable to explain why the figure isn’t higher.

“Working with big corporates often means multi-billion projects that take 10 years to deliver. With SMEs, SAAS and cloud, you don’t have to do a big project,” he added.

“Our use of tech is increasing as a country, and as an economy, but when the rubber hits the road, the government still has a fear of using SME organisations that really needs to be addressed.”

In other views…

Alliott Cole, member of the Ventures team at Octopus Investments, said: “Octopus is hugely supportive of any initiatives that better support British entrepreneurs and high-growth small businesses.

“The government’s support of Tech City in London has been a real success story – recent London & Partners figures show that London technology startups received record venture capital funding in the first half of 2015. We anticipate this budget will see greater investment into regional hubs, with the hope of replicating this success.”

Patrick Imbach, head of the high-growth tech group at KPMG, echoes the need for government investment in tech outside of London, making sure that it is not “more marketing than substance”.

He was impressed to hear talk of digital tax returns in the spring budget, projected to be delivered over five years, but said: “I haven’t seen or heard much more detail since then. We really need to put some specifics on a timeline for it.

“Likewise with spending money on infrastructure, whether that’s office space or broadband, we need a timeline rather than just talking about it.”

KPMG is also keen for the VAT rules to be simplified for small businesses operating across the EU. “It’s ridiculous that startups and entrepreneurs are thinking about being compliant rather than running and growing their businesses,” he said.

Imbach praised the EIS and SEIS tax incentives, saying we need to “protect and enhance them. They are effective and needed to incentivise investment in risky business.”

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