Why the Budget was Great News for Computer Science in the UK
I don’t pretend to be a political person, though I do take an active interest in the subject as I think it affects us all and we should all have some knowledge of it, but I can tell you that the 2012 budget was great news for me, everyone on my course and every software engineer (particularly game developers) in the country.
You can see an overall view of the budget on the BBC News Website, but the most important things as far as Computer Science is concerned are “Super-Connected” cities and Tax breaks for game designers and developers.
Super-Connected Cities may have a somewhat weird and meaningless name, but the idea is very much important to the development of the “digital economy” the government is trying to build. As all computer scientists know, a system is only as fast as its slowest component. I use a resonably powerful laptop, with a dual core second generation Intel i3 processor, but you could go and make yourself a cup of tea in the time it takes to boot up, this is because it’s slowest component, in this case the hard drive, is limiting the entire system.
In this country the internet is holding back not only Computer Systems but the digital economy itself. So many people, even in realitely populated area’s, have to deal with speeds of ~2mb and some people in more rural areas are still stuck on dial-up, how are these people supposed to be expected to want to take part in online-shopping, e-learning, working from home and perhaps more importantly access online government services including NHS Direct? They can’t be, and thats why we need more bandwidth on the network. Well, all that stuff and less laggy games on Counter Strike: Source.
Chancellor George Osborne announced in the budget that London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and “10 smaller cities” will have £100 million poured into improving their networking infrastructure, providing up to 100mb/s internet connections. The BBC states “By 2015 it is hoped the investments in cities will provide ultrafast broadband coverage to 1.7 million households and high-speed wireless broadband for three million residents.” This will mean 4.7 million more people who can enjoy instaneous on-demand video, allowing video conferencing for businesses, instantly music album downloads and good access to Government services, and that can’t be a bad thing for anyone, especially those of us in the IT industry.
I hope Hull sees some of that money, its a “smaller city” and has one of the worst networks in the country due to the fact that BT never laid cables here, and therefore competitors like Virgin Media cannot provide their services either. At the moment there are only two ISP’s in Hull, KC and The University of Hull and that doesn’t promote competition on speed or cost.
The second important annoucment of the Budget for Computer Scientists was that the government will be giving tax breaks to the games industry. According to the video games industry trade body Tiga “tax relief for the video games sector should generate and safeguard 4,661 direct and indirect jobs, offer £188m in investment expenditure by studios, increase the games development sector’s contribution to UK GDP by £283m and generate £172m for the Treasury.” Again, this can’t be bad for anyone, it will actually make a profit for the country as a whole, so even if you dont like games or have anything to do with them you will, in some way, benifit.
However, I don’t think that the finances are the whole story. What this initiative will do is retain jobs, and more importantly, retain the clever people responsible for making games such as The Grand Theft Auto Series, LittleBigPlanet and RuneScape, all of which and many more were made in the UK.
Though I have my own ideals and ideas, and therefore don’t subscribe to the idea of supporting any particular political party I must say I think the conservatives did well on this one.