Today, the report from the Labour Digital Review, has been published, although the official launch is this evening. The Report is essentially a manifesto of digital intentions and ambitions that Labour could use to form policy should they gain power in May’s General Election. It makes a fascinating read. Making Digital Government Work for Everyone explores how technology and digital services could be better used to help citizens. It was written by an independent panel of more than 20 advisers and volunteers, and today it has already gained a considerable amount of attention including in The Guardian and Government Computing.
It won’t surprise you to know that I believe whoever is in government, it’s an absolute necessity they’re ambitious about accelerating the speed at which people without digital skills are able to take part in a digital society. This report acknowledges that simply doesn’t happen by magic.
The vision for a 100% online nation by 2020 (outlined in our Digital Nation report – see my previous blog here) is an achievable one, but it needs not only commitment but investment. It’s gratifying that the Labour Digital Review not only cites our report, but supports the idea that that investment should be a three way partnership between the public sector, private sector, and voluntary sector. The Report acknowledges the transformative impact that use of the internet can have on people’s lives, as well as the huge benefits to the UK economy by supporting people to get basic digital skills more quickly. Put plainly we can’t reap all of the savings that digital transformation will bring without bringing everyone, who can and wants to, into the digital world.
The Labour Digital Review also acknowledges the need for funding to be channelled into the grassroots organisations who can engage the very hardest to reach in our society – great news for the UK online centres network. What’s more, as the cherry on top, it spells out that the return on investment – in purely monetary terms rather than social ones – will soon offset the initial outlay. The sums are clear. 21% of the population don’t have basic digital skills, 68% of whom are in social group C2DE, and 80% of Government interactions are with the poorest 25% in our society. The annual cost saving of putting public services online = £1.7bn (each year). The total cost of helping 100% of the population to get basic digital skills = £875m (a one off cost). It’s not hard to see the value, here.
Last week at our Digital Evolution conference, Go ON UK’s Rachel Neaman told us that there wasn’t any such thing as a digital economy any more, or even digital skills. It’s now just the economy, and it’s just basic or essential skills – with IT right alongside maths and English. And that message seems to have been heard and understood.
Some of the other recommendations include establishing an expert technology ethics body to help address complex challenges, including health monitoring, autonomous vehicles and legal disputes such as the right to be forgotten. It also includes key recommendations about how to approach digital by default services with more sensitivity to core user groups, and how digital inclusion needs to be a central strand in any digital approach.
Today in Government Computing, Chi Onwurah MP said: “Let’s try and build something that works for both central and local government. Let’s build something for everyone, not just Whitehall.” A sentiment it is hard to disagree with, whatever your politics.