Dear Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy,
I’m responding to your recent request for thoughts on the UK Digital Strategy. This response is split into two 1) the broader environment and conditions required for Digital and 2) How local public services are designed, delivered and commissioned, although the outcomes of which may have much wider benefits.
1 – Conditions for radical change
I start with the underlying proposition that every citizen can and will meaningfully integrate the internet into their daily lives. This level of active and capable participation should allow for new opportunities to emerge which reduce and divert demand on public services to alternative tools which are open by default and digital by design.
This environment will not simply develop, and the transformative opportunities will not unfold, unless people, businesses, service providers, government, community organisations and others fully understand and integrate digital into everything they do.
We must acknowledge that a digital climate is different to a transformation programme. It is a shift in thinking in which people and institutions are routinely aware of and constantly incorporate digital technology and opportunity into whatever they do.
This requires pervasive and meaningful digital awareness and education — a ubiquitous digital climate that animates and inspires creativity and transformation and enables growth and wellbeing.
Recommendation 1: Actively support grassroot action and education alongside the major players of change.
We require strong visible leadership across all sectors to enable transformation and strong decisions that ensure that we all contribute to creating a climate for growth and wellbeing. The leadership can come from anywhere and should not be restricted to hierarchical positions within recognised national organisations or from a single sector. We must demand that digital leadership be present in all sectors to drive sustainable growth and wellbeing.
Recommendation 2: Support and foster strong digital leadership across all sectors
2 – Co-ordinating and stimulating action
I’m part of LocalGov Digital, a network for digital practitioners working in councils. We’ve done some great things over the past three years like creating a standard for writing digital content, running an unmentoring scheme, running the UK’s leading local government unconference, introducing an online platform to aid council collaboration, and running a workshops to help redesign local democracy to name but a few.
There is however no core funding for coordination and much of our work is done on a voluntary basis in addition to our day jobs. You can find out more at http://localgovdigital.info
Enabling co-ordination and collaboration wouldn’t take a great deal of resource. It really just needs a few people to start to join things up between councils, voluntary and community sector, health, blue light services and central government, and everyone else looking to improve the digital services the public sector offers – benefits might include but would not be restricted to:
- Accountability for poor local public digital service delivery.
- A reduction in the duplication of spending and development work across all sectors.
- Better knowledge transfer between sectors, including standards for data and services.
- A sharing of skills, assets and resources between organisations.
- A fundamental role for local people and places to help influence the creation and development of local public digital services
The outcome would be better, cheaper, citizen focused local digital services. There is currently no network or organisation able to deliver this at scale, or it would already be happening.
Recommendation 3: The creation of a new accountable body to co-ordinate, measure and improve local public digital services.