The election campaign is in full swing with Prime Minster Gordon Brown this morning giving a speech, entitled “Building Britain’s Digital Future” and broadcast live at about 8am on number10.gov.uk.
I’m not going to provide a detailed analysis of this. You can catch that from all the tweets at #bbdf. The PM covered a wide range of subjects that fall under the banner of Digital Britain. Much of the content I am concerned with was just a regurgitation of what has been said for the last year – 50p tax on phone lines, high speed access for all etc. etc. I don’t really see the evidence that this is going to happen yet, or at least not much progress.
What was important in my mind was the recognition or reinforcement of the point that UK.gov has to embrace web technology. There is a long way to go here as well. I note that the speech was broadcast on the number 10 website. I found out about it on twitter via @hadleybeeman. When I “tuned in” there were 87 watchers. By the time I had to leave to go to work there were 157. That’s only 157.
There is clearly a disconnect between the PMs speech being made available on line and people knowing it was there or feeling inclined to watch it. There is a long way to go before Government is properly online.
It was probably to some extent down to the timing – during the morning rush hour. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favour of much of what the Government is saying about Building Britain’s Digital Future. Regular readers will know that this doesn’t extend to how they are going about it though.
The appointment of Sir Tim Berners-Lee as joing head of a new Institute of Web Science might sound good but web technology, once it got off the ground has proliferated because private industry recognised that there was money to be made. That same private industry is even prepared to take big punts where it isn’t quite clear where the money will come from (eg twitter).
So in my mind the main area of focus should be creating the environment for ideas to flourish. An Institute of Web Science can no doubt contribute to this – just by being there. More important is to make sure that all the contradictions we keep hearing about – digital inclusion versus blocking of websites and cutting off internet access; the improvement of the rates set up for fibre; reforms to the online copyright licensing regime etc etc.
If anyone wants to add to the list by making a comment on this post that would be great. After Easter the Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA) is going to be working on its own manifesto stating what the ISP industry thinks Government should be doing. All inputs considered.