Yesterday I attended the National Digital Conference, a clever rebrand of the annual digital inclusion conference. Despite the name, there was no doubt that the theme of both speakers and exhibits was digital divide. This, at a time when the DC10, DC10 plus and City of London digital inclusion/innovation unit have wound-up (see the final report here). The impact of the recession was clear with very little in the way of a local authority presence.
Despite this, and apart from the terrible lunch, there were a few gems. Firstly the launch of AlphaGov, an experimental prototype of a government website. Martha Lane Fox also pimped the idea of ‘giving the web’ this Christmas and thinking ‘internet first’. She also spoke of stronger partnerships to make inclusion happen and the importance of the ‘f’ factor (friends, fans) in the race online. Sadly the usual nonsense about makinga access zero cost followed….has Martha forgotten the £300m spent by UK Gov on free computers by BECTA?
Perhaps the most amusing ‘announcement’ came from MP Jeremy Hunt. He started well, explaining that the UK was the best country in the world at creating digital content which is why digital is an opportunity and making the case for superfast (no mention of the failing UK electronics industry, then!). He also talked-up ‘mobile’.
Then, the clanger, he gives the nation an ‘ambition’. To me this sounds like a way of saying ‘this is not a promise or a commitment’ but something we ‘should want to do’. In other words, empty. The ‘ambition’ was to have 90% access to superfast by 2015 and the best internet infrastrucutre in Europe by this time. The good news is that fresh money will follow.
Among the good ideas were an ‘affiliate’ payout for referrals to government websites, a bit like the cashback sites Quidco etc and new incentives for social care providers to implement IT. The NOMINET Trust called for new ways to ‘make internet user more critical about online information’ (great project idea). For example, most young people think that Google ranks search results by accuracy.
Microsoft spoke of the QWERTY barrier. Think about it. Microsoft also argued the case for superfast. They anticipated that it would re-invent existing services which just so happened to include all their new technologies such as 3D, voice and gesture. Actually, this was a good point as most people are expecting ‘new’ services instead.
Because I’m in a hardware mood these days, I’ll leave you with one interesting piece of hardware, the B1connect. It feels like it’s an out of date technology already but has the potential to unlock many digital services and was one of the better examples of inclusion work that I witnessed.