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Contemplating the Digital Britain Unconferences

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on the Digital Britain Unconference series of events, that sprang from being on Twitter on the afternoon of 18 April 2009, towards the end of the Digital Britain Summit. Bill Thompson has explained what happened and how, much better than I could – here.

The result of those Twitter conversations has led to – in less than three weeks – a group of people (all volunteers, most of whom have never met) from across the UK working together to organise over twelve unconferences to discuss Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Interim Report. This process experience in and of itself has been an amazing and at some point I’m planning to put together a case study of how we went about organising everything, the tools we used, what worked, what didn’t work – a guide for anyone should they wish to do something similar.

The unconferences will be all done and dusted by 13 May – less than a month after it all began – when the process of collating and editing everyone’s reports will begin, so that we can produce one final document for consideration by the Digital Britain team.

Suffice to say, all this has meant much contemplation about the future and how we’re in a huge process of change, in terms of how we think and operate as a country, how it affects infrastrucure, democracy, the economy, individual businesses and sectors, society, education, culture and how technologies sit amongst it all.

Last night the London unconference happened at the ICA. There were over 50 people in attendance representing many digital/technology touch points – a lot of brains and a lot of experience in one room. Discussions ranged from an uploaders manifesto and ensuring wide inclusion to how to encourage a stronger culture of entrepreneurship. The findings and conclusions are in process of being written up by Tom de Grunwald with help from others.

These are big, tough questions. Writing a report for Digital Britain that even begins to scrape the surface of some these issues is a challenge and my hope is that the unconference efforts help, not hinder this.

More to follow.

What should the government be doing about the internet?

Tom Steinberg, the director of mySociety, has posted an excellent set of priorities for all western governments of any persuasion regarding their approach to the internet.

Tom’s to-do list is very much in stark contrast to the comments made about the web by Andy Burnham, the Culture, Media and Sport secretary, in an interview given to the Daily Telegraph just after Christmas.

Burnham put forward the idea for rating websites, much like films and video games, and duly had techies across the land up in arms – most of them concerned with the minister’s lack of understanding of how the internet technically works. MP Tom Watson, much vaunted as one of the few people in parliament who not only ‘gets’ the web but actively participates in it, gave the opportunity to those concerned to have their voice heard by offering to take their comments to Andy Burham and Lord Carter personally using his blog.

This incident highlights a few of the points Tom makes:

Continue reading → What should the government be doing about the internet?