UK government must improve its use of technology

So concludes the RSA’s Technology in a Cold Climate Report, stating that, “Central government must dramatically improve its use of technology if it is to cut the public sector deficit”.

Given the forthcoming general election and the re-examination of budgets that will happen as a matter of course – who ever wins – the report suggests ways that technology might help the continuing delivery of services across the UK with less money in the pot.

Examples of how government can do this are given as:

* delivering more public services online to reduce costs and environmental impact
* learning from low-cost websites built by both third sector organisations and private companies
* using well-designed platforms to harness the knowledge and experience of large populations to democratically improve service provision.

The report is critical of procurement processes and also of the implementation of technology and innovative ideas:

“The UK considers itself an advanced-knowledge economy, but although it has some excellent innovation policies and mechanisms, it does not seem to have implemented these well, leading to lower levels of R&D investment and a poor record of exploiting knowledge to full advantage.
We suggest that the UK’s position is critically assessed, and that innovation policies are more proactively evaluated throughout their lifetime.”

In addition, the report calls on ministers to ensure that “everyone across the UK will benefit from the next generation of high-speed broadband as a platform for future growth and innovation”.

For anyone interested in economics, public policy, technology and innovation this is worth reading.

Click here to read the report in full.

Event notes: an Interconnected Society

Last week I was asked by Jamie Young at the RSA to chair the Interconnected Society session of the Technology in a Cold Climate summit. (See this previous post for the overall outline and the day’s schedule).

Refreshingly, the point of the day was for everyone in attendance to work hard, roll our sleeves up and get involved. Fuller accounts of the day can be found at the RSA blog specifically set up for the research.

The day started with an opening keynote (see video below) from Stephen Timms, Minister for Digital Britain, who reminded us that this was the third time he’d held such a role but also outlined the current digital landscape in the UK and how it affects society and the economy.

Professor John Farrington presents his research. Photo by Paul Henderson
Each proceeding session was then a workshop, with the aim of all the participants contributing to the final report after hearing the research papers given by the academics.

The Interconnected Society session started with Professor John Farrington presenting his research outlining the potential to be gained through having interconnected society. As well as looking at the benefits that such a society could bring he also examined the existing multiple digital divides (technical, geographical, social, economic, cultural, not-connection, connection but disconnection from other social spheres) and issues in rural areas.

This presentation was formally responded to by Julian David of IBM and Graham Walker of the government’s Digital Inclusion task force. Paul Henderson recorded the whole session’s activity, which can be viewed and read here.

We then split into found groups to discuss the presentations and to try to make some recommendations for the final RSA report.

What follows are two of the group’s responses and an interview that David Wilcox made with Professor John Farrington and I.

Event: Technology in a Cold Climate

The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) are holding a symposium tomorrow (26 October 2009) entitled Technology in a Cold Climate. It’s the culmination of a few months work of commissioned research examining the social applications of a selection of technologies and aims to answer the question:

“How can technology help meet some of the challenges that the UK is facing?”

The results are four papers which will be delivered at the event on the 26 October 2009:

  • technology’s application to delivering better and more cost-effective public services
  • the benefits of greater digital connectivity
  • the potential of technology to transform society towards a more sustainable form
  • the innovative behaviour that is essential to developing the kind of entrepreneurial action needed

Agenda
8:30-9:00, registration and breakfast
9:00-9:30, keynote speech from Stephen Timms MP, Minister for Digital Britain
9:30-11:00, seminars on “Sustainable Technology” and “Interconnected Society”
11:00-12:30, seminars on “Public Services” and “Supporting Innovation”
12:30-1:00, lunch
1:00-2:00, panel discussion with Ben Hammersley, William Heath, Luke Johnson, and Kevin Smith, chaired by Matthew Taylor

[picapp src=”b/0/7/a/spider_web_6dde.jpg?adImageId=6608452&imageId=5119736″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]
The Interconnected Society
I’ve been asked by Jamie Young to chair the seminar that focuses on the Interconnected Society which will be based on a paper written by Professor John Farrington, with responses from Graham Walker, Director of Strategy at the Office of the Champion for Digital Inclusion and Julian David of IBM UK. The conversation will then be opened up to everyone in the room (and those online if possible), where we will aim together to try to come to a set of priorities/recommendations.

Following the conversation online
The day is going to be live blogged and the overall details for the day can be found here. Also see:
Liveblog for Interconnected Society session
Twitter hashtag – #techcold
The RSA on Twitter