Thursday 1 December 2011

Digital by default

I was at Digital by Default today, and the first thing to say is how good it was. Well planned, good speakers, excellent venue (Barbican) and well run.   I learned a lot from it.

But, let me try out a slightly tendentious interpretation of the day...
We should go Digital by Default because Digital is Utopia. Not only will the government save money (billions of pounds), but people are happier when they are online.

Today was about exploring how close we are to Utopia; to identify why we are not there already; and explore what we need to do to get there.

We are quite close. It varies by location and services. For example Tameside has 100% of school applications online.

We are not there yet because:
1) The services are not yet all available online, or are not yet good enough
2) Though most of the population are digitally-enabled (online via web or smart-phone), a minority are not. The minority (which also happens to include the most heavy users of government services) is made up of two categories:
- the unfortunates, prevented by lack of opportunity, by disability, or by ignorance
- refuseniks (Martha Lane Fox's term), who won't go on line because they are deviants (my interpretation!)

What to do to get there:
1) Put all services online (or, better, on mobile phones) and make them work better. We just need to try a bit harder to get it right.
2) For the unfortunates, we, the fortunate ones, should do all in our power to help them. We should, for example, give an hour to them get online. For the refuseniks, we need a 'carrot and stick' approach. We need to show them how wonderful it is to be online. (The example of the man who said he wasn't interested, he preferred going crown-green bowling.  He was told he could watch all the crown green bowling online next year.) In the end, anyway, the alternatives will have to disappear because we won't make the savings if we leave them in place, so there'll be no choice. If you need government services it'll be digital or nothing.
As I said, slightly tendentious...

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