A new independent report pens a “call to action” aimed at the UK government, presenting a series of recommendations for a “broad” and “ambitious” digital operating model to help local, regional and central government bodies meet sustainability and connectivity targets.
Published by Public Policy Projects (PPP), in partnership with Anderson Strategy and Huawei, the Connected Citizens report states the case for a greener future that it hopes would place the nation as a “digital world-leader”.
Amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, which has greatly emphasised the need for the nation’s enhanced connectivity, and leading on from the government’s new, ambitious climate targets, which aims for at least a 68% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade, the report outlines why the establishment of cutting-edge digital infrastructure is fundamental to the UK’s future success.
Calling for radical investment in improving digital skills across the population, the report emphasises the need for a long-term digital skills strategy focused on reforming the education system in line with the needs of the digital age.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the crucial role of addressing the challenges of digital connectivity,” said Victor Zhang, VP of Huawei. “After 20 years helping [the] UK [get] better connected, Huawei recognises the nation’s depth of technology talent and innovation and the importance of harnessing it to deliver economic and social prosperity for generations to come. Huawei stands ready to support levelling up the country by supporting economic growth and digital skills throughout the nations and regions.”
On top of this, Connected Citizens highlights the need to leverage more power and support to local and regional authorities, allowing them to facilitate connectivity improvements at a devolved level, and work collaboratively with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to create the most efficient roll-out in their power.
Justin Anderson, head of strategy at Anderson Strategy and co-author of the report, commented: “The new digital operating model is a critical foundation to both realise the UK government’s vision [for] building a ‘Science Super Power’ and supporting its levelling up agenda. In these extremely challenging times for local authorities, it presents a pragmatic approach to use the drivers under their control to improve the welfare and wellbeing of citizens.”
The report states that the new model must also mandate greater information and data-sharing amongst local authorities, relevant stakeholders and digital operators from the early stages of development, driving change while making the process more streamlined and efficient.
Finally, the authors conclude that the government should review the powers of Ofcom to ensure that the best provision is being delivered to UK citizens, homing in on the effectiveness of Universal Service Obligations (USOs). It suggests that the model within the Digital Economy Act 2017 should be evaluated and reformed/removed should an alternative model that improves connectivity be offered.
Ht Hon Stephen Dorrell, executive chair of PPP, commented: “This White Paper is a call to action, setting out…recommendations for a new digital operating model in Britain. It identifies some of the challenges we face and seeks to learn from the experience of others as well as ourselves. We should not underestimate the challenge, but nor should we lose sight of the opportunity to reshape our society to meet the demands of the 21st century.”