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UK government urged to overhaul digital infrastructure

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A major new independent report contains urgent recommendations for a new digital operating model for UK local, regional and central government bodies to ensure a “greener” future.

The Connected Citizens study by Public Policy Projects (PPP) was conducted in partnership with Anderson Strategy and in collaboration with Huawei.  It outlines the need for a network of cutting-edge digital infrastructure across the UK, that will help government hit recently-announced connectivity and sustainability targets, and help the UK become a digital world-leader.

Included in the recommendations is the requirement of radical nationwide improvement of digital skills, which can be met by utilising a long-term digital skills strategy based around making the education system fit for purpose in the digital age.

Also highlighted is the need for more support and leverage for combined and regional authorities, which can lead and facilitate connectivity improvements at a devolved level, working collaboratively with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to enhance the efficiency of roll-outs.

The new digital operating model recommended by the report should mandate greater information and data sharing amongst local authorities, relevant stakeholders and digital operators from the early stages of development, to drive forwards change and make it more streamlined and efficient.

The report concludes that the powers of Ofcom should be reviewed to ensure that the best provision is being delivered to UK citizens, specifically assessing the effectiveness of Universal Service Obligations (USOs).  Their model within the Digital Economy Act 2017 should be evaluated and reformed/removed if an alternative model that improves citizen connectivity can be offered.

“This White Paper is a call to action, setting out five broad recommendations for a new digital operating model in Britain,” said Stephen Dorrell, executive chair of PPP.  “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.”

Justin Anderson, head of strategy at Anderson Strategy and co-writer of the report, said: “The new digital operating model is a critical foundation to both realise the UK government’s vision 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.”

Victor Zhang, vice president at Huawei, commented: “The covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the crucial role of addressing the challenges of digital connectivity.  After twenty years helping the UK become 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.”

The full Connected Citizens report can be accessed here.

21st January 2021.

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