UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has unveiled plans for a “digital future of Britain” that will result in 250,000 new jobs and has recruited the creator of the worldwide web Tim Berners-Lee to create a stg£30m Institute of Web Science.
Funding for the plan, which includes super-fast broadband for every home and hundreds of thousands of new jobs, will be announced in Wednesday’s Budget to transform the UK by 2020 into a digital nation.
Some stg£30 million will be allocated to create an Institute of Web Science, headed by Berners-Lee and leading scientist Prof Nigel Shadbolt.
“This will help place the UK at the cutting edge of research on the semantic web and other emerging web and internet technologies, and ensure that government is taking the right funding decisions to position the UK as a world leader,” Brown said.
“And we will invite universities and private sector web developers and companies to join this collaborative project.”
The plan also includes a personalised webpage, ‘Mygov’, for accessing services available within four years in a bid to reduce the cost of face-to-face contacts with officials.
Brown said it was vital that the UK was at the forefront of new technology.
“I want Britain to be the world leader in the digital economy which will create over a quarter of a million skilled jobs by 2020; the world leader in public service delivery where we can give the greatest possible voice and choice to citizens, parents, patients and consumers; and the world leader in the new politics where that voice for feedback and deliberative decisions can transform the way we make local and national policies and decisions.”
The Digital Public Services Unit
Martha Lane-Fox will also help Brown to establish a new Digital Public Services Unit in the Cabinet Office. The unit will be charged with ensuring that departments achieve rapid progress on transferring and transforming services to online channels.
It will ensure that the “immense opportunities that Britain’s digital future offers us are available to all – not just to some”.
During the speech, Brown announced the launch of the new Number 10 iPhone app and spoke of the digital work at Number 10.
“Each week, I record a podcast and use Twitter most days. Number10.gov.uk carries out daily conversations with more than 1.7 million followers. There have been almost 2 million views of our images on Flickr and 4.3 million views of our films and videos on YouTube.
“But we can do much more. Today, we are launching a brand new Number 10 iPhone application that will bring news, video and audio from the Downing Street website to potentially millions of users, completely free of charge,” Brown said.
As Brown transforms his island nation to take full advantage of the digital age, let’s hope the leaders of a neighbouring island nation with as much if not more to gain take heed.
By John Kennedy
Digital 21 – Digital 21 is a campaign to highlight the imperative of creating an action programme to secure the digital infrastructure and services upon which the success of our economy depends.