Britain’s digital champion has called on local government to back the appointment of digital advocates in each area and to make publicly-funded IT facilities, such as those in schools, available to the whole community.
Martha Lane Fox insisted on a role for councils as she unveiled a Manifesto for a Networked Nation which she said was a “rallying cry” to get millions more people online by the end of 2012.
She retained her role as digital champion after the election and David Cameron asked her to increase the focus of her role on finding savings by delivering services online.
Ms Lane Fox said councils had a crucial part to play in delivering a ‘networked nation’ - inspiring more people to try the internet, encouraging more to go online and rewarding them for doing so.
“Local government stands to benefit dramatically from a more digitally literate population: good use of ICT supports frontline workers’ productivity, improves quality of contact with key clients and digital literacy is a powerful tool for social mobility and in combating poverty,” she said.
Asked on the BBC’s Today programme about achieving her goals despite the big cuts in public spending, she said much could be done with a greater commitment from political leaders and from a growing list of partners backing the Race Online 2012 campaign including Microsoft, BT and McDonalds.
“We are using other people’s money to make sure that the problems get solved. (Our partners) have all stepped up and said they will do more to get people online.
“We have to address the (digital) problem right now and the way to do that is by making sure that the billions that have already been spent on technology in our communities is easily accessed by all people.”
As an example, she said 500,000 computers locked up in schools every night could be more widely used.
“We can make huge strides into the problem without extra investment,” she added.
Recommendations in the manifesto for local government include:
- local leaders backing an ambition to build a networked nation and embed recommendations in their corporate plans
- local government encouraging all employees to use the web and have access at work
- all authorities signalling they expect all submissions for schools and free school meals to be online by 2011: four local authorities are close to reaching 100% online-only school admissions
- encouraging the appointment of local digital champions, who can map local web access and training points, embed support for champions into their corporate plans, and think internet first in service design and delivery models
- making publicly-funded facilities with ICT equipment available to local digital champions and local community groups to train first time internet users