Gordon Brown launches big shift to open gov data and broadband but where's the detail?

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The British Government, faced with an upcoming general election in which policy toward the internet, digital inclusion of the masses and how government IT interfaces with the private sector will all come into play, has rolled out the big guns in the shape of the Prime Minister and a clutch of ministers and advisers today.

In a speech in London, billed as “Building Britain’s Digital Future”, Gordon Brown ranged over a wide range of topics and mentioned all the buzz phrases his policy advisors could cram into one speech including the “semantic web” and the “web of linked data”. There were the obligatory mentions of YouTube and Twitter of course.

Here are the highlights:

• What’s the opportunity for entrepreneurs? Access to greater government data for new services. There will be a new wave of public/private back office companies linked by this data, said Brown.

• Brown promised what he called “super fast broadband” for 100% of the country by 2020 (there’s some suggestion that this amounts to 1MB which cant be right, surely…?). However it’s worth noting that in their “technology manifesto”, the Tories have pledged similar move and also to publish large amounts of government data and contracts. It’s hard to see the difference here.

• Digital Minister Stephen Timms promised a new replacement clause during the Commons stage of the Digital Economy Bill in response to the wave of opposition about Clause 18 which leads to disconnection after accusation currently. He added that there will be a right of appeal on disconnection and hopes “technical measures ” won’t be needed. Thumbscrews maybe?

• There will be a £30m fund to create the Institute of Web Science headed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Prof. Nigel Shadwell. The former was not present but latter said the Institute would bring together different disciplines to study the web, not just technology but legal and economic aspects. It will create a “modern Domesday book for the 21st century” said Brown – in other words a list of all the data held by government which can be released. We’re wondering if the US has anything like this?

• “MyGov” will be a personalised portal for people to access government services like pensions/tax benefits, doctors appointment, talking to teachers or getting a new passport or driving license. There were no details about how authorisation and ID takes place as yet and a question from the audience about whether it would be based on ID cards didn’t get a full answer other than that authorisation would be similar to how people already buy things online with their credit card.

• Advisor on the UK’s Digital Inclusion push Martha Lane Fox has a new job – leading a digital public services unit. Here’s the press-friendly catchphrase from the PM: “The digital net will be the new public safety net”.

• Of course much of this is about saving money in hard times. Brown quoted PwC estimates which say government can save £900m by getting more people to use public services online. There would be some £11bn of savings to the public finances through using the web, which is part of £20bn of savings in the government budget, said Brown. QED.

• There will be an new iPhone app released to allow people to interact with Number 10 and get information on government news. It’s not to be confused with an unofficial iPhone app that costs £1.19. The free/official app will be coming soon.

• They predict £4bn in backoffice savings by using new web technologies

• Their new approach will mean a less centralised approach to government because obviously civil servants suddenly don’t have all be in London.

• The PM made the point that “Do you need more independent whitehall departments when you can have a web platform which cuts across boundaries”

• There wil be a 20% reduction in senior civil service paybill as a result of these moves

• There were a few platitudes about giving the public greater influence over policy making using the Web. Point in case, there have been 70,000 petitions on the Number 10 site since 2006 and the Gov has replied to 8m people.

• Loads of Twitter, Flickr, Youtube stats (numbers of tweets and videos watched).

• Brown said: “I predict education will be our biggest export 10 years from now.”

Reactions so far:

• Executive director Jim Killock told the BBC: “Online government is a great idea, but Labour cannot say people will depend on online government, and simultaneously plan to disconnect families after allegations of minor copyright offenses.”

• RT @Documentally: Brown promises super fast broadband by 2020!! The rest of the world will have implants by then you fool.. #digitalbritain

Picture: @Thayer

  • http://onlinejournalismblog.com Paul Bradshaw

    I tweeted about the £1.19 iPhone app – I don’t think it’s official; certainly the vendor’s website doesn’t make any such claims. Brown said their Number 10 app has been launched today, but perhaps they didn’t account for the App store’s approval process ;)

    • http://www.tinyshinyapps.co.uk Martin Wright

      The unofficial app is at http://www.tinyshinyapps.co.uk/number10app. This was created as an example of a TapLynx project which aggregates content from multiple RSS feeds.

  • Natasha

    “• Brown promised what he called “super fast broadband” for 10% of the country by 2020. ”

    Are you sure you meant 10%? Typo? Government are saying NGA for ‘at least 90%’ of population by 2017…

  • http://www.ianmellett.co.uk Ian

    “What’s the oortunity for entrererneurs Access to great government data for new services”

    “We’ve heard it will cost £1.19 (confirming this soon) which is odd for an a which is just full of PR.”

    Somebody got their P key stuck?

  • Northerngeek

    Brown’s foolish, actually scratch that, people who believe his BS are fools.

    1. 10 years ago the average person had 56Kbps in this country… now 8Mbps seems to be the UK average. Competition from Virgin Media and BT are pushing forward with speeds already, BT’s Infinity Roll-out is getting 40Mb, whereas Virgin will give 200Mb soon enough (if their PR is to be believed). Sure 100% of the population sounds good but we’ll see.

    –Minor rant from here on, I mean no offense to individuals–

    2. As a doctor in the NHS I believe public services are where the government should pledge technological advancement- IE6 is still standard browser in the NW NHS.

    3. The recent pledge for low-income families to get free laptops and broadband is ridiculous, the government shouldn’t supply such luxuries to individuals, give them to the libraries and other services accessible to all. It isn’t their place to stuff people’s mouths with gold. Cheao vote I guess.

    4. iPhone apps for number 10 aren’t something I want my taxes spent on developing. Who asked for that?! Fix the rest of the problems first!

    5. Education will not be our biggest export, jeez, this country is getting thicker by the year. The past decades approach of quantity rather than quality is killing our intellectual pedigree. I don’t need my hairdresses to go to university. Student grants were a good idea killed too soon, tuition fees are phenomenal. Nobodsy is encouraging education in this country, a PhD means nothing anymore.

    (Disclaimer: Definitely not a tory, I vote Labour just not anymore. Gordon Brown and his party are led by the same image consultants as your Big Brother Celebrity telling them to get Twitter accounts, wordpress blogs etc- STOP IT, sort out the state the UK has gotten into recently or I’m emigrating.)

  • Steve

    It is all spin. The “target” is everyone on 2Mbps by 2020, which is setting the bar about as low as it can go.

    Everyone on 2Mbps by 2000 would have been interesting, but by 2020 is totally meaningless.

  • Jamie Thomson

    You lessened the credibility of your coverage by quoting that ridiculous tweet about digital implants. Shame.

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      Well, *I* thought it was funny… ;-)

  • http://www.adrianjmoss.com Adrian Moss

    The viability of online services and issues of NI14 (avoidable contact) will be very important. Any savings will be lost if back-office functions have to support or correct online errors. Most Gov sites have complex forms to complete and those are usually not iForms with interactive text and video help. A lot of practical work to be done here and there will be a place for 3rd sector support.

  • http://twankers.co.uk/2010/03/22/bbdf-twankers-take-on-the-key-points-from-golden-browns-speech/ #BBDF Twankers’ Take on the Key Points from Golden Brown’s Speech « Twankers – We All Know a Twanker!

    […] about “Building Britain’s Digital Future” (#BBDF the hash tag on Twitter). The key points have been listed on Techcrunch, but what do these points mean? Or more importantly, what could they mean? Point to note: This […]

  • Chris

    My broadband connects at nearly 8mbps in the North East of the UK, which if you believed the government is an area of the UK stuck in the dark ages – NOT! My broadband is ‘free’ through TalkTalk with my landline. It’s actually a bundled package, but compared to other operators it is free. You wouldn’t believe the number of people around here who have broadband, from my desk I can see 9 wifi networks that are broadcasting from my desk. 2mbps is a ridiculous target. Why do we need a broadband tax – isn’t it part of BT’s remit to provide us all with up to date lines?

    • Soren

      You need broadband tax because broadband *could* be used to share copyrighted material, and the tax *could* be used to compensate these copyright-violated people — just like you pay extra tax for blank CDs……

      • Soren

        .. or maybe because the first law of taxation says:
        “everything which can be taxed
        eventually will be taxed.”

  • http://twankers.co.uk Tommy Twanker

    Thanks for these points, best list seen so far. By the way, the iPhone app is real and has been in the App store since 11th March. Not that I’d buy it!!!
    We’ve offered additional commentary on these points and #bbdf here http://twankers.co.uk/2010/03/22/bbdf-twankers-take-on-the-key-points-from-golden-browns-speech/

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    […] rileggendo più volte l’articolo di TechCrunch sulle politiche di eGov dell’amministrazione britannica, non riuscivo a darmi […]

  • http://motoring-news.com/ Ian

    Spare a thought for us rural dwellers. We struggle to get 1Mbps whilst the “townies” complain about “only” 8Mbps.
    The chances of rural communities getting even 5Mbps are 0%.

  • Barry Norton

    Nigel’s name is Shadbolt not Shadwell (a Tower Hamlets disctrict with a fictionalised Police station in The Bill).

  • http://brussels.wordpress.the-hub.net/2010/03/22/gordon-brown-visits-hub-kings-cross/ Gordon Brown visits Hub Kings Cross « The Hub Brussels

    […] see more on TechCrunch […]

  • JA

    Hmmm…more electioneering from a dead duck Political Party…at least the Conservatives will push a free market economy.

    ‘Super fast broadband’ at 2Mbps – most I know use 8 to 12Mbps on a basic or free package, but I live in the centre of a wealthy commuter town. Then again, 5 years ago I lived in a little Victorian country cottage located in a very rural area – had 2mbps broadband than – the problem was it only worked during the day and after midnight! I’m sure there are a few locations that still need upgrading to a speedy stable broadband. Looks good for the politicians.

    The interesting point is the universal entry point for Government services – this looks interesting though how it could be implemented securely is another question. It could, as Brown stated, reduce the number of civil service employees – cost cutting by the back door?

    “I predict education will be our biggest export 10 years from now.” – the mans losing it in his struggle to retain power. Unless, he means that Colleges will offer courses to the highest paying foreign students?

  • http://faststudentcash.com Will

    YES! an iPod app! So glad we are spending £1000’s on developing that! Really worth the money! Why not a mobile site available for all smartphones to use.

    • http://twankers.co.uk Tommy Twanker

      Will, Gordon is down with the kids man. He’s been seen playing Angry Birds, Doodle Jump and Doodle Kart. He thinks a “mobile site” is a computer on wheels. He’d never think so laterally. Remember 10% of the UK is London, hence the 10% super fast extra wide band target for 2020. It all means very little. Tommy

  • http://www.spearfishlabs.com/does-the-government-measure-social-media-success/ Does the Government Measure Social Media Success? | Spearfish Labs

    […] am not going to get stuck in to every point that was made, Mike Butcher and Twankers UK will be handling that side of things! Instead, I would like to pick up on one area […]

  • http://www.pushagency.net Jimi Bostock

    I am really hoping to see some of this sort of action in the upcoming Australia elections.

    OpenGov or the gov 2.0 / 3.0 is coming whether govs like it or not.

    In the end, we will have to wait and see what happens in the UK

    Free The Data

    Jimi Bostock
    PUSH Agency

  • http://www.ukstevieb.com/2010/03/23/steviebs-shared-items-march-23-2010/ StevieB’s Shared Items – March 23, 2010 at LostInCyberspace

    […] Gordon Brown launches big shift to open gov data and broadband but where’s the detail?March 22, 2010 […]

  • http://hubmilan.com/2010/03/gordon-brown-the-hub-kings-cross/ Gordon Brown @ The Hub King’s Cross | The Hub Milano

    […] Grande movimento ieri a The Hub King’s Cross. In visita Gordon Brown, Primo Ministro Britannico, che ha lanciato una serie di proposte sul futuro digitale del paese. […]

  • http://ubelly.com/?p=869 What We Found Out Yesterday : Underbelly

    […] Gordon Brown launches big shift to open gov data and broadband but where’s the detail? […]

  • http://www.futuregovconsultancy.com/index.php/2010/03/23/links-for-2010-03-23/ FutureGov » Useful links » links for 2010-03-23

    […] Gordon Brown launches big shift to open gov data and broadband but where’s the detail? (tags: techcrunch broadband internet uk government web data digitalbritain gov20 egov egov20) […]

  • http://www.tinyshinyapps.co.uk/2010/03/25/downing-street-doppelganger/ Downing Street Doppelganger | Tiny Shiny Apps - iPhone Development

    […] announcement was made by Gordon Brown at the “Building Britain’s Digital Future” event, at a time when then official app had not filtered through all parts of the App Store. […]

  • http://SevenFigureBlueprints.com Dom

    Help, it’s Big Brother Government Online – Argh, run to the hills!

    Has anyone ever successfully navigated their way through a Government/Public Service website and found what they were searching for? I haven’t and I have been on a number of them in my time – Incredibly opaque, frustrating and time-consuming. Much like these latest proclamations on the eve of a general election.

    So the myth of ‘joined up’, accessible Government will remain a myth a while longer.

    As for the suggestion that this process will somehow help small start up businesses such as my own to provide new services – how, please tell me how?! I remain wholly unconvinced.

  • http://push1111.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/hello-world/ What I have said « Push1111's Blog
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