The Digital Opportunity: Make or Break Britain

Lord Holmes

Today, the Digital Skills Select Committee, of which I have been fortunate enough to be a member for the past year, published its report and recommendations.

The everythingness of the digital opportunity is the fundamental point which we must get across:  training or trade, schooling or skills, education, health or employment, digital will change it all, not in minor, round the edges ways, but fundamentally, irreversibly, often mind blowingly.

To face this opportunity we need the hard and soft infrastructure to enable us as individuals and as a nation to thrive and fulfil our potential.

One of the key infrastructure issues is access to broadband. Currently this is not just flawed by a lack of coverage, particularly in rural areas, there is also a real question of capacity not least in our cities where demand continues to outstrip what service providers can offer.  Broadband must be seen as a utility, be taken as seriously as other utilities and regulated in the same way.

Similarly, in our schools we need to continue our relentless focus on numeracy and literacy but alongside this, as important, we need to set digital skills, digital literacy if you will.  We need the next generation to be numerate and literate but we also need them to be creative, innovative and flexible in this digital landscape.

There is, as ever, a problem with inclusion.  Women, disabled people and older people have a real opportunity but one which is not being realized. One shocking figure is that out of the 4,000 young people studying computer science at A level, fewer than 100 are female, this can’t be allowed to continue. This must be addressed and it is not only about equality and fairness, the report finds that universal digital access could be worth up to £63 billion in additional GDP growth.

Alongside this, apprenticeships, training, careers advice [better termed employment advice or employability] must all stress the digital imperative.

The report calls on the Government to play a leading role, drawing up an ambitious ‘Digital Agenda’ to enable Great Britain to be in the best position to rival the world.  This can’t be overstated and should be led by a Cabinet Minister based in the Cabinet Office.

I have written before about youth unemployment and skills and the importance of overall responsibility for a specific agenda cutting across departments. The success of London 2012 showed what we can achieve when we cut across Whitehall departments and invest responsibility in one person to allow them to achieve a clearly defined goal.

That same level of commitment, pride and passion needs to be sustained if we are to draw up that ‘Digital Agenda’, drive the opportunity and enter an age of innovation, an age of creativity, of production, of leadership, a brilliant bright future for Britain.

4 comments for “The Digital Opportunity: Make or Break Britain

  1. Senex
    17/02/2015 at 3:46 pm

    Swimming! Now wherever you are at this moment look around you and focus on an object and say to yourself “do I know how this was made and do I care?” The answer in all probability is that you do not know how it was made neither do you care. You can simply go out and buy a replacement.

    Next place a piece of paper in front of you and write down “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. Then on the same piece of paper calculate the square root of 144 using the subtraction of squares in a multiple division. Place the piece of paper in a buried time capsule along with a working mobile phone containing your emails, a working laptop containing twitter and Facebook pictures and messages and throw in for free an electronic calculator. Bury it somewhere in the countryside away from any prospective urban development. The estate of a well run stately home might be a good place to do this.

    Next enter your time machine and dial up the same location but at a time 150 years in the future. Great! You got there. Now dig up the time capsule and examine the contents with a view to retrieving data. What data are you able to retrieve and are you still able to calculate the square root of 144?

    Ref: Net pioneer warns of digital ‘Dark Age’
    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31450389
    From Giant Brains to Hobby Computers – 1957 to 1977
    http://www.vintagecomputer.net/analog-digital.cfm
    Transcript of an Interview with J. Presper Eckert Chief Engineer, ENIAC Computer
    http://americanhistory.si.edu/comphist/eckert.htm

  2. MilesJSD
    17/02/2015 at 9:38 pm

    Before a claim can be made towards being world-class within the new “Digital Agenda”,
    both numeracy and literacy need to be “All-Round and Inclusive”.

    British Lawyers tell us that “Holistic Health”, and any “building of same” does not exist under British Law.

    You will also find that hardly any school or university in Britain “teaches” these new advances; and so one can not find them on their library shelves.

    Even the BMA and the training of doctors does not require practical competence in their own 1937 Professor Mabel Todd’s ‘breakthrough’ work “The Thinking Body”.

    Somatics and Sustainworthiness, are extensively & foundationally vital;
    but evidently they are being neglected, almost as if they are ‘taboo’;
    and as if what is already being ‘taught’ is complete and totally adequate.

    One has to red-flag that.

    Further, success in the technology of the “Digital World” can never be a substitute for real-live-human-bodymindfulness abilities.

    Somatics and Sustainworthiness really do need to be brought onto all of our various “Tables”,
    and evidently urgently so including permanently onto the Table of every relevant “Scrutiny Committee”.

    Meanwhile, the individual could choose as few as one item from the lists given, and together with prior real-life-enablements and maybe a ‘human’ work-skill or two, find immediate progress in both Sustainworthiness and Somatics.

    For d.i.y guidances expertises in these new knowledges-&-knowhows, visit not-for-profit http://www.lifefresh.co.uk – “Key Foundations”.

  3. Croft
    23/02/2015 at 3:38 pm

    The sooner we have a USO of 24Mb broadband the better. The joke in many rural areas of <1mb damages the economy.

    • tizres
      10/03/2015 at 3:34 pm

      To add insult to injury, HMRC* have sent an mail today to ‘SMEs’ re The Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme, worth up to £3K per business (only one quote required). Fab if you live in one of the 22 designated (or not**) SuperConnected Cities: https://www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/superconnected-cities/ .

      * Why HMRC? This is a DCMS scheme.
      ** The list has 23 (or 21) entries, and only one in England’s North East.

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