Show Hide image The Staggers 26 November 2014 What is Labour's plan for building a digital government? Innovation and democracy. Print HTML Five years ago I entered politics for the same reason I went into engineering almost a quarter of a century earlier – I wanted to make the world work for everyone, not just a lucky few. Digital should be a means to that classic Labour goal of sharing power amongst the many. Rather than the means for a slimmed down state to divide, exclude and enforce - as appears to be this Government’s vision. That is why in March, as shadow cabinet office minister for digital government, I asked an independent expert advisory board to conduct a review of digital government to set out clear goals for a digital agenda that will improve services and empower citizens whilst being efficient and cost effective All too often government is something done to the people. A Labour Digital government must not be like that. The Digital Government Review took as its basis that there is a need for better integrated services which reflect the needs and capabilities of citizens and their communities. The report, published today, makes 35 recommendations to make digital government work for everyone. Labour will need to take the time to study the report in detail as we continue our zero based review process and prepare our manifesto. But an initial reading makes clear that this is a comprehensive roadmap for transforming the relationship between government and citizens. Thanks to the wide ranging expertise of our independent panel combined with over 2000 submissions and responses, it is an important, authoritative, radical and evidence based contribution to the future of progressive public service as well as a stand-alone reference work for the current status of digital government. The report leads on the primary importance of digital inclusion, in contrast to this Government’s attitude of "get online or lose out". The Government Digital Service (GDS) is a hugely experienced and talented group within the Cabinet Office but Ministers have focussed on headline grabbing areas that can only be used by 80 per cent of the population, rather than building more valuable services that can be used by everyone and that help with some of this country’s biggest challenges such as economic growth, planning, housing or health and social care. Using social value – as well as cost-savings – as the criteria for choosing what services to take digital would help here. The report is especially severe on this Government’s chaotic approach to data sharing, as demonstrated by the care.data and HMRC debacles, and recommends Labour establish a review of data in Government. In his Hugo Young lecture in March Ed Miliband said that the presumption should be that everybody should own their own public sector data. Labour will build on that with a review that will establish a coherent and ethical approach to the use of data within government. The report also makes important recommendations on public sector skills and leadership. The digital revolution cannot be confined to certain departments in Whitehall. In the future all government will be digital and public servants in local and national government need to understand and be inspired by the prospect of using digital to improve all our lives, working with people, as well as for people. The report argues strongly for increased collaboration and reuse between local authorities, through local ‘digital factories’ with support from central government. It’s not a simple matter to address. There are issues of culture, of leadership, of accountability, of collaboration and of building architectures based on open standards. On Thursday, Jon Cruddas will be speaking at the Institute for Government on our broader vision for building a digital state for innovation and democracy, a digital revolution for people’s power The next Labour government will be the most digital government ever and the prize of digital government that works for everyone glitters before us. Right now though, most people are experiencing what I call digital discomfort—the sense that Government knows who we are calling, Amazon is telling us what we should be buying, our children and friends are being harassed online, Google is recording our every move and we are all reeling under the onslaught of spam and email scams. To address these concerns and capture the prize of digital government we need a new kind of government devolving power and responsibility and sharing power with people. By giving people skills, control and information Labour will put the people in control of increasingly digital public services. This report sets out how we can do this. Only a radical Labour administration in 2015 can bring about a progressive digital government which delivers for the citizen. Chi Onwurah is Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and shadow Cabinet Office minister › How Eleanor Marx changed the world From only £1 per week Subscribe More Related articles The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean? John Gray on the future of the state on the NS Podcast Could Labour lose the Oldham by-election?