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Labour hopes ideas-led ‘People’s Plan’ will achieve digital ambitions

David Bicknell Published 14 December 2017

Party wants Britain to lead digital world on back of citizen-driven ideas, taking leaf out of Podemos’ book in Spain and city governments such as Reykjavik


Shadow digital minister Liam Byrne has set out an ambition for Britain to become the world’s digital economy.

But actually, he wants some help in designing it, setting out a so-called ‘People’s Plan for Digital’ , a website which calls for ideas from citizens, offering “a place where you can share and shape the ideas you want Parliament to listen to.” 

In an opinion piece published by The Guardian, Byrne said, “Today there are just 1.5 million jobs in the digital economy. That’s about 4% of the workforce. But here’s the key point: digital jobs pay 40% more than the average wage. That’s more than £190 a week. So transforming the number of digital jobs in our economy is one of the fastest ways we can give Britain a pay rise,” he said. 

In his piece, Byrne argued that the parts of Britain hit hardest by Brexit are among the least well equipped to make a success of the digital economy. He suggested that research by the House of Commons library shows that the 95 council areas expected to suffer most from Brexit have average download speeds that are 65% worse than the areas that will be hurt least.

Labour, he said, will steer a different course. “We will future-proof our digital infrastructure, with a new universal service obligation of 30 megabits per second, followed by rollout of ultra-fast broadband across the UK. We’ll transform the digital skills base, creating an innovation nation with the greatest proportion of high-skilled jobs in the OECD, where working people are able to re-skill with free, life-long education in further education colleges. But, crucially, we’ll draw on the best ideas in the world to help get digital policy right – and that means driving forward our digital democracy."

He continued, “Back in 2015, the Speaker’s commission on digital democracy declared that parliament “should be fully interactive and digital by 2020”. Since then, little has happened. Until today. As a humble member of parliament, today I’m launching a deliberative democracy website to help get digital policy right. Drawing on the approach pioneered by new parties such as Podemos in Spain and city governments such as that of Reykjavik, the People’s Plan for Digital aims to open up the debates we need to have in parliament to help us get the right plans in place."

He concluded, “The great Nye Bevan once famously said, ‘We have never suffered from too much vitality; we have suffered from too little.’ When it comes to the digital economy taking shape around us, that is no longer a mistake we can afford to make.”

Ideas received so far on the website include ensuring that young people understand and are able to easily remove any content they shared on the internet before they turned 18, as well as  ensuring that no one should be excluded from the digital society because they cannot read or write. 

Others suggest that all government consultations and online websites should be accessible using voice recognition software; ensuring that individuals must be able to understand and gain access to all their data that is in the possession or under the control of organisations and technologies, with a precondition for identifying and challenging any inaccuracies, misuse and non-compliance with data protection law; a dedicated commission to fix the gig economy and modernise the law around employment status; and making government services accessible online so that people can access their information or make changes whenever they want.

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