Yesterday (February 23, 2012) I attended the latest meeting of the Scotland Digital Participation Action Group (DPAG) in Microsoft’s Edinburgh office. I joined the DPAG, on behalf of Muon Consulting, in December 2011 and we were officially added to the list of founding signatories to the Digital Participation Charter which was launched at the GovCamp Scotland event in November 2011 (see my GovCamp event notes). At the meeting we welcomed Fujitsu and other new partners to the group, and we discussed the group’s first Work Streams which have the following working titles: ’Research Exercise’; ‘Older People’; ‘Unemployment’; ‘Open Data’; and ‘Smart Working’.
Why I signed the Digital Participation Charter
As a Scottish citizen and father of two young children, and as a web technologist, accessibility advocate and cloud computing consultant (and writer) I want to show my commitment to the Charter and do my bit to help “increase the levels of digital participation amongst our citizens and to realise the economic, social and environmental benefits this can bring”. I want to help ensure that digital participation means more than just increasing broadband uptake, but delivers improved online services to a switched-on public, and improved access to information (and open data) in inclusive, accessible ways. I also want to see the dream of a Low Carbon Economy realised in Scotland as quickly as possible, and I think that intelligent use of cloud computing by all sectors, along with greener data centres using renewable energy from Scotland can help make this dream a reality and make Scotland an exemplar for other countries. I also think I have relevant skills and experience to go with my passion!
Commitments and policy areas
The Charter reflects a commitment to achieving shared outcomes in digital participation by identifying where the group can best target its resources and expertise to accelerate the development, investment and action required across the following areas:
- Jobs and Skills
- Low Carbon Economy
- Public Service Delivery
The Charter signatories are committed to publishing a supplement to the Charter by April 2012 which includes:
- Details of a Digital Participation brokerage that will maximise the impact of collaboration and available resources from Government, public agencies, the private sector and third sector.
- An Action Plan detailing the key actions to be taken by the Digital Participation Action Group and relationship to the Digital Participation Programme Board to meet the stated purpose of the Charter.
- A baseline position of current Scottish digital participation commitments and funding streams across all sectors including UK government schemes and a high level assessment of the extent to which current activity will support the delivery of the stated purpose of the Charter.
- A plan to obtain and publish open data sets in order to encourage re-use of public sector information and to enable the development of new applications.
- A commitment to explore opportunities to use Community Benefit clauses to improve digital participation and to undertake collaboration where appropriate.
What I can do to help the DPAG
Regarding the production of a supplement to the Charter, I am sure every signatory will be involved in the Action Plan (commitment 2), but the Digital Participation ‘brokerage’ idea (commitment 1) sounds particularly intriguing to me so I could perhaps help detail that – keeping the three key ingredients of open data, knowledge transfer and open innovation in mind. Another thing I could get involved in, if there is room for another ‘expert’ voice, is the proposed GovCamp platform – its content, features, functionality and ease-of-use – whether it is hosted by Microsoft or another organisation.
Regarding the five policy areas, I would like to see a holistic approach taken so that ‘Jobs and Skills’ relate directly to ‘Low Carbon Economy’ as much as possible, for example, rather than considering these areas separately; and if we can use digital participation to cultivate cross-sector collaborations then we may help create something dynamic and sustainable. As for ‘Public Service Delivery’, as revealed in the Scotland’s Digital Future strategy document, too few citizens are currently using local government websites in Scotland, especially compared with the rest of the UK, and disabled citizens are much less likely to get online here, too, so, along with low carbon I would like accessibility to be at the forefront of anything we produce or recommend.
My contributions so far
Aside from going to the meetings I recently set up a private online collaboration portal for the group on the UK’s Local Government Knowledge Hub. I have uploaded our group’s documentation and meeting notes, set up forums and invited all DPAG members to join. I now intend to get involved in one or more of the work streams that the DPAG has identified. Hopefully I can make a difference.