Digital Britian: Scotland’s reaction

Since the Lord Charter’s Digital Britain report was released in January there has been lots of mixed opinions, recommendations and criticism flying around. Charles Leadbeater’s response “The Digital Revolution: the Coming Crisis of the Creative Class” is definitely worth reading.

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On Friday night, 23 people met up in Glasgow to attend “Digital Britain Scottish Unconference”. I went along as I am very interested in how digital can transform the design and delivery of services in Scotland. The group, made up of mostly creatives, agreed early on in the evening that the report is narrowly focused and misses the point – clearly it is a government intervention that is uninformed.

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What is practical and needed in Scotland? We cannot predict technology – the report tries to do this. The policy is being determined by people who don’t understand digital media.

We discussed the differences between the UK context and the Scottish context.  There are two things that hamper the quality of life in Scotland – public communications and distance. Firstly, we need infrastructure – re-distribution of enterprises and creation of new industries and new employment. Secondly, we need better healthcare – education in remote areas. Why do young Scots feel they have to move to go to college? Why do I feel isolated from my network because I am not in London? What should we be encouraging?

I wonder if the civil servants involved in compiling the report use the internet in the way we do? Recently, Kate Andrews and I explored the power of online social networking, and demonstrated the tools students use to move ideas forward, form networks with practitioners around the world, and build a reputation before and after graduation :  The Studio Unbound. This is interesting as the topic of graduates and skill sets cropped up in the discussion several times.

It is not about money it is about providing a service. We need to know exactly what people want from the internet! We do not need to re-invent the wheel, we need to develop existing services for a digital age. I liked the phrase Kate used whilst talking about the challenges we face – “digital is difficult to touch”.

Sarah and Andy have shared their views on the event. It was an interesting discussion and I met interesting people. At times, the conversation focused a little too much on creatives talking about social media but I am very excited to have met like minded individuals who are passionate about using digital to better Scotland.