by Richard Steel

Discussions at the IPPR; reviewing Socitm’s interests

Apr 30, 20084 mins
IT Leadership

My day started at a “Digital Inclusion Roundtable” event at the IPPR (Institute of Public Policy Research) offices at Covent Garden.

There were around 30 representatives from across Government, technology companies, the BBC and other media, and speakers from Government and UK Online. Alun Michael, MP, was also present and spoke knowledgeably, and with passion, on the subject. I’ve attended several of these events in the past, and there are some consistent themes – the market not delivering for less affluent areas where high returns are not guaranteed, for example. I thought that some developments have shifted (or should have shifted) the debate, ‘though.

Talk of “Online” is unhelpful. Effective technology should be an integral part of our social infrastructure. I don’t think that people who benefit from assistive technology are conscious of being “online.” There are frequent references to “connecting the remaining” third of society who are not yet online – but the numbers are irrelevant. It’s social equity that’s key. If people choose not to interact directly through the ICT infrastructure, they should nevertheless benefit from it because the intermediaries they deal with use the same infrastructure; which is a factor in the “21st century industrial revolution” that’s occurring – digital convergence – so all media share the same infrastructure.

Gaining the public’s trust is another important issue that was not addressed by the speakers.

I was interested in a declared outcome of research showing that wage premiums of 3-10-percent are gained by people who can use computers and interact with the Internet. My own observation is there are still some people who wear their ignorance of IT as badges of honour and are employed in jobs that require such skills, but who don’t have them!

The Socitm board is anxious to ensure that it acquires the balance of skills required to enable it to run the company effectively, and extended an invitation to David Bryant, of Hytec Information Security Limited, to become a Non-Executive Director. David has consistently offered wise counsel to Socitm through his involvement with the society and demonstrates the sort of commercial acumen that we need. I am very pleased to report that he has accepted the invitation, and will be at the board meeting on 22nd May, when further board appointments will be considered.

The Socitm board is keen to open-up opportunities for the general membership of the Society to become more involved in its business by, for example, registering their interests, and whether they would be prepared to represent the society in speaking engagements, or by providing reports from events attended for newsletters and so forth. We will develop proposals in due course, but I would be very keen to receive members’ views in the meantime.

We are continuing to urgently review how effectively the Society offers services to its members, and to ensure that the services we offer are still useful to our members and are delivered in the most cost effective manner. In this connection, I have written to Activity Stream leads saying that I hope to meet with them all in the period 12th to 23rd May.

In the evening I attended the UK eWell-Being Awards, 2008, at Shakespeare’s Globe. It’s the first time I’ve been there, and a fascinating place that I shall certainly visit again. Newham is a past winner of an award, but I was dismayed to find that there were no Government finalists in any of the categories, except UK Online Centres, which was a finalist in the “Reaching the Digitally Excluded.” The standard of entries was high, and I learned a lot of developments and initiatives that I look forward to following-up.