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UK Throws Its Weight Behind Major Push For Digital Governments

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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D5 summit sees UK, Israel, New Zealand, Estonia and South Korea collaborate to promote economic growth through digital technology

The UK has joined forces with some of the most digitally advanced nations in the world in a bid to promote the use of technology in government.

Hosted by the Duke of York and Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude, the inaugural D5 Summit was held in London this week and saw attendees from the UK, South Korea, Estonia, New Zealand and Israel come together in London to see some of the country’s leading digital innovation.

francis_maude1Trailblazing

“We are proud to host in London the very first meeting of the D5, a network of the leading digital governments, designed to share best practice,” said Maude (pictured left).

“Since 2010 the UK has become the most digitally advanced government in the G7 including by establishing GDS, launching our award-winning GOV.UK and digitising 25 ‘exemplar’ public services. We’re also making the UK one of the safest places in the world to do business online. As part of this government’s long-term economic plan we will do even more – moving to a ‘government as platform’ model and ensuring by 2020 that everyone who can go online is online.”

Speaking at a media panel marking the end of the summit, digital economy minister Ed Vaizey hailed the summit as “a brilliant initiative…that shows that the UK is leading the way in digital government”.

The D5 will initially be focused on a number of projects, including improving digital communications, particularly around the emergency services, and digital identities, as revealed earlier this week, especially surrounding the use of e-signatures to access services.

gov.ukCollaboration

Maude said that the summit grew out of a number of conversations that the UK government had had with the D5 nations concerning issues surrounding technology.

“We found we were talking about the same things, the same kind of way,” he said. “But what was striking was how much commonality there was in the problems we were addressing.”

Calling the D5 “a support network for reformers”, Maude was keen to highlight how initiatives such as the GOV.UK online portal and the digitising of 25 ‘exemplar’ services had made the UK into one of the world’s leading digital governments.

“This is challenging, disruptive reform,” he said.

“The end product is a better experience for the customer or the taxpayer,” said Peter Dunne, New Zealand MP and the country’s representative on the panel. “When our citizens can feel that they can be sitting at home watching television and interacting with the government the same way they interact with banks or whoever else, that’s really the advantage.”

High innovation

The D5 also won the approval of Neelie Kroes, the former head of the EC’s Digital Agenda group, who said she was “very impressed” with the level of digital innovation in the UK, singling out Tech City UK and Second Home for particular praise.

Kroes also highlighted the role that digital businesses can play in reducing youth unemployment, which she described as a ‘nightmare’ for the continent. She called for courses in entrepreneurship to be added to the school curriculum alongside other existing digital skills such as coding, introduced for the first time this year.

“Entrepreneurship, please put it in the curriculum,” she said. “If you put them together there’s a real opportunity to solve the problem of youth unemployment.”

The group is not averse to welcoming other members in the future, saying that although it would remain the D5 “for the time being”, it had many parties interested in joining.

Kroes said that there should be no hurdles to overcome for any government wanting to join the D5, as co-operation should be the main motivation behind the group.

“I imagine that there is no blockage for just co-operation,” she said. “If you are talking about your experience, then it may be that someone else – another country – can get the information, and vice-versa.

Overall, the initiative is one about working together to solve joint problems. The governments may have differences in terms of location, but have a common motive as they look to overcome similar challenges

“I think there’s an exciting pathway of exploration ahead of us” said Dunne, “as we tease out where we might be going over the next few years.”

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