Chi Onwurah discusses digital policy

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Chi Onwurah, says that Labour will aim to ensure everyone is online instead of targeting 90% or 95% digital inclusion so that government policy is no longer “starting from a point of failure”.

People have to be online before they can start using these great digital public services we’re developing, and equally before they can understand the value of their data,” she asserted.

Onwurah believes that it would be impossible for future digital policy to be centrally directed from Whitehall and therefore should be locally and community focused.

But she insisted that “we’re still not in a position to say what form GDS would or should take”.

Onwurah explained: “It’s not about a local GDS based out of Whitehall. I don’t think that would work. You need something rooted in communities but with support from central government.

Council leaders say they want access to better skills and shared services, as there are huge cost pressures on them.

But they don’t want to be told how to meet the needs of the people that have elected their authority. I think technology can square that circle because it can be local but still have standard interfaces.”

Furthermore, Onwurah indicated that as “local authorities themselves are too small and central government too remote” a network of regional authorities may be the most effective middle ground for managing government digital services.

In terms of data protection, Onwurah said that “ethical guidelines” are a necessity for data sharing and storage in the public sector.

There are huge opportunities both in terms of cost savings and improving services. But we need a coherent framework, one that’s ethical and empowers people, and works in practice,” she concluded.

Related reading