Jason Gordon

National Digital conference - Recap

Texthelper, Jason Gordon attended this years National Digital conference. If you missed it, read on for a recap.

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to make the annual National Digital conference I’m sure I’ll be one of many to say that you missed a great event.

As a pale Northern Irish man, arriving in London, the blistering heat and blinding sunshine were not quite what I’m used to at home!!  But having quickly settled in to Whitehall Place, it was clear that all the digital leaders, innovators and inspirational speakers were enthusiastic about kick-starting a new agenda for digital growth in the UK - there was a real buzz about the conference centre.

I’ve attended before but this was my first time ever speaking on the main plenary and I had to be succinct - 10 minutes goes fast when you’re in front of a hungry audience.

As ever, this year’s agenda focused on the hottest topic - how we ‘lead a digital nation’.  Here’s a quick recap on the discussion points in case you missed the event...

During my session, I covered the ways in which we can overcome digital exclusion.  How the digital divide in society is widening due to a number of key barriers; physical access, cost, lack of digital skills and those people who have print disabilities.

There are many great initiatives in the UK focusing on widening broadband reach to rural areas and on reducing the cost of access for the economically disadvantaged but what assistance is being provided to the staggering 12 million people lacking basic online skills?

Assistive technology can help to compensate for functional deficits and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.   But these tools are often costly and, there is a negative correlation with disability and earning power and there is a higher proportion of disabled people among the lower socio-economic groups.

In other words, those who need assistive technology can least afford it and those who cannot afford it are more likely to need it.

Also if we publish information online, whose responsibility is it to make that information accessible? The person visiting the site or the person publishing that information? I believe responsibility lies with the publisher regardless of the site visitors literacy level, print disability or socio-economic factors.

The event brought together UK digital leaders, innovators and inspirational speakers to identify, debate and brainstorm the key opportunities and networks to kick-start a new agenda for digital growth, transformation and social innovation over the next Parliament.

The day included a line up of great speakers - Rachel Neaman, Matthew Hancock MP, Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, Ed Vasiey MP, Helen Milner and chair for the day Mark Thompson to name but a few. My key take aways from the other speakers were:

  • if you are born poor then you will die poor - people need digital skills to literally stay alive in 2015 and beyond
  • the digital divide exists not only on a socio-economic level but on a gender basis as well
  • businesses are not realising the true gains - if they could only embrace digital fully they would begin to see the benefits
  • there are any number of ways that we can care, share and transact with each other online
  • Government needs to be setting the example, however, investment in digital and the methods in how they roll out their approach are not suited to the broad view that is required for digital
  • the customer/user must be the central focus for our digital economy and some organisations and Government

Ultimately, we need a joined up plan of approach from both Government and Industry in order to try and tackle some of these issues.  We need to agree it and adopt it quickly.  We need investment - a lot of it - if it is going to work.  And finally, doing it right will help to increase the digital skills of the nation, create more jobs and ultimately provide a huge return on investment by adding money back into the economy.

Digital Leaders hosted a great event and they have posted to all the speaker slide decks to view on Slideshare just in case you missed out.


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