Technology committee criticises government over digital strategy delay

The chairman Stephen Metcalfe expresses the parliamentary committee's 'disappointment' in letter to minister Matthew Hancock

Stephen Metcalfe
Stephen Metcalfe

The government has been criticised by a parliamentary committee for a delay in publishing its digital transformation strategy.

Stephen Metcalfe, chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, wrote to the digital minister Matt Hancock on 13 January to express "disappointment" about the department’s slowness in responding to the committee’s report Digital Skills Crisis, as well as failing to publish the strategy that the government believes will drive digital transformation forward.

Metcalfe, the Conservative MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, wrote to the minister on the day his committee published the government’s response to Digital Skills Crisis in June last year. In his letter, the MP said: "Our disappointment over such a long delay is compounded by the continued absence of the government’s long-promised "digital strategy" because much of the focus for our report was that digital strategy – seven of our 27 recommendations explicitly addressed it."

The committee’s concerns about digital skills and their development were wide-ranging, covering the private and public sectors and addressing individual and community needs. One of the recommendations was for the government to step up its Digital Friends initiative and "go beyond its cross-government approach by extending it widely across the public sector".

In response, the government said that although it was not actively promoting Digital Friends outside central government, a number of partners were supporting its activity. These included the One Digital Consortium, funded by the National Lottery, which had brought together six organisations including Age UK, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and Citizens Online. The consortium was established to develop methods for creating a "sustainable and effective network of digital champions".

The government also referred to the Lloyds Banking Group, which developed a "strong network of ‘champions’" involved in volunteering to provide digital support, and to the Good Things Foundation’s Learn My Way website, which helps people develop their digital skills.

The government’s response to the committee’s report can be viewed here.

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