Government launches Digital Advisory Board

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Government launches Digital Advisory Board

Kathleen Hall

The government has created a Digital Advisory Board (DAB) of industry IT heads and academics to support its digital by default agenda.

The board will be chaired by UK digital champion Martha Lane Fox and will meet twice a year to advise the Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Service (GDS) on the accessibility of online services, as they are rolled out across Whitehall departments.

The DAB’s 12 members include: Laura Wade-Gery, executive director of multi-channel at Marks & Spencer; Alex Balfour, LOCOG’s head of new media; Brent Hoberman, co-founder of Last Minute.com; Richard Allan, director of policy at Facebook; and Ashley Machin, director of digital at Lloyds.

Lane Fox said the board would enable government to take the next step to delivering digital services. 

“The members were chosen due to their expertise, it's an interesting line-up of people who bring a whole range of different experiences including knowledge of dealing with large scale digital transactions,” she told Computer Weekly.

She praised the work done by Government Digital Service (GDS) director of digital Mike Bracken and his team in the first iteration of the single government domain, Gov.uk.

But Lane Fox it will be huge task in getting government departments to move to a digital by default model, particularly as more online transactions are developed for services. 

“The digital agenda requires a massive cultural change," said Lane Fox.

The DAB will be able to share lessons learnt from implementing similar large-scale digital programmes, she added. "It will be able to help to stress-test the digital platforms.”

Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, said: “The impressive expertise and experience on the Digital Advisory Board will help us achieve our challenging goal of delivering all services digitally so they are cheaper, simpler, clearer and quicker and easier to use.”

Professor Helen Margetts, director of The Oxford Internet Institute and DAB member, said government digital channels have typically lagged behind the private sector and citizen expectations.

“GDS is doing lots of new things trying to get a government online presence in front of people. And if it is going to do that, then government online has to look like other [online channels].” Board members such as Facebook’s Allan should encourage the uptake of government digital services, she said. 

“These are organisations that have obviously got something right,” she said.

Margetts has 20 years of experience in studying how individuals and organisations behave online. She said: “I hope I’ll be able to do analysis of the usage of Gov.uk, web crawling, map presence and an understanding of how government looks online and how it can be adjusted to make it more navigable.”

But she said the key challenge would be getting the rest of government on-board. “It will be a question of inspiring departments to see that they can’t make the savings they need to unless they move to digital.”

Other members of the Digital Advisory Board will include James Bilefield, from Condé Nast International; Tim Brooks of The Knowledge Engineers; Brian McBride, MX Data; Kip Meek, Everything Everywhere; and Will Perrin, Talk About Local.

The news comes as Lane Fox launched Go On UK earlier this week, a cross-sector partnership to help increase the number of people and organisations using the internet. Go On UK will have a broader remit than previous initiative Race Online 2012 and promote online channels to small businesses, following research which found that just 14% of SME had online channels.  

“I was surprised by how few companies had transactional websites,” Lane Fox said.


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