digital votes and internet should be basic right (Wired UK)


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An influential network of Labour
entrepreneurs and MPs has published 82 recommendations for the UK’s digital future, including open
APIs for government transactions and digital votes for the public
on legislation changes.

Labour Digital‘s
wide-ranging report is an ambitious look at a future digital
Britain, that it estimates will cost around £10 billion to
implement over five years but bring value of £63 billion a year. It
sprawls from the formation of a Digital Board of ministers and
experts, to 1Gbps broadband as a basic minimum for all homes,
businesses and public spaces.

Practical schemes that might seem obvious to many — such as a
programme that will bring all adults up to speed on digital skills
by 2020 — are interspersed with ideas that might seem like
moonshots for any UK government that steps into power in 2015, such
as the siphoning off of 20 percent of the electoral power of the
House of Lords to the public. This would involve the public in
incredibly important decisions related to legislation changes and
would be an incredible move, if realised. It might mean that those
pieces of important legislation that we have seen rushed through Parliament in the past or largely ignored by
MPs, could be flagged up if also passed through the Lords. You only
need look at the reading of the Digital Economy Bill in 2010, which showed 95
percent of MPs failed to turn up, or the emergency data retention legislation that was snuck through in
July, to see that the current system routinely fails to feel truly
democratic.

Even the creation of a Digital Board could be a chance to not
only highlight vital issues relating to our digital lives, but
introduce voices that are relevant and educated on the issues (as
long as the body bears no resemblance to the Olympic Deliverance
Commission from mockumentary Twenty
Twelve
). Earlier this month, TechUK published a call to action to bring digital ministers
into every government department. Again, it’s something that has
probably seemed obvious to many, considering the large dearth of
skills in central government in this area, but it’s also something
that’s been largely ignored (the current Cabinet is largely made up
of Oxbridge graduates in economics,
philosophy, politics or law, and close circles don’t look much
different).

A Digital Ombudsman would oversee the utilities side of things,
the report goes on to suggest, including the proposed plans to
bring broadband to every home without a telephone line being
required for voice calls. The report claims the current targets
(fast broadband delivered to 95 percent of the population by 2017)
are not good enough. It is proposing:

  • 1Gbps broadband in homes, businesses and public buildings
  • 10Gbps services for tech-clusters
  • Free basic connections for everyone, “possibly as a requirement
    for participation in 5G auctions, or targeted at children eligible
    for free school meals”
  • Reliable Wi-Fi on transport

Educational measures it suggests include free workshops and
accessibility for older generations, and the report highlights the
potential of using online networks and video conferencing to ensure
vulnerable groups are not alone.

There is a large section also dedicated to the digital rights of
British citizens, encompassing transparency of the public data
infrastructure to protect against privatisation and a need to
support net neutrality nationally and across the EU. It calls
for:

  • A flexible, secure, publicly-owned data
    infrastructure 
  • Protection guarantees for the public, for when online services
    fail them
  • Digital personhood to be taken seriously and the “right to be
    forgotten”
    upheld
  • A right for anyone to erase personal and sensitive data shared
    online before the age of 16
  • The creation of an “online federated identity management
    framework, spanning both government and non-government uses”
  • A standardised set of privacy agreements across major online
    services, comparable to the “Creative Commons” terms — the point
    being, terms and conditions no one reads will no longer be stood
    for

The report generally reads like a wishlist for a future Britain
that ensures infrastructure, education, community, democracy and
the economy benefit from a forward-thinking digital approach.
Policy coordinator Jon Cruddas describes the aim of the group as
being “to make the UK the number one country in the digital
revolution”.

He paints the picture of a digital utopia where the economy is
“pro-worker and pro-business” driven by “meaningful
connections”.

“Reform needs to be about human-scale communities in control of
their own services, continually able to make small, focused
improvements. Government will be about giving people more control
over their lives. We will use the internet to distribute control
and to push power out to the people who know best how to use
it.”

How likely a future Labour government is to listen to this, is
debateable. But it helps that the report followed closely behind
TechUK’s call to action earlier this month — it feels there is a
definite impatience for these improvements brewing.

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24 September 2014 | 2:19 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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