'Technology Manifesto' sets out vision for utilising digital technology and big data in the UK

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The UK government should make greater use of the opportunities that technology offers and ramp up its efforts to get everyone online and clued up when it comes to utilising big data, according to a new report.

‘Technology Manifesto’ from think tank Policy Exchange sets out why and how the government could move towards building ‘the world’s most connected and digitally skilled society.’

The report urges government to get everyone in the UK online by 2020 (10 million are currently unable to use a search engine or send an email) and digitise 95% of government transactions by 2015. While current progress in digitising government will save around £1.7 billion each year after 2015, the report estimates that if this process was sped up, that figure could be as much as £24bn a year. ‘By 2020 a digitally transformed government could be up to 8% more efficient than if it continued doing business as usual,’ it says. The report also advocates making Ordnance Survey open data as the current licence agreement prevents many public sector bodies from releasing valuable datasets.

To help enable some of these initiatives, the report proposes creating an Advanced Analytics Team in the Cabinet Office, responsible for identifying big data opportunities and helping departments to realise them. The formation of a Data Ethics Committee would guide government in new uses of data and establish a Code for Responsible Analytics, the report added.

Data Protection legislation needs to be updated to take into account of the ‘internet of things’ (ie data collected about people through online-connected devices such as mobile phones or healthcare devices) where in many cases, it will impractical to gain prior written consent for data collection. ‘Legal clarity is needed to ensure the safe and fair use of citizens’ data, whilst also encouraging innovation,’ the report explains.

Lastly, the report recommends promoting a greater awareness and education in digital and online skills throughout society. As well as ensuring all citizens are able to use the internet, it proposes that all civil servants receive training in quantitative analysis and digital skills. And to ensure that the million technology jobs that are likely to arise by 2020 are adequately filled, it recommends that immigration policy is changed to attract more technology talent to the UK from overseas, such as reinstating the two-year post-study work visa for STEM students.

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