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Government aims to build digital in civil society


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Government has highlighted the potential of non-government bodies to help develop digital solutions to deal with social challenges.

It has emphasised their role as part of a broad Civil Society Strategy, acknowledging that in some instances organisations such as charities, social enterprises or commercial companies will be better placed than government to provide solutions to social issues.

“It is essential for the social sector to be part of the digital revolution and why the Government is committed to bringing together digital and civil society,” the document says.

“The use of social media, big data and artificial intelligence are beginning to reach the social sector and there is increasing awareness that adoption of digital techniques can make charities more resilient and sustainable. “

But it says the rate of adoption is slow by comparison to other sectors and that action is needed to encourage the take-up of digital solutions by such bodies.

The document says steps have already been taken with a £1.1 million investment in a Digital Culture Network, measures to support civil society in the Digital Economy Act, and a commitment by Arts Council England to create a Digital Maturity Index for the cultural sector, which should enable organisations to understand and benchmark their digital capability.

It adds that the Government wants to support new partnerships between experts in technology and civil society, emphasising the emergence of a ‘tech for good’ sector. It points to the early progress of social tech venture accelerators and the promise for tackling issues such as loneliness, health ageing and digital inclusion.

Building skills

The Government will also continue to work with civil society organisations through the Digital Skills Partnership to build their digital skills and support the development of a Charity Digital Code of Practice.

The report emphasises the potential for digital technology to make a big contribution and points to tech for good organisations interfacing with the public sector, and the Government’s creation of the £20 million GovTech Catalyst Fund.

It says the Government will continue to explore how tech can be used to deal with social issues, and that organisations having access to open data and integrating with public services will be an important element. Efforts will also be made to increase access for social tech ventures to capital beyond seed stage and improving access to markets.

DCMS also says it will work with councils to trial “online civic tech tools”, along with new methods of face-to-face feedback, to get more people involved in public decisions. It says this should lead to better decisions and help people to understand how they are made.

Writing in the foreword of the report, Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright and Civil Society Minister Tracey Crouch, say the strategy “is a response to the opportunity of the moment, when new technologies and ways of working suggest extraordinary new possibilities – as well as threats – for the way we live and work.

“To meet the opportunities and threats of the future a new approach is needed that gives greater freedom and responsibility to our communities. We believe that civil society is central to this new approach.”

 Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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