Goodbye Digital – Hello Transformation

By | March 1, 2017

The long-promised UK Government’s Digital Strategy has finally arrived – and it’s a Transformation Strategy.

FISP raises two and a half hearty cheers. New brooms at DCMS, BEIS and HM Treasury have swept the stables clean of mouldering muck and provided fresh straw. And in that sweeter air we are urged to fill our lungs with the breath of future springtime optimism.

This is no time to bemoan past policy failures but to celebrate the new focus. We have already noted the Chancellor’s determination in his last Autumn Statement and the National Infrastructure Commission’s drive for investment in future-proofed full fibre. Even their Lordships were moved, last week, to push for a higher base line for broadband performance – and one that in many places will surely be beyond the creaking capabilities of ‘phone-line broadband’.

Similarly this is no time to complain of the austere impacts of FE College budget cuts over the past 6 years. Now is the time to crack on with greater investment in the ‘knowledge workforce’.

That title change also signals a fresh understanding around Whitehall. Where once it may have been presumed that ‘digitisation’ could be done – the box ticked – it is now properly understood that ‘transformation’ is an evolving, ongoing, never-ending mission that demands a constant striving towards greater policy connectivity.

But still we raise only two and a half cheers.

The strategy illustrates the limits of central government capacity for policy innovation.  The production has nothing to say about local government. In a year when we’ll see more elected Mayors and even greater demands from local leaders for real empowerment, we are reminded that national economic performance is just the aggregation of many and diverse local economies each with their own priorities and environments.

Some folks may look at this strategy and ask, “Is that all?”   More astute local leaders will be busy finding and minding the gaps.