National Digital Conference and Digital Leaders 100 awards 2014

Friday, 20 June 2014, 15:46.

TSO hosted tables at both the conference and the dinner, giving us the opportunity to meet and talk with digital leaders from central government, local government and not for profit organisations.

The fast-paced conference saw 15 presenters give examples and opinion on three key topics: Digital Public Services; Digital Skills and Assisted Digital and Digital Inclusion.

Rachel Neaman, digital lead for Department of Health and chair of Digital Leaders, started the conference and gave examples of how digital channels, including social media, live streaming and video blogs, were used for the Global Dementia Summit to reach people who are not normally involved in policy discussions. Rachel made the point that digital should be an equaliser, not a divider, a theme which recurred several times during the day in sessions covering digital skills and inclusion.

Russell Davies, strategy director at GDS warned that differences between promise and delivery undermine strategy and talked about the importance of redesigning processes to improve satisfaction. His case study of the Lasting Power of Attorney service, where the call centre have had to start capturing positive feedback for the first time, is real evidence of this.

Four speakers gave examples of public services that are being digitally transformed, starting with the Post Office who are looking at how they can deliver digital services through post offices. They have carried out interesting research which indicates that family and friends helping people get online shouldn’t be underestimated. Tom McCann of Sopra talked about digitising land and inspections transactions in the CAP programme. Holly Ellis from TSO told the story of the transformation of www.thegazette.co.uk and how users, both existing and new, played a central role in the redevelopment. Cait Hurley of the Money Advice Service talked about how behavioural techniques, gamification and nudge are all being used to make services more useful to users.

The speakers were followed by a 10 minute “table buzz” discusssion on each of the 25 tables on the subject of new business models that are empowering people. Ensuring that business processes are redeveloped, not just put online, was the key point on our table, as well as discussing ways in which feedback from users could be incorporated iteratively into service improvements.

Digital skills was the theme of the next plenary session which was kicked off by Phil Fearnley of the BBC talking about how the BBC is creating an exciting digital creativity initiative that will work with partners using shared digital infrastructure to bring digital skills to a wider audience. “Education used to be Ancient Greek” said Stephen Fry in a short film introducing the initiative “now it needs to be modern geek”!

The next three speakers each took a different angle on the issue of digital skills. Brian Gannon of Kainos talked about Code Camp, App Camp and other initiatives that Kainos runs to develop young people’s digital skills. Kate Norman showed us all that being a good digital neighbour, as she has been, can really help to change older people’s lives by getting them online. Tim Lloyd of BIS talked about the nudge techniques he used with policy colleagues to get them to start using digital channels.

Raspberry Pi, Young Rewired State, digital neighbours, Minecraft … there was no shortage of skills initiatives to discuss at the next table buzz session. We also discussed how teaching coding is important but the next generation of digital leaders also needs to be taught problem solving, how to lead and how to build teams – important skills that are transferrable to industry.

The third plenary session, focusing on digital inclusion, started with an enlightening talk from Tristan Wilkinson of GoOn UK including a brilliant advert which highlighted the importance of helping the older generation online. Jeh Kazini of Breezie then talked about how Breezie does just that by personalising user interfaces so that emailing, videochat and shopping become easier and more relevant. Chris Yiu from SCVO talked about digital inclusion initiatives in Scotland and highlighted how digital exclusion = social exclusion. Charles Sellers of the Innovation and Technology Group talked passionately about the need to drive real innovation. This session finished with vInspired revealing how “generation beta” look at job hunting in a completely new way – with no interest in application forms, agencies or job centres.

Table buzz following these sessions included thoughts that the need for inclusion isn’t just relevant to individuals but also applies to SMEs who will increasingly rely on digital channels for business and we discussed how language could be a further barrier to digital inclusion.

The final session in the conference was a digital hustings with Chi Onwurah MP and Claire Perry MP.

Dr Mark Thompson, in rounding up the day asked "how useful is digital as a term when it encompasses so many different issues” – an interesting point for discussion over the Digital Leaders 100 awards dinner which followed the conference.

Introduced by Rachel Neaman, hosted by Kate Russell of BBC Click, with after dinner comedy from Richard Herring, the awards ceremony revealed the winners in each of 10 categories and the overall Digital Leader of 2014, awarded to Martha Lane Fox. The full list of 100 Digital Leaders can be found here

Congratulations to all the DL100 and all the category winners!