Every UK citizen will have access to super fast broadband and a personalised ‘dashboard' of government services by the end of the decade.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown was speaking on ‘Building Britain's Digital Future‘, part of the government's Digital Britain strategy.
One of the initiatives will be the launch of the ‘mygov' portal that will allow people to ‘manage their pensions, tax credits or child benefits; pay their council tax; fix their doctors or hospital appointment and control their own treatment; apply for the schools of their choice and communicate with their children's teachers; or get a new passport or driving licence - all when and where they need it'.
He claimed that there was a need to enhance the web ‘to bypass current digital bottlenecks and getting direct answers for direct requests for data and information'. He also said that the new plans would put the citizen, and not the public servant, in control.
Brown also commented that he wanted ‘to make Britain the leading super fast broadband digital power creating 100 per cent access to every home'. He also spoke on ‘seizing the opportunities for voice and choice in our public services by opening up data and using the power of digital technology to transform the way citizens interact with government'.
Finally he said in Wednesday's budget, the chancellor will set out more detailed plans for delivering savings of £11 billion ‘by driving up operational efficiency, much of it enabled by the increased transparency and reduced costs made available by new technology'.
He also commented that one fifth of adults in the UK had never accessed the internet, what he called ‘over a fifth trapped in a second tier of citizenship, denied what I increasingly think of as a fundamental freedom in the modern world: to be part of the internet and technology revolution'. He said that this was unfair, economically inefficient and wholly unacceptable.
Speaking on behalf of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said: “These sound like great ideas, but the government cannot plan to deliver every service online, and simultaneously plan to disconnect families after allegations of minor copyright offences.
“The only consistent and reasonable way forward is to drop clauses 11-18 of the Digital Economy Bill, that would allow thousands of families to be cut off the internet.”
Commenting on the mygov announcement, Colin Rowland, senior VP EMEA operations at OpTier, said: “It will be crucial for the government to ensure that the infrastructure and IT systems are up to task and able to cope with the massive surge in online usage that a system used by 60 million people could cause. To do this the government will need to be proactive in tackling IT problems before they hit citizens and impact their user experience or worse lead to services being taken offline.
“If they aren't, millions will be seriously disgruntled at being unable to access vital government services. Online technology can only save the government millions of pounds, if supported by the correct level of investment in the background technology to underpin and support its plans.”
Brown also confirmed £30 million of funding for a UK-based institute to realise the social and economic advances of working with the web, which will be headed by internet inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt, professor of computer science at the University of Southampton. The two were part of a group formed to develop data.gov.uk in June 2009, a single point of access for UK non-personal governmental public data that was launched in January.
Finally, Brown also confirmed the launch of a new Number 10 iPhone application that will bring news, videos and audio from the Downing Street website to potentially millions of users completely free of charge. This will be launched later today, and is not to be confused with an existing application that costs £1.19.