digital

This is for Dot Everyone

This evening I was lucky enough to be invited to the Science Museum to hear Martha Lane Fox’s Dimbleby Lecture. It was engaging, interesting and beautifully delivered, as I would expect. More significantly Martha used the occasion to launch the vision for a new national institution she has christened Dot Everyone.

Martha and I share a passion for digital inclusion. We regularly meet to ensure the organisations we each chair – Go On UK and the Tinder Foundation – are complementing each other in our shared aim of ending the digital divide in Britain. I am also a huge admirer of the work she did as the UK Digital Champion, and subsequently, in influencing long overdue change in the way government embraces digital technology.

It is therefore no surprise that she has used the honour of delivering the Dimbleby Lecture to re-focus on the next challenge so that:

Britain can “leapfrog every nation in the world and become the most digital, most connected, most skilled, most informed on the planet.”

Martha’s analysis starts with the proposition that the power of the Internet is defined by the balance between private companies and public bodies. The dynamism and dazzling pace comes from the private sector but they must operated in an environment regulated for the public good.

And she is right to say that the civic side of the equation needs a boost.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee at the Olympic 2012 opening ceremonyThe digital revolution could and should be “for everyone” as Sir Tim Berners-Lee defined it in the opening ceremony of London 2012. But the dominance of Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook over the net, risks civic society becoming powerless as a very few in California get richer and richer. Governments are then left as bystanders whose role is only to cheer when those that run them are generous enough to turn to philanthropy.

I want a digital society that is defined by the cultures of sharing and co-creation, not increasing control through decreasing privacy.

In her lecture Martha wants her new institution to initially focus on three things:

  • First, how we improve our understanding of the internet at all levels of our society
  • Secondly, how we get more women involved in technology, and
  • Thirdly, how we tackle the genuinely new and thorny ethical and moral issues the internet has created

The first and third go hand in glove.

There are huge security issues around the asymmetric threats caused by cyber terrorism. There are opportunities to impose surveillance on our online activity, for example to guard against grooming by both paedophiles and terrorist groups. But few senior civil servants, ministers or Parliamentarians have sufficient understanding of the infrastructure of the net to know how best to do this.

And few also see the downsides of invading our online privacy.

These are really difficult judgements and need an informed Parliamentary debate that is informed by the public. Right now it is hard to see much public debate. This is a huge failing by politicians and their friends in the media.

Dot Everyone is a bold idea to keep that debate at the forefront.

And should we worry about the paucity of women in tech? Of course we should – if we want the internet to be more collaborative, more inclusive and to grow the culture of sharing online.

I work with some brilliant women in technology – Helen Milner at Tinder Foundation, Rachel Neaman at Go On UK, Louise Rogers at TES Global, Annika Small at the Nominet Trust, Debbie Forster and Iris Lapinski at Apps For Good and Emma Mulqueeny at Young Rewired State. But I also see how imbalanced the sector is as a whole and know that Martha is right to want this fixed as a priority.

There are plenty more questions to ask about Dot Everyone. Are these the only priorities? What about inclusion? Should it be global or national? How should we find it and safeguard its independence?

But by finding myself asking these questions I know I have already accepted the need for it to exist. Which leads to the question I hope many of us will be asking:

Well done Martha – now how can I help?

PS. Visit Martha’s Doteveryone site doteveryone.org.uk and sign up to her change.org perition

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digital

Internet of Things – an opportunity for Government?

When the world’s mobile telecoms movers and shakers gather in Barcelona next week they will inevitably be thinking about the next wave of the technology revolution. The Internet of Things and Machine to Machine have been talked about for a while and there will be an impatience for the commercial impact to really be felt.

Aside from commercial judgments, what about how governments should exploit the potential of digital to solve today’s challenges. In Barcelona I will be discussing with ministers how we can realise the potential of this new technology across the public sector.

A starting point is the urgent need for governments to do things differently.

The old ways of delivering public services were forged in the post war industrial economy. They are no longer affordable. By contrast, communication with citizens has never been more affordable thanks to social technology. And the problems are now so complex that the only practical way to solve them is collaboratively with citizens.

So this is the right time to argue for a new mindset, learning from the commercial world and finding new models of service delivery. The Internet of Things offers some interesting examples.

I have been using wearable technology to monitor my health for 18 months and know it changes my health behaviour for the good. In doing so I am conscious of the trade off in terms of that health data also going to a third party. If we can find a way of building public trust in the use of their data there is huge potential in public health to save on care and on chronic diseases like diabetes.

There is plenty more. Driverless vehicles can help with congestion, and smart meters can help with affordable heating and tackling climate change. Prof Stephen Heppell has been doing very interesting analysis around the ideal learning environment – the right levels of light, heat, sound and air quality for learning – a smart school can deliver these things. There is also the great learning potential from analysing the huge amount of data created by the Internet of Things.

But I must also sound some warnings.

I have already touched on the growing concern about personal data. Connecting objects appears to be all about creating more data points. Some of that will be data about me that I may not want others to know. If my smart meter is hacked into, could thieves then surmise when my home is normally empty? How safe is my health data and my shopping data?

The technology revolution is creating economic growth but it is not evenly distributed. Recent reports suggests that the richest 1% now own 99% of the wealth. That is not sustainable. The rise of extreme politics and terrorism has to be related to a sense that the status quo is not delivering for many, and so people are looking for an alternative. Will this next technology wave of the Internet of Things lessen or exaggerate that problem?

As a schools minister in the UK, I was responsible for a huge spend on classroom technology. Unfortunately the element of the budget for training got stripped out and so we had a limited return on investment. We had become so be-dazzled by the potential of technology enhanced learning that we had forgotten about the people.

People must be at the heart of this new technology. And here I am impatient to see genuine attempts to design co-creation into public services.

In the commercial world we have seen the technology journey from producer efficiency to consumer personalisation, to now co-creation.

So the challenge is to combine the ability to connect things, with people generated design. Ministers in Barcelona would be wise not be too dazzled by the Machine to Machine technology until the loop is closed of people to machine to machine to people. Then they can get the consent and to harness technology to deliver what the people want from their public services – more for less.

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Data, digital, Politics, Security

Your Privacy at Risk – Your Security Enhanced?

This is the text of my speech today in the Lords on the controversial Data Retention & Investigatory Powers Bill

My Lords, I have to start—like the noble Lord, Lord Butler, who made such an excellent contribution—by saying that the Government’s handling of this Bill has been a disgrace. I cannot repeat any better why it is a disgrace, and it would be ridiculous of me to try to compete with the noble Lord’s analysis. To have given Parliament three days when they have had three months to consider their response is a disgrace. Although my ministerial experience, at just five years, is much more limited than that of the previous speaker, whom I equally respect, particularly his experience as Home Secretary, I know that when there was the threat of a case in the European Court, Ministers would receive a risk analysis. I find it difficult to believe that no one in the Home Office had a plan B. If they were to lose that case, the thinking was not going on within government as to how they were going to handle losing the case and the uncertainty with which they would then have to deal with the RIPA powers. So I am afraid that that is my starting point.

I would also strongly agree with my noble friend Lady Smith of Basildon and others when they say that there is a need for Parliament to be seen to address the very real public concerns over the balance of privacy and security and the desire for personalisation of digital services. Some of us use digital services very heavily and are only just becoming aware of how much our desire for all those personal services that come through on our phones and tablets generate metadata that are now the subject of this legislation. Given the need for Parliament to be seen to address and debate, and lead a debate in the wider public, on those concerns, it is an affront to see the legislation railroaded using the fast-track mechanism. The basis of my comments is to analyse whether some of that is justified.

Yesterday, as is my wont, I gave some friends and some of their family who are over from Canada a tour of the Palace of Westminster. Highlights of that tour are always things such as the Magna Carta; there is a copy in the Content Lobby, and we will enjoy celebrating its 800-year anniversary next year. Then there is the statue of Lord Falkland, where the sword was cut to allow a suffragette called Marjory Hume to be taken off to prison in 1909, and the plaque commemorating Nelson Mandela speaking in Westminster Hall. Best of all is the broom cupboard in the Crypt, where Emily Wilding Davison hid on the night of the 1911 census, and the phrase at the end that Tony Benn put there:

“By such means was democracy won for the people of Britain”.

That tour contains in its highlights all those moments where we recognise hard-won civil liberties for us as individuals, both here and around the world. It is incumbent on us as a Parliament and those who serve at any given time in this Parliament to protect those liberties as strongly as we protect the safety and security of the people in this country.

We also need to remember that we have a different tolerance of our own privacy, because we agree to become public figures when we agree to come here, than do most people who live in our country. The information in Who’s Who would probably allow anyone who wanted to steal some of my information to do so, because it has my mother’s maiden name as well as my date of birth, which are the sort of questions that you get asked online. We understand that when we fill out the entry in Who’s Who and we are aware of the risks that we take when we do so. I hope when we make up our security information online that we are also aware of it and are accordingly cautious.

We also need to be aware of the issue of metadata. When I sat in the audience in the Donmar Warehouse theatre a month or so ago, as a guest of my noble friend Lord Mitchell, watching the play “Privacy”, we heard gasps from the audience when they found out how the default settings on an iPhone mean that Apple knows exactly where we are and exactly when at any given time, unless we change those settings. They were some of the greatest moments of theatre that I have seen in some years—it was my first profession— when I heard the gasps of the audience who saw the pictures of their houses flashed up on the back of the screen, because the researcher had researched them using metadata to show where they all lived. That is metadata, the subject of the Bill—and that is something that we have to be cautious about.

There has been a breakdown of trust in recent years between the people of this country and the state, particularly those pursuing criminal investigations. This is because of Hillsborough and Savile; because of phone hacking, and plebgate. We must have an active debate on a regular basis because of PRISM and because of the powers that the private sector and, through it, the state and GCHQ have to access our data. As a Parliament we have been remiss in not debating Snowden as actively as we should have and as actively as they have done in the US. If we do not, I think we are failing the public

I am persuaded by the arguments that Clauses 1 to 3 are necessary. I believe that security and the ability to continue criminal investigations mean that we have no choice but to pass Clauses 1 to 3 of this Bill. This was well put by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. We need the status quo for criminal investigations.

I welcome the concessions that my right honourable friend the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, has won in getting the RIPA review and six-monthly reporting into the legislation. I worry that the thinking behind these reviews is through the prism—if that is not the wrong word—of security and law enforcement as the starting point, rather than the data privacy of individuals. I should also like to see a review of the operation of the Information Commissioner’s Office. According to its website, it is:

“The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals”.

That office needs to be the guardian of members of the public on these issues. I hope the Minister will be able to give an assurance from the Dispatch Box that the Information Commissioner’s Office will be included in some of that review work.

Clause 4 concerns what I will call the new powers overseas because I cannot pronounce extraterritoriality very well. I struggle to see the emergency for this to be included in a fast-track Bill. In the report of the Constitution Committee, published today, paragraph 11 says:

“It is not clear why these provisions need to be fast-tracked”.

It may not be fashionable to quote Liberty but it says that Clause 5 of DRIP, read together with Clause 4 (8), gives the Government “new, express powers” to go to foreign webmail providers and demand that they hand over or obtain communications data. The objectives of the snoopers’ charter are therefore met via another route. That is their charge. If the Minister were able to respond to that, I think that supporters of Liberty would be pleased to hear it.

As I am sure your Lordships will all have done, I have received a letter from a list of highly credible legal experts on internet law. These are professors from a whole range of our best universities. They say that this clause,

“introduces powers that are not only completely novel in the United Kingdom, they are some of the first of their kind globally”

The letter continues,

“the proposed Bill arguably breaches EU law to the extent that it falls within the scope of EU law, since such mass surveillance would still fall foul of the criteria set out by the Court of Justice of the EU in the Digital Rights and Seitlinger judgment”.

They would say that the reassurance which the Minister gave, following my intervention, is not true. I am sure that everything the Minister is saying is on good advice and in good faith. I know him to be a completely honourable and truthful man and I do not question what he is saying. However, I would value it if he were able to publish or circulate to Members of your Lordships’ House the advice he has received that this legislation, particularly Clause 4, is not in further breach of EU law, and that it will not extend the legal rights—not the practice but the legal rights—of government in respect of these matters.

On balance, very reluctantly, I support the Second Reading of this Bill, but I question whether Clause 4 should continue to be in the Bill.

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digital, education

Tech is all very well but the inspiration comes from the people

I have been in Atlanta since Friday night for the ISTE conference.  It has been a great chance to catch up with new and old friends, make some business contacts and reflect on this education business I am working in.

First thing is that maybe the US is getting civilised! They have given so much to the world, for better or worse, but it is nice to see the Americans importing some great things.  When I lived in Detroit 30 years ago you had to work really hard to find any decent beer – I had to go to Mexico to find good dark beer.  But now, even in Atlanta the home of Coca Cola, they have so much really good local beer from IPA to brown ale.  Where there is good beer, football is not far behind and this country is currently World Cup mad! We’ll see at 4pm local time how long that last when the USA plays Belgium.

In between soccer games I have also been having an extended discussion about teaching and teachers.  Last week I was part of an Education Fast Forward debate on the latest OECD TALIS results.  I led a session on this here at the conference yesterday.  This survey of over 100,000 teachers in 34 countries told us a lot including:

  • the esteem of teaching is very variable and correlates to higher student achievement, and…
  • most teachers value 21st century pedagogies but teaching practices don’t always reflect that, and..
  • the more teachers collaborate with each other the higher is their self esteem and job satisfaction, and…
  • appraisal and proper feedback improves teaching, and…
  • behavioural issues equate to lower job satisfaction, but class size doesn’t

On Sunday I also led a discussion on how we get a common narrative across the Atlantic on digital education.  We had started this in London as I sought to bring together the eLearning Foundation and the One to One Institute, and were delighted that Brian the head of ISTE invited us to continue the discussion here. Thanks to Intel we also had dinner together and were lucky enough to be joined by Guy Hoffman.  Guy’s TED Talk on robots with soul has been watched over 2.4 million times.

Guy’s work in giving robots body language is telling us so much about ourselves.  He gave me so much to think about with his inspirational technology, and how he is relating it to people.

But probably most inspiring in this sea of education technology has been the people.  The great thing about ISTE is the thousands of teachers giving up time to be here.  This is best encapsulated by the VW Camper Van positioned as you enter the exhibition area.

The very simple technology of wipeable pens is capturing what teachers think education will look like in 25 years.  Plenty see it being student centred, 24/7, schools without walls, teachers as facilitators etc.  Always positive and always believing in children.  And then my favourite:

it will be what we make it, so let’s get cracking!!

What better way to sum up why we are all here.

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digital, rural policy

The Politics of the Periphery

IMG_0985Three years ago in Progress, I wrote about the need for what we would now call One Nation Labour. Welcome as this approach is, I remain unconvinced that we have a coherent rural and coastal programme to campaign on that makes the new brand credible.

Whilst the Tories take their rural heartlands for granted, and ideologically reject non-market solutions, these areas feel on the periphery. They feel on the edge physically, economically, and in social policy. Without the volume of consumers, services are unviable and the market increasingly just delivers retirement and second home communities.

Labour is the party that believes that where the market isn’t working, and social injustice follows, we should intervene. However rural areas are too often on Labour’s emotional periphery.  And yet the powerlessness, misery and injustice of rural poverty in Britain is as profound as anything in our urban areas.

So it should be no surprise that many in peripheral areas feel that none of the major parties offer any solutions. The cost of living crisis means that they are living on the edge financially as well as geographically.

But it need not be like this. We are now living through a technological revolution that is redefining geography. Industrialisation and urbanisation happened hand in glove, and were driven by the new ways of connecting people by canal, then rail and then road. We are now living through a digital revolution that is also about connectivity, as online and globalisation work as one.  Our personal geography is being redefined.  We now have to realise this opportunity to refine our sense of space in public policy.

Some of our cities are shrinking. As this BBC article discussed, some of the iconic cities of the industrial age in the Mid-West, like Detroit, are unviable in the post-industrial age. They are being reclaimed by nature. Industrial pollution saw off beavers from the Detroit river two hundred years after the city was founded as a centre for the beaver skin trade. But fast forward another hundred years to today, less manufacturing means less pollution – and now the beavers are back.  At this extreme we see re-ruralisation, an opportunity we could start to manage.

By contrast, London increases in size by two double decker bus loads of people each day. It cannot cope. Should we not be looking at how the new connectivity revolution can revitalise our rural areas as places for families to live and work, and thereby reduce pressures on our cities? Including making the Department for Transport the department for connecting people online as well as offline? Perhaps then the Department can decide which is the bigger priority for us socially and economically – high bandwidth connection for the many or HS2 for the few.

If we can change the culture of presence in our offices, as Dave Coplin discusses in this animated RSA talk, and measure productivity on output instead, then we could work wherever is convenient. If rail franchises included mandating a three day a week season ticket, some would choose to work from home or the town coffee shop instead. Mutual workspaces could be incentivised with great connectivity, video conferencing and fabulous coffee. Suddenly less pressure on the railways, on the cities, and a more viable rural economy.

I am hugely encouraged to hear Chuka Umunna talk about the potential link between digital exclusion and UKIP voters.  Many abandoning the three main parties for UKIP are doing so as a way of expressing their powerlessness and the extent to which they have been left behind by change.  Politicians must give these people hope if they are to gain their votes.  If you are excluded from the technology that is deskilling you, then you will be angry and fearful and hard right politics will be attractive.  We need to bring these people in from the economic and social periphery and get them skilled and confident online.

These are just some initial thoughts on how we need to paint a compelling picture of change and hope. We are all working, shopping, and socialising in new ways. Equally there are new ways of doing things in government for neglected rural and coastal areas. Labour has to deliver on the politics of the periphery.

 

This article first appeared on Progress online

 

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