Digital Britain – what it means for public sector communicators

SimonCommunications, General1 Comment

Today’s unveiling of the interim Digital Britain report makes interesting reading for marketing and publication relations people working in the public sector.

The work’s objectives include:

  • Fairness and access for all: universal availability coupled with the skills and digital literacy to enable near-universal participation in the digital economy and digital society
  • Developing the infrastructure, skills and take-up to enable the widespread online delivery of public services and business interface with Government

Universal availability of digital communications, combined with ensuring as many people as possible are comfortable interacting using digital channels, is important in public sector communications – when running campaigns that target mass audiences, we can’t make the assumption that everyone has access to digital channels such as email or the internet.

In a developed country such as Britain, everyone should be able to be part of the digital economy and digital society.

So that fact immediately leads to campaigns almost always comprising online and offline elements targetted at the relevant audiences by channel as well as by their propensity to respond in the desired way. Pushing the levels of digital availability and literacy changes the balance in this consideration of channel and provides more of a “level playing field” for consideration of different communications tools.

There’s also a recognition that without intervention there’s potential for digital exclusion becoming a reality within communities in the future – a challenge to the cohesiveness of communities that’s integral to the place-shaping agenda:

Inequality in the use and application of digital technologies is potentially a significant new driver of social exclusion in the 21st century, which risks accelerating existing social divides and creating new ones.

The report also provides a boost to the delivery of public services digitally – the report commits to:

ensure that public services online are designed for ease of use by the widest range of citizens, taking advantage of the widespread uptake of broadband to offer an improved customer experience and encourage the shift to online channels in delivery and service support.

This means we need to think about the range and usability of services provided by local government over the internet, as well as continuing to find an appropriate role for other digital channels, such as mobile and digital television, to provide complementary or alternative means of access for citizens.

There’s not a lot of detail in the report about what will be done to mnake this happen, so I guess we’ll have to wait until the final report in late Spring for that.

A couple of the annexes to the main report also make useful reference material for marketing and public relations people considering digital as part of their communications mix:

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