BCS welcomes publication of the Government's Digital Strategy

2 March 2017

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, welcomes the publication of the Government’s Digital Strategy.

The Strategy covers a wide range of topics affecting one of the UK’s most important sectors - not just for its value to the UK economy, but also for its potential to change the world for the better. BCS, with its ambition to make IT good for society, has specific comments on the aspects of the Strategy covering skills training and personal data.

BCS welcomes the Government’s commitment to prioritising skills as part of its plans to develop the country into a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone.

The Strategy notes the important work that BCS, and others, have delivered to improve digital skills in schools, particularly through the Computing At School (CAS) Network of Teaching Excellence and the Barefoot Computing project, for primary schools, which will shortly have reached 1,000,000 children1.

Bill Mitchell, BCS Director of Education said: “To be effective, capable and safe citizens in this ever-changing digital world, it is essential that every child has access to a high-quality computing education. That means every child should be developing computational thinking skills, starting from age 5.

The Barefoot Computing project, run by BT in partnership with BCS, improves computational thinking skills for primary school students by providing teachers with exemplary teaching resources and training in how to use them. Teachers are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about this project, and report support from the project spills over into improvement in maths and English.

“For the Government’s Digital Strategy to succeed, it’s essential that projects like ours in education, which have demonstrably proved their worth, continue and are extended to all parts of the UK. We need to ensure that no-one is left behind if we are to achieve the Government’s aim to have a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone.”

Elsewhere in the Strategy, BCS is pleased to see the Government placing emphasis on the effective use of data by both the public sector and business. BCS appreciates the unrealised potential of data being used effectively, but recognises that this can only be achieved if the public feels in control of their own data, and when new data sharing powers are accompanied by corresponding protections.

The Strategy’s focus on how businesses can create new markets through open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) is a very welcome and sophisticated view of the digital landscape, but brings with it new responsibilities. While chasing short term growth, it is vital not to lose sight of the fundamental social contract around data - citizens choosing to share their data in exchange for a product or service - must not be forgotten.

BCS is conducting a series of projects on this topic, and looks forward to working on this with Government and business in the coming months.

1By providing training to 37,000 teachers, currently the project has reached 30,000 teachers which is increasing at over 1200/month. Each primary teacher on average teaches 27.5 children every day.

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