The government today announced the creation of a new advisory panel to assist councils increase the number of citizens able to access services online.
The initiative was unveiled as part of the government’s new digital inclusion strategy aimed at at reducing the number of people who are offline by 25% by 2016.
As part of the strategy, a new Localities Advisory Panel will be created by the Department for Communities and Local Government, along with the Local Digital Alliance (LDA), a coalition of local government digital representative bodies.
The government said the new panel would “promote knowledge sharing and best practice between local authority and local public service practitioners on digital inclusion and assisted digital”.
The LDA was established last year to improve the take-up of digital services, including customers of local authorities and small businesses.
Steering group members include DCLG, the Local Government Association and other efficiency and ICT bodies.
The digital strategy was accompanied by a Digital Inclusion Charter, bringing together 40 organisations which have signed up to help reduce achieve the aims of the strategy.
Two local authority ICT bodies have signed up – good practice network LocalGov Digital and public services ICT professional representative body Socitm.
Carl Haggerty, digital communications manager at Devon County Council and chair of the LocalGov Digital steering group said: “The digital divide is still very present in the UK and from a local government perspective impacts on services, democracy and workforce.
“As councils change shape over the next few years it will become increasingly important to address the divide and reduce exclusion to make sure we are serving all residents, particularly the most vulnerable, while delivering efficiency and value for money.”
The strategy includes a national support programme to bring together funding for digital skills projects, aimed at opening the market for new providers to get involved.
Minister for civil society Nick Hurd said: “Our mission is to make Britain the most digitally capable country in the world. A more digitally-skilled nation will help us to boost our economy and strengthen communities.”
Local government could save up to £334 million each year through digital channel shift, according to central government.