Culture minister Ed Vaizey calls for better digital coordination in Whitehall

Culture minister Ed Vaizey says a central government drive is needed to join up disparate digital technology initiatives being pursued by departments in isolation from each other.

Speaking before a parliamentary select committee last week, Vaizey called for a ‘pause’ to consider how the government coordinates its activity on digital.

He said the government’s new digital strategy would help provide an overview of current government work, but that it would not be published until after the European Union membership referendum.

Vaizey said: “I don’t think government is coordinated enough and I think that is something we are going to have to look at. I think we need to pause, perhaps over the summer, and look at how we engage digitally.

“Nothing I says is a criticism of my colleagues in any shape or form. It is simply an acknowledgement of how wide this agenda is and how you try to coordinate things.”

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Vaizey listed a plethora of individual departmental projects, including digital engagement work in the Department for Health.

He said: “We could have a debate about how that is coordinated. Maybe it doesn’t need to be coordinated. Maybe it is a perfect silo that just needs to push forward.”

Vaizey said that he was keen to review the digital relationship between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and his own department.

He said: “There are a legion of different organisations focused on particular digital issues such as data. We have for example Innovate UK, which is working on four different areas in terms of digital innovation , but Tech City which has a close relationship with a number of different tech companies, the Digital Smart Cities Catapult, the Satellite Applications Catapault all of which could have a digital hat on. I would like to see some clarity on that digital landscape.”

In addition, he said that departments working on rolling out broadband and mobile technology should work together.

“There is a piece of work to be done on making sure the government has a holistic view of the digital initiatives each department is taking,” he said.

The committee heard that the government’s new digital strategy has “been drafted and is ready to go”.

Vaizey said: “We are looking for a slot from downing street. Obviously we are affected by purdah and issues such as the Europan referendum that people seem to be getting quite exercised about. I imaging it will be published after the European referendum when the decks have been cleared and we can move forward.”

The minister said the strategy “will give a good overview on what the government is doing on digital”.

Colin Marrs

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