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Welsh Government to update digital action plan in early 2017

Neil Merrett Published 16 November 2016

Cardiff Bay looking to overhaul transformation plans currently being overseen by the country’s first ever chief digital officer, Caren Fullerton


The Welsh Government intends to update its current digital action plan during the first quarter of 2017. 

The update comes amidst plans to overhaul digital transformation and infrastructure across Wales, while building on the wider work of chief digital officer (CDO) Caren Fullerton in setting out national thinking on open data and technology use.

Appointed to the position of Wales’ first CDO in September 2015, the government initially avoided unveiling Fullerton’s identity beyond confirming last year that the new post had been filled as a means to deliver key actions in the strategy.  Fullerton is also overseeing the Welsh government’s Open Data Plan.

As authorities in Cardiff Bay - the seat of the Welsh parliament - look to realise wider digital ambitions around skills, infrastructure and public service innovation, the government has noted a number of major challenges to its key aims of realising more interoperable digital services that are supported by a clear data policy.

These challenges include addressing the complexity of joining up services, as well as defining public need for specific digital functions and setting out the required cost and scale of its work.

“Some view investment in digital transformation as an enabler of success – whilst others view it as an unnecessary expense,” said a spokesperson for the government.

Other key considerations include setting out a clear policy for exploiting data that can be used to improve efficiency, while maintaining confidentiality and citizen trust in the process. 

The government also outlined broad concerns with ensuring Welsh citizens and workforces had sufficient digital skills and access to broadband, notably in rural areas.

“We want solid digital and ICT skills for children and adults, convenient, efficient and modern public services that match people’s expectations, joined up public service delivery, a vibrant and growing economy driven by innovation and technology, flourishing cultural creativity,” said a spokesperson for the Welsh Government.  “[This should be] underpinned by fast broadband infrastructure throughout Wales.”

From the perspective of the government, it has aimed from this September to put in place a Digital Competence Framework (DCF).  This will aim to ensure digital competency was given “equal footing” with literacy and numeracy as key skills to be taught following a curriculum review by Professor Graham Donaldson.

Alongside this focus, a programme called Learning in Digital Wales (LiDW) has also been launched by authorities with the aim of providing teachers and other education staff with access to digital tools or resources to support digital learning.

Additional focuses on digital communities have meanwhile been launched by the government to try and tackle issues such as the digital exclusion of citizens without access or the skills to make use of new technologies.

In line with wider national focuses around integrating care services, the government also last December presented a five year plan for digital transformation to support this work. 

The strategy was called ‘Informed Health and Care’.

“It is designed to drive benefits such as patients being able to access their health records, book appointments and order prescriptions online and use mobile devices to monitor long term health conditions,” said the government.

Earlier this month, Atos published an opinion paper outlining the challenges and potential facing Wales in transforming how services are delivered digitally in the public and private sectors.

Gavin Thomson, senior vice president of the company’s operations in Wales, Scotland and Ireland, argued that the Welsh government's aims to transform itself to a leading digital nation required both economic development, as well digital innovation to support efficient and effective public services.

“Outside of London, Wales has the fastest-growing digital economy in Britain. New digital enterprises are being formed and there are world-class examples of innovation and digital leadership here on our doorstep,” he said.

“Of course, there are challenges. Still more needs to be done to ensure digital reach and keep building skills and awareness in our communities. Yet research proves that the appetite is there – especially among Wales’ discerning, and demanding, service users.”

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