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I’m live blogging Thinking Digital’s early morning coffee with Chi Onwurah (left) – the Labour MP for Newcastle currently leading the Digital Government Review. The session is chaired by Dr Joanna Berry (right), Director of Engagement at Newcastle University Business School. We’re about to start – please keep refreshing the page for updates. [And please also note: the conversation is paraphrased not direct verbatim].

7.50am: Thinking Digital founder Herb Kim kicks off: thank you everyone for coming despite the rain and early start, and possibly a few beverages after lunch yesterday […] Let me start by introducing Dr Joanna Berry, director of Engagement at Newcastle business school. Great to welcome her on stage for the first time.

Joanna: thanks for turning up at silly O’Clock in the rain. Chi’s going to introduce herself because her background and legacy gives good illustration for what we’re going to do today. I was born in Hartlepool, did my first degree and then went into industry. Set up a dotcom company. Came back to do my MBA and PhD, looking at the impact of technology on the music industry. Changing nature of value in the creative industries. My son is 13 and his future is going to be so radically different because of the way tech underpins his life. As William Gibson said, the future is here it’s just not evenly distributed yet. Will hand you over to Chi so she can tell you more about her background. And we need you, we need your brains – you are the geek elite – though I prefer to think of you as digerati – I don’t want any shy bairns in the audience. This is your opportunity.

0758: Chi: Thanks for that intro. First time I’ve heard my legacy talked about (history maybe?). If I wasn’t here I’d have to be on the streets of Newcastle handed out leaflets – please go and vote! [in the European Parliament elections]. I grew up in a poor part of Newcastle and all our opportunities came from the state – the school that educated me, my house was a council house, the hospital that helped my mum when she had cancer. Public services made a difference in my life. They had to be fought for and created and designed. That inspired me politically. I trained as an engineer and worked in telecoms for Nortel. Hardware devleopment software development, cable and wireless in france and the uk. The us during the dotcom boom. In nigeria building out GSM networks. post the dotcom boom, in nigeria I really saw how tech can change people’s lives for the better. That drove me back to public sector – I went to work for Ofcom – and then there was the chance to be selected for the local Labour party. They chose me. And I became the junior Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is a great opportunity. Networks are by their nature egalitarian – there is an opportunity to have digital services that are not customer focused or consumer focused. Citizens need to design the services they need in real time. The internet is an amplifier. It doens’t change human nature but it entrenches differences. If we have a digital divide. That will be entrenched. Digital government without digital inclusion is a return to a 19th century form of democracy. We are not going to go back to those days. Not back to an exclusive divided country.

0806: Joanna: There are 9m adults in Uk who lack basic online skills. How do we remedy that?

[We pause for a moment as audience mikes aren’t working and the audience doesn’t have pastries – Chi symbolically refuses to eat her pastry until the audience has some]

0809: Audience question: It’s like these pastries – I don’t actually want one. What if I don’t want to use government digital services?

Chi: There are opportunities online and they need to be accessible/ designed for all. The market will supply to those who can afford it. But the government needs to help those who can’t. For example, you have disabled access. That design challenge is something that the great people involved in the digital world should be able to meet.

0810: Joanna: I wonder, do the large digital companies have some level of responsibility here? Next quesiton please.

Audience: the problem is a very complex one. There’s a range of things that has to happen. The Whistle Blower yesterday didn’t have all the answers, but what he did know is that we have to do something. A key part of the answer is education. There was a project in the US with high rate of birth deaths. Problem traced back to mothers who weren’t learning in school about nutritional needs of their future babies. We need to look at introducing (tech) as part of the curriculum.

Audience (Johnny): I’m concerned about the lost generation – like my father – 55 years old – he’s never been online.

Joanna: maybe Paul

Audience (Wadds): my point is one about networks and infrastructure. The current systems we have in place lack political imagination and also entrepreneurial vision. In my local area [Coquetdale] – broadband so slow – the market isn’t helping us and government isn’t.

Joanna: a very important prob in terms of inclusivity.

Audience (Theodara): We’ve been very tech focused without thinking of the human element. We need to give people confidence to go online. We’ve helped older people use smartphones in coffee mornings. I work with 14-18 year olds in school telling them about their digital footprints. But people are afraid.

Chi: yes, that personal touch very important for the extremely hard to reach.

Audience (Paul): at newcastle university we have a large digital research unit. martha lane fox tinder foundation so on been very helpful. key issue for older people is security. They’re very wary of putting information on the web. they assimilate information in different ways. Organisations who provdie don’t realise that – the public sector needs to show the way. We think of people over 50 as being frail with no access but often they are ones with more buying power than younger demographic.

Chi: interesting what Mariana said yesterday about the state needing to be entrepreneurial.

Audience (Mark Holmes): it’s not digital inclusion – the issue. It’s inclusion full stop. One community I deal with, unemployed people are going around knocking on doors helping others. Those people are lynchpins.

Chi: we haven’t numbered our call for evidence – but recognising existing community networks and supporting them ot have a presence online very important.

Audience (Hugh Griffiths): clearly a need on supply side not only for digital services but for people to be able to access via other mechanisms. A twitter comment just said that digital is a demand-side problem. My mother has gone online to communicate with her grandchildren. That’s enthused her.

0824: Chi: How many of you feel a responsibility to disseminate/ diffuse the knowledge you have through your community?

[Good show of hands]

So most of you – that’s good – but maybe we need to provide more opportunities to help you do that.

Audience (Andy): This issue is largely down to institutional problems. It’s a very Microsoft-centric world so if you come up with something that isn’t, it’s very tough getting it through the barriers. The formula is, it’s got to be easy to do. The whole approach of Microsoft has too many front-end assumptions to engage with.

Audience: Possibly controversial but can we please drop the term “information technology”? The main thing I come across is people say “ughh – computers!” but it’s not about computers – it’s about communicating. People on the ground don’t care whether it’s Microsoft, Apple or Linux.

Audience (Vicky from Orange Bus): Digital literacy is a temporal state. There needs to always be a way to speak to a person.

Chi: The other important part about digital transformation is that it will reduce costs. If we can strip out some of the costs – liberate people to do what they do uniquely – then we’ll get the best return.

Joanne: Which moves us neatly into the call for evidence for the Digital Government Review.

Chi: the deadline is now 14th of June – extended from 30 May. Please contribute! This book from Newcastle Business School, Digital Government At Work argues for a digital architecture which combines local and national government which is two-way.

Audience (Lauren): I run a website for older people – we provide independent inpartial advice for older people. I’ve made the website more accessible by working with the people who use it. We’ve increased the access through mobile technology. We’ve made sure there are taster sessions – people can use an ipad, acccess a human or have info printed out for them. A combination of online and partnership.

Audience (Andy): The smart card initiative was wrecked – turned into something to brand immigrants. All gov initiative need to be designed with public needs in mind.

Audience: What does government do well? The VAT website is absolutely brilliant where it falls down is where I need to interogate it for information – understand new rulings, ask the website for advice. Woudl love to see an Ask Watson facility.

Joanna: yes tech is great but we need people – theme. Chi can you talk about citizens needing to make sure information about them is accurate? Do multiple philanderers have rights for example.

Chi: This is a fundamental values issue. What is data? Big data is even more important in some ways that the Internet. And separate from it. Coming from an oil producing nation, I firmly believe the people need a stake in the wealth they create. Does anyone actually read Facebook’s terms and conditions when they sign up? Legally this area of data is not understood. We’re looking at the legal framework for this. If you want gmail for free, you’re prepared for them to be read – it’s great if you know about it, but people don’t.

Audience (Hugh Griffiths): At no stage was the current European legisltation discussed yesterday. Any data stored across European footprint, individuals will be required to opt in to agree that that data can be stored. There’ll be a huge debate about privacy. In itself it will be educative. We’ll then have a far better informed public.

0840: Chi: the challenge is not yet passed. We need to start the debate now. I want the debate to be here rather than in response to a European directive. legislation can put huge burden on public/ private sector.

Audience (Elly Dowling): What are your plans for open data? Has the potential to solve a lot of problems.

Chi: That’s really important – there’s a difference between open data and big data. This government has an open data sharing policy, which we support – that’s not the same as sharing NHS data with the private sector. Open data is a platform for innovation. Stella Creasy putting some amendments and we have Open Data Institute advising us.

Joanna: People power is really important.

Audience (Declan): Libraries and other community services are being closed at a massive rate. How can we help people in their communities?

Chi: People who use libraries are already engaged. We need to reach the people who don’t use libraries. Every time the private sector touches a person, it’s an opportunity to sell, to up sell. We need to find a way of doing this in government – whether it’s in the library or the job centre, we need to engage more.

One pre-requisite for this is better skilled beaurocrats and civil servants to be better trained.

Joanna: Report is on twitter @Digigovreview – if you have any ideas about empowering citizens, please get in touch. Thank you so much for all being here this morning.