Digital strategy – a creative challenge

The UK government has launched a consultation on its digital strategy. Ed Vaizey, the Digital Economy Minister, has written a blog to launch it. He says there are four things the UK needs to get right and it’s great news because they reflect and strengthen the goals of The Copyright Hub which are already helping deliver the government’s vision.

The Hub was set up with the intention of creating opportunity for the entire UK economy – a contribution to shared public infrastructure which will unlock countless opportunities. We have made great progress, and now face the challenge of turning our technology into a large number of practical applications.

So now is a good moment to stand back and look at the work we’re doing in the context of Ed’s four priorities, then ask the question: what more can we do to deliver the UK’s digital opportunity?

One of the Government’s priorities is to unlock digital growth for everyone, not just tech entrepreneurs. This sits alongside The Copyright Hub’s desire to make copyright – which is something which automatically belongs to every creator – a truly functional freedom which creators can use in whatever way they want. So we’re already helping deliver this goal and with more support can do more.

Ed also wants technology to transform government. This is another goal which, in a small way, was anticipated as part of the Hargreaves review when the government in their response to the report committed to ensure “Crown copyright materials are available via [The Copyright Hub] from day one… and will encourage public bodies to do likewise.” We’re ready, and we are pushing the government on this because it will help drive the Hub to scale sooner as well as contributing to the goal of transforming government.

Alongside this the government wants technology to transform day to day life. The technology underlying the Hub can make a major contribution to this – way beyond copyright. At its heart the Hub is a way of machines talking about, and agreeing, permissions. We’re focused on permission to use someone’s copyright work – and this feeds directly into some of the things mentioned by Ed in his blog such as use of content in education MOOCs. But actually the applications are more generic than this. Permission to access someone’s medical records. Permission to track their activity or use data about them to generate commercial offers or ads.

Our technology, created as an open set of software and tools and implemented first in the field of copyright, can be in the vanguard of defining and driving the next phase of the internet – one where everyone has much greater  freedom to define the ways in which their data can be used, and where much more value can be created and fairly shared as a result. So we’re already ahead of the game in data management.

The last thing Ed mentions in his blog is building foundations. That is quintessentially what the Hub does.  Without strong foundations, which are a form of shared infrastructure, nothing happens online. And our existing foundations are not deep or strong enough.

From our perspective, the Hub can be part of the foundations of a successful digital society. If the government gets behind us we can help deliver on all of Ed’s priorities. That is going to take confidence and courage.

The government was responsible for creating the Hub. Now it can take on responsibility for its future success. We in the UK can be leaders, we can help define and build the next phase of the internet: as a nation we are among the best positioned to benefit from it. But we won’t achieve anything by standing on the sidelines waiting for someone else to make the first move.

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