Gov urged to rework ‘unfit for purpose’ digital strategy

A House of Lords committee says a hybrid strategy is needed due to our increasing reliance on digital technology

The House of Lords Select Committee on COVID-19 has called on the government to take charge of a new hybrid strategy as its current digital strategy does not go far enough.

The committee believes this new strategy needs to be developed to recognise that more of citizen’s lives are, and will increasingly be a blend of online and offline interactions. It says this affects all government departments, which is why it is directly calling for the Cabinet Office and prime minister to take charge of the hybrid strategy.

These recommendations come as part of the committee’s report “Beyond Digital: Planning for a Hybrid World", which warns that more needs to be done to ensure that we all benefit from our increasing reliance on digital technology post-pandemic and that it does not lead to increasing inequality and marginalisation.

“The government’s current digital strategy is unfit for purpose to operate in our new hybrid post-pandemic society and it must adopt a new, truly hybrid strategy,” said Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, the chair of the committee.

“The development of this new strategy must be led centrally from the Cabinet Office, alongside the recognition that this issue goes beyond being considered from a purely ‘digital’ perspective and must be more fundamental than is currently being envisaged.”

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The committee outlined that the government should consider introducing a legal right to internet access and digital infrastructure, but should first immediately develop a scheme to provide affordable internet access to those in poverty and low incomes.

It also said that as part of this new hybrid strategy, the government should develop a genuinely hybrid healthcare service, giving patients the right to receive services online or offline and guaranteeing a minimum service standard for both offline and online healthcare services.

When developing this healthcare service, the government should also undertake a review of patients’ rights in hybrid healthcare provision, including its impact on accessibility, privacy and the triage between face-to-face and digital provision.

Lastly, the committee has asked the government to consult on strengthening the current legislative framework on employment rights, ensuring it’s suitable for the digital age, while also introducing new legislation to provide platform workers with enhanced employment rights.

Similarly, the ONS published its findings yesterday from its study on the shift to remote working during the pandemic. It found that those who worked from home did an average of six hours unpaid overtime per week, were more likely to work in the evenings and less than half as likely to be promoted. 

However, their average gross weekly pay was about 20% higher in 2020 than those who had never worked from home in their main job, and the sickness rate was 0.9% on average, compared to 2.2% for those who never worked from home.

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