Government digital strategy unlikely to be published before EU vote, says DCMS minister Ed Vaizey

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

By Colin Marrs

30 Mar 2016

The government’s long-awaited new digital strategy will not be published until after the referendum on the European Union, culture minister Ed Vaizey has said, as he called for a central government drive to join up the disparate technology initiatives being pursued by departments.

Speaking before a parliamentary select committee this month, Vaizey called for a "pause" to consider how the government coordinates its activity on digital.

“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," Vaizey told the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. “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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And the committee heard that the government’s new digital strategy – setting out how departments will improve their own online services as well as try and encourage growth in the wider UK digital sector – has “been drafted and is ready to go”.

But Vaizey told the committee that DCMS was "looking for a slot from Downing Street" before publishing, citing the EU vote as a reason for delay.

"Obviously we are affected by purdah and issues such as the Europan referendum that people seem to be getting quite exercised about. I imagine 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”.

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

He added: “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.”

Departments working on efforts to roll out broadband and mobile technology should also be encouraged to work together, he said. DCMS is currently leading work towards the government's pledge of ensuring that 95% of UK homes are able to access superfast broadband by the end of next year.

“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.

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