The UK has joined nine other governments around the world in signing an agreement to cooperate on the delivery of the transformation of public services.
The pact, signed on behalf of this country by tech and digital economy minister Chris Philp, includes a commitment to establish working groups in the areas of data, artificial intelligence, and digital identity.
The countries also agreed that innovation should be sustainable, inclusive and values-driven
Philp was joined in signing the document by ministerial counterparts from Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Republic of Korea and Uruguay. The leaders met at a virtual annual gathering of the Digital Nations alliance that, this year, was chaired by the UK.
“The last eighteen months have proven that digital transformation is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, but an essential tool with the potential to improve lives by building more efficient and innovative public services,” Philp said. “The UK is committed to harnessing the latest technology to deliver more on people’s priorities and level up the country, so it was a privilege to host this year’s Digital Nations summit to share insights with member countries and learn from their experience.”
The so-called Data 360 Working Group will particularly focus on lessons learned via the use and sharing of information during the coronavirus crisis.
“The Covid 19 pandemic has reinforced the role of data as a vital asset, underpinning effective and responsive digital government, enabling evidence-based decision-making and policy-making, and innovation,” said the ministers’ joint statement. “It has also underscored the potential of responsible data use, which effectively balances considerations including public trust, privacy, security and innovation. We welcome ongoing cooperation within the Digital Nations Data 360 Working Group, including efforts to learn lessons from Digital Nations member countries’ use of data in the context of the pandemic.”
The digital identity working group will see participating nations “explore opportunities for interoperability and facilitate the cross-border use of digital identities in the future”, while the AI group will “affirm the importance of fostering responsible AI development and use in the public sector, and building capabilities and skills”.
The group dedicated to sustainable government IT has been created in recognition “that our institutions have a unique opportunity through our cooperation in the Digital Nations to champion the reduction of the environmental footprint of hardware and software across the whole lifecycle”.
“We therefore endorse the Digital Nations Shared Approach to Sustainable Digital Government, affirming the principles contained therein, and commit to strive towards their fulfilment,” the statement added. “We agree to work together to build and promote a shared understanding of more sustainable digital transformation.”
The group’s work on innovation is intended to focus on inclusivity, shared values – such as transparency, ethical use of data, and the protection of human rights – and the needs of the citizens.
“We remain committed to putting people at the centre of digital transformation,” the group said. “We will continue to deliver inclusive policies that narrow the digital divides: this includes widening access to the Internet and to digital tools and technologies, enhancing our digital infrastructure to reach underserved communities, building digital skills and digital confidence, and designing for accessibility. We recognise our responsibility to ensure no individual is left behind as we accelerate the digital transformation of our governments.”
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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.