The All Party Group on the Digital Economy is up and running at Westminster and we’ve started to put together a plan of events and briefings. Our website will go live shortly but, in the meantime, I thought I’d use this blog to flag up a meeting at the House of Commons on 27th July which people might be interested in attending. While the group has a large number of MPs and Peers already, we’re keen for our work to be completely inclusive. The idea is to serve as a useful and constructive forum for wide discussion around both the specific issues which extend from the shortfalls of the DE Act and for those many issues (including those around the corner we haven’t begun to think of yet) which are arising daily as consequences of the digital environment as a whole. It’s pretty clear that there are some perceived dividing lines between content producers and content distributors, but it’s equally clear that even that neat dichotomy means less the more you think about emerging trends, and even about things upon us now (see the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones on net neutrality, for example). The meeting on 27th (which will include representatives from across those industries affected by the DE Act) will serve, I hope, as a primer for the work and events we’ll be carrying out in the coming months. It’d also be great to get people’s views on what we should be concentrating our fire on, both in legislative terms and in terms of helping to find intelligent early solutions to DE related issues which affect everyone’s lives.
From my own perspective, which isn’t massively technical, DE issues which arise are in some ways a lot less about gadgetry (though it’s increasingly important to have command of at least the basics) and more about understanding how people behave, what they want, what they need. At the moment, DE matters are still the preserve of a fairly small, technically-literate community. Now, though, much like the ‘greening’ imperatives of the last few years, DE matters need to be mainstreamed into pretty much all walks of life. Legislators are, for one group, miles off of understanding this right now and that, of course, has to change. But the nature of discourse more widely needs to change too. For example, I’m interested in how democracy and governance can be enhanced through new information flows yet I’m struck by how many web-based sources and campaigns start with simplistic ‘objective’ facts and figures which amount to false premises for debate yet are often presented in such stark and shrill terms that they sometimes seem to be more about making a noise (and building traffic for particular sites) than about reaching any edifying conclusions or harnessing the DE to change things for the better. It seems to me that there’s often a lack of intelligent, and empathetic, discussion around what are potentially the most profound changes in our society – not because anyone wants it that way, more because things need a bit of an evolution spurt now. You might disagree with that, but if you don’t like my opinion I have plenty of others (boom boom). It also seems to me that right now quite a lot of legislators (of all parties) and interest groups are taking an unintentionally negative view of human nature and behaviour when they approach DE issues – that really does have to change.
Anyway, if you’d like to come to the event (we have a limited room capacity) then let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as you can and I’ll fill the thing up on a first come-first served basis. If it does fill up and some people are disappointed, then I’ll make sure they are top of the list for the next event – there’s going to be bags of them. Finally, I’m very conscious that London isn’t convenient for everyone (!) so some of our events will be held around the country.
Meanwhile, thanks for your interest and I hope you’ll get involved with the group in one way or another.
(Chair, APPG on Digital Economy; and for Vice-Chair – Julian Huppert MP)