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Whitehall kick starts digital strategy

Minister juggles responsibility for e-inclusion and Wales

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A new Cabinet committee on IT and information security is aiming to publish a digital strategy for government this summer.

In his first speech as minister for digital inclusion, Paul Murphy MP said: "We are going to be working very hard between now and the summer recess to see if we can come out with government plan which all of us can related to."

The committee, made up of ministers from across Whitehall and chaired by Murphy, met for the first time last week. He said everyone at the meeting had been very positive about what they could do in their own departments.

"We have as our mission statement, as you call it these days, to coordinate policies and develop a coherent strategy to ensure that all citizens – especially the disadvantaged – benefit from the use of digital technologies," Murphy said in his speech to the National Digital Inclusion Conference.

Murphy, who is also secretary of state for Wales, said his digital inclusion role aims to ensure that IT can improve people's lives in all the different areas that government has a stake.

In particular, he said it was very important that access to technology was not reserved for the middle classes. "If you examine the 17 million people who are not given access to the internet, the chances are that they are likely to come from older groups and those which are socially and economically disadvantaged, or geographically disadvantaged."

Murphy, who is MP for Torfaen in south Wales, referred to the development of telemedicine in the country as a technology success story. He said it had been able to deliver health services to isolated communities and that Wales was now teaching its counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland about how telemedicine can be adopted.

He also pointed out how IT facilities in community centres, public libraries, and local education colleges are enabling people from all walks of life to learn how to use computers and access the internet.

Although government has achieved much in ensuring that people's lives are improved through technology, there is a great deal it can do in terms of including people in this "great new exciting technological age that we all live in", Murphy said.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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