Labour promises 'digital data review'

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Image caption,
The report says more libraries should provide internet access

A future Labour government would review how public data is accessed digitally to ensure it is "coherent and ethical", the party says.

Shadow Cabinet minister Chi Onwurah said the coalition's approach since 2010 had been "chaotic".

Labour, she said, would ensure greater inclusion and put people truly "in control" of how data was published.

Ministers say they are saving money by putting records online and plan to cut the numbers without internet access.

Ms Onwurah was speaking at the launch of an independent review into digital government by a group of technology experts and former regulators.

The report, which Labour will consider as part of its ongoing policy review, calls for more libraries and council offices to provide internet access and for regulator Ofcom to consider the case for a Universal Service Obligation for broadband, similar to that which requires Royal Mail to deliver letters to all addresses in the country six days a week.

Basic skills

The next government, it says, should aim to get an extra 4.9 million people online by 2020, which it says would save £189m a year in terms of the cost of delivering services.

Ms Onwurah, who has responsibilities for digital government, said if it regains power Labour would be the "most digital government ever".

"I welcome the recommendation to establish a review of data in government," she said.

"The current government's approach to data is chaotic. Ed Miliband has said that the presumption should be that everybody will own and have access to their own public sector data. We will build on that with a review that will establish a coherent and ethical approach to the use of data."

Research by the BBC earlier this year found 21% of Britain's population lack the basic digital skills required to realise the benefits of the internet

Ministers say they have done a lot to tackle "digital exclusion", through the work of the government's "digital champion" Martha Lane Fox and the Government Digital Service, which is seeking to transform government services online.

They have set a target of reducing the number of people who are offline by a quarter by 2016, eliminating "internet illiteracy" by 2020.