A recent interview with Computer Weekly magazine saw Joan Miller, Director of UK Parliamentary ICT, share her thoughts on how Parliament should be using technology today, as well as the challenges of digital in an evolving world. The interview is below.
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The other speakers on the panel are: Bill McCluggage, Irish Government CIO, Department of Public Expenditure & Reform; Michael Eaton, Deputy Director, ICT Business Strategy & Planning, Welsh Government; Chris Price, Chief Information Officer, West Midlands Police Authority; Stephan Conaway, Chief Information Officer, London Borough of Brent.
Here are Joan’s thoughts:
Miller says she is excited about the prospect of a [digital democracy] commission: “Technology has become so much a part of how people work these days, not just an IT issue, it’s a business issue.”
She says the commission will allow MPs to think through the impact of current technology practices and future trends.
“I think the commission is an opportunity to look at the challenges,” she says. “The challenges are in an evolving world – are we ready for that evolving world?”
She believes there are many issues for Parliament to debate, including the use of technology and how that will change the way Parliamentarians works.
Her job role is to manage the internal technology in Parliament, providing all the applications, systems and devices used by the House of Commons and House of Lords.
She says we are living in a world overloaded with information from modern technology. Parliamentarians need to consider big data, how they select the information they need, which is useful, and how they will engage this information with the public.
“I think the mechanisms for accessing information has become easier, but the information has become more dense,” she says.
The digital divide
One concern the commission is determined to address is that of the digital divide. Society is divided by those who are connected to the internet and use it regularly, and those who do not use the internet and social networks. The government is aware of the problem, and is working through the commission and the Government Digital Service to solve it.
“Many MPs are using social networks and connecting directly with many members of the public,” says Miller. “That also has the opportunity to exclude people who are not involved with technology as much. What do we do with about the population who do or can’t have access to it?”
But Miller – who is hoping to provide evidence to the speaker’s commission – says the digital divide is not a new problem and has always been a challenge.
In the 1990s, Miller worked in local government at a time when there was talk about changing services in line with the development of the internet. “I was working in social services and providing services for older people,” she says. “It was quite difficult to see where the internet could help older people who didn’t have a computer.”