New Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee to meet for the first time A group of councillors charged with leading Norfolk County Council’s work to improve digital connectivity in the county and exploit the opportunities new technology presents will meet for the first time on Monday, 18 September. The Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee was created by the council this summer and will be accountable for a number of key areas including: – The council’s and BT’s Better Broadband for Norfolk and its ambition to extend access to superfast broadband to at least 95% of homes and businesses by 2020. – Norfolk County Council’s use of technology to deliver better 24/7 online personalised services – Championing Norfolk’s ambition to accelerate digital and mobile connectivity and lobby Government and the telecoms industry to maximise new opportunities such as 5G wireless technology. At Monday’s meeting the committee will receive a report which provides an update on digital inclusion in Norfolk. Digital inclusion refers to the ability and appetite of individuals and communities to access and use digital media, such as the internet, to support in accessing services, achieving higher levels of education, improving employment opportunities, finding cheaper goods and products, and finding new information, advice and entertainment options. As well as having potentially significant benefits to individuals, it is estimated that local government in the UK could save more than £420 million through digitising transactions with residents. The report sets out that there are a number of potential barriers to digital inclusion. As well as more practical issues, such as physical access and cost, confidence in using the internet and new technology can be a major factor, particularly in carrying out certain functions like banking or buying goods and services. National research suggests that at least 75 per cent of people in Norfolk have what are referred to the five ‘basic digital skills’ – which refer to using technology and the internet to manage information, communicate, carry out transactions, problem solve and create content. However, this still means that nearly one in four people in the county cannot currently do at least one of these tasks. Norfolk County Council has a number of ongoing initiatives that are designed to improve digital inclusion. As well as its Better Broadband for Norfolk programme, the council’s libraries and community learning services (formerly adult education) offer a range of courses to give people of all ages the skills and ability to get online and use the internet confidently and safely. Plans are being made to further extend this offer, including running sessions to help people familiarise themselves with their own devices and working with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and local police to help keep people safe online. Tom Garrod, Chairman of the Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee, said: “Being able to access digital and online services is becoming crucial and we don’t want anyone in Norfolk to be disadvantaged by not having the tools or confidence to make use of them. Between our Better Broadband for Norfolk programme and the digital learning opportunities we provide, we’re making some great strides in improving digital inclusion and I’m keen for this committee to help identify any other areas where we can make a positive impact.” At the meeting, members of the committee will also receive an update on the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme and a report on progress digitising many of the council’s customer facing services. The Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee will meet at 10am on Monday, 18 September in the Edwards Room at County Hall in Norwich. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

from Tom Garrod

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