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Written by David Brunnen   
Sunday, 17 June 2012 14:10

Head of CommunicationsWhen a considered and academically rigorous history of Britain’s digital transformation is compiled in 2033 it would seem unlikely that I will still be around to remind researchers of a small but poignant moment that deserves recognition.

In the on-line world there are already many technological timelines sponsored by corporates and universities seeking to preserve their legacies and to lay the marketing foundations for future folklore.

Reading these timelines it seems that their compilers must have lived in a parallel universe - the records rarely correspond to one’s own experiences and recollections. For the most part, they are product-centric – glorifying design and production but not properly assessing the outcomes, the impacts, the ‘creative damage’, of enabled disruption that flows from groundbreaking digital innovation.

Each of us can recall personal penny-dropping moments when we clicked, when we understood and took ahold of digital dimensions that we had previously been unable to grasp.

Suddenly enabled by some newfound facility, one that almost instantly we reclassify as mundane, we sense the impact on our daily lives.  For each of us the levels of awareness, discovery, absorption and application, vary – with some folk way ahead in digital competence and those at the back struggling to keep up.

In our digitalised economy, with the leaders skipping on ahead, it is those at the back for whom we should have the greatest concern.  Digital exclusion is not the preserve of the ‘less advantaged’ – although it will probably ensure that they stay that way.  Digital exclusion – the ‘digital divide’ - also infects thousands of smaller business owners, many blissfully unaware of their personal ‘digital deficit’ and even less aware of a wider infrastructural deficit that is holding back national and international economic health.

The educational challenges are not unrecognized by governments.  From their perspective the prospects for greater efficiencies in all manner of state services are held back by the need still to address the off-line and disconnected segments of society.  In urging investment, growth and confidence, on those who make the economy go round, the government is only too well aware of international competition.

These are all big issues. Very gradually clever people are waking up to the need to address the ‘digital deficit’ as an enabling pre-requisite for dealing with all other sorts of deficits.  But, no matter how good the national infrastructure might become, how smart and better designed the technology, it is only by using it that each of us comes to understand the impacts and the differences this can make for our own health, our economy, our environment and community.

That is why we should remember this week’s very small penny-dropping moment.

Martha PayneThe official strictures against nine-year old Martha Payne’s blog, reviewing the quality of her school meals, provoked a two million strong 'wake up' call for those with little or no idea of unbounded digital citizenship and empowerment.

The subsequent official ‘U-turn’ defused the time bomb and signaled a small but very widely reported step in digital awareness.

We will probably, I fear, forget the Oliver Twisteria around the adequacy of school meals but the massive impact on local government minds of this very small everyday example of ‘creative disruption’, this digital 'Wake-Up call', will live on.

When, in 2033, the history of this era of digital transformation is written, Martha will be 30.  She will, at least, deserve a footnote in the chapter on a nation waking up.

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Picture credit: pcmag

Update 17 July 2012:  The BBC Radio 4 Food Programme devoted an entire episode to issues raised by Martha's 'Never Seconds' blog.  Download the podcast (run time 28 minutes) here.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 06:17
 

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