Shadow digital minister Liam Byrne launches ‘slightly mad experiment’ to set Labour’s digital agenda

Written by Sam Trendall on 13 December 2017 in News

Byrne unveils a crowdsourcing initiative to gather ideas for the UK’s technology future

People's Plan website - Image credit: Liam Byrne/People's Plan

Labour's shadow digital minister Liam Byrne has unveiled the People’s Plan, a crowdsourcing initiative it hopes will help create its next wave of digital policy.

Byrne has launched a website, where registered users can put forward ideas, or suggest additions or alterations to the ideas of others.

The site will also host regular ‘viewpoint’ videos, with a range of commentators offering their thoughts on how to make the UK “the world’s most advanced digital society”.

Early contributions have been made by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, anti-extremism activist Sajda Mughal, and computer scientist Dr Sue Black.

Discussion will also be promoted by devoting months to certain topics, such as digital skills, cybercrime, or starting a new business. 

Ideas are grouped into areas, including trust, infrastructure, skills, security, jobs, and government.

The plan is that ideas generated via the People’s Plan will feed directly into a digital policy green paper that Labour intends to publish in July. 

The launch of the initiative at a national level follows a similar scheme in the West Midlands earlier this year, which shadow digital minister described as “the most interesting thing I have ever done in 25 years of doing policy”.

“I became convinced that it would be ludicrous for me to try and make digital policy in a way that wasn’t digital,” he added.

“[The old] model of policymaking is totally and utterly out of date. Digital democracy is opening up the policymaking process in a radical new way.”

But the People’s Plan is not just intended to help policymakers from Byrne’s side of the house.

“We have to make particular choices in terms of what we pull out and use in the manifesto,” he said.

“There will definitely be ideas in there that will not share key Labour values.

“I have launched this as a parliamentarian, as much as anything else. This is available to anyone.

“I will pull out the stuff that rhymes and chimes with the stuff that we want to present, but the nature of it being transparent is that people can [use the ideas as they wish].”

While he remained optimistic about the party’s plan to design the policy that would deliver those goals, Byrne acknowledged that it is not without its risks. 

He said: “It may be a complete disaster – we may fail dramatically. It may be taken apart by the Russians. But we will learn a bunch of stuff doing this.

“I hope you will join me in this slightly mad experiment.”

Read the full feature on Holyrood's sister site PublicTechnology.net

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