Launching the strategy, Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, said the Digital Wales agenda is a central element of economic renewal and touches virtually every strand of public and private sector activity. It reflects the importance digital technologies now play in our lives.
“We need to equip our citizens to be digital citizens – to know how to exploit the technology while being safe. We need our businesses to exploit new technology to access new markets and to innovate and grow. We need our public sector to meet the changing needs of our citizens and businesses, delivering more efficient and more transparent services at lower cost.”
He emphasised there had been substantial progress in developing the digital economy in Wales but there was still a long way to go:
- A third of the adult population in Wales does not use the internet;
- Less than 40% of Welsh SMEs actually sell on-line;
- One in six Welsh employers consider the IT skills of their employees insufficient;
- Less than a quarter of the population currently use online public services;
- High speed broadband is not yet available in many parts of Wales.
He said taking Wales to the forefront of countries that are exploiting new technologies will be challenging, but the benefits would be substantial. To succeed, it is essential for all stakeholders - businesses, third sector, public sector and community groups - to work in partnership and focus on delivering the key priorities.
Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said that the Digital Wales strategy will help deliver the Assembly Government’s programme of Economic Renewal, which underlines the importance of first-class infrastructure and communications, such as Next Generation broadband and 3G+ mobile networks.
“The UK Government’s announcement earlier this week of superfast broadband hubs is a useful step towards fulfilling our own objectives – to ensure Next Generation broadband for all businesses by 2016, with access for households by 2020, ahead of EU targets,” he said.
"We will help more Welsh companies exploit these technologies to innovate, grow and access new markets especially in the creative industries, ICT and tourism sectors.
“The application of Information and Communications Technologies drives productivity and competitiveness across the whole of the economy and increased trade and globalisation is enabled by these technologies. In the decade to 2007, the value of ICT in Wales grew as much as 84% - it is now £1.2billion with the potential for as much again."
Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills, Lesley Griffiths, who chairs the Ministerial Steering Group on Delivering a Digital Wales described the launch as an important milestone but said it was just the start of creating a truly digital nation.
“The growth of our economy and the well-being of our citizens are now inexorably linked to advances in technology. We must be prepared to respond quickly to new opportunities and challenges that rapid technological change will continue to bring”
Lesley Griffiths also launched the Digital Inclusion Framework earlier today.
“Achieving digital inclusion is fundamental for a prosperous and sustainable society and lies at the heart of Digital Wales” she said. “We are committed to helping break down the barriers for those who are digitally excluded in Wales”.
Digital Wales addresses five key priority areas: the economy, public services, inclusion, skills and infrastructure. The aim is to:
- Ensure everyone can take advantage of digital technologies to improve their quality of life;
- Promote economic growth through wide scale application, innovation, commercialisation and exploitation of digital technologies by Welsh businesses, particularly the ICT and creative industries sectors;
- Deliver public services via digital channels that meet rising public expectations, that are more customer focussed, more efficient and effective, and less costly;
- Build a world-class digital infrastructure including ensuring that all businesses in Wales have access to next generation broadband by 2016 and all households by 2020;
- Enable people to get the necessary skills and competencies, from basic digital literacy to specialist ICT skills for industry.
For more information on Digital Wales and to let us have your ideas, go to our Digital Wales website.