Agenda for Action in the UK:  Continued


The Information Society Task Force

6.1 The results of the Cabinet Committee GEN 37's work should be given a higher profile, as should the role of its Chairman. GEN 37 should produce and publish regular policy reports (paragraph 5.6).

6.2 The Central Information Technology Unit should involve all Government departments and agencies and local government authorities in a nation-wide survey of the possible benefits and disbenefits of developing a National Information Infrastructure and its applications in the UK (paragraph 5.8).

6.3 To assist the Chairman of GEN 37, and to encourage a nation-wide debate on the creation of an Information Society, the Government should appoint a UK Information Society Task Force (ISTF) by the end of 1996. Its two main functions should be to act as a think tank to Government, and to ventilate views on the creation and development of the UK Information Society. The ISTF should have the task of identifying barriers to the development of the UK Information Society, and recommending the appropriate remedies. One of its first jobs should be to draw up a policy document setting out its advice to the Government for a UK agenda for action, involving both the private and the public sector (paragraphs 5.12-5.13).

6.4 The ISTF should be chaired by an enthusiast. Its members should be drawn from government (including regulatory bodies), industry, commerce, consumer and academic interests. Since the development of the Information Society should be a national objective, the Task Force should represent the full diversity of interests, expertise and opinions across society as a whole (paragraphs 5.12 and 5.14-5.15).

6.5 ISTF reports should usually be made public, and should be presented to Parliament as well as to the Cabinet Committee. Information about the activities and publications of the ISTF should be made available on a widely-publicised site on the World Wide Web. This should include an email address encouraging citizens to participate in a nation-wide debate on the shaping of a UK Information Infrastructure. It should include links to other key web pages, so that, for example, a teacher could use the ISTF site as an easy access point for specialist advice on in-service training, IT applications, assistance available from charitable bodies, etc (paragraphs 5.12-5.13).

6.6 Specific public sector infrastructure targets for the UK, for example for connecting all schools to the Internet, and all GP practices to their local hospitals, should be agreed between Government and the private sector. The ISTF should play a crucial role in proposing and monitoring the delivery of policy objectives, thus both helping and stimulating GEN 37 to deliver the necessary decisions in government (paragraphs 5.16-5.17).

Regulatory framework

6.7 The restrictions on telecommunications companies either conveying or providing broadcast entertainment services in their own right should be reviewed as a matter of urgency, with the aim that both reviews should be completed by 1998. Full competition should be allowed from 2001 (paragraph 5.28).

6.8 A new regulatory regime for both telecommunications and broadcasting will be needed by 1998, distinguishing between issues relating to competition in the provision of networks and services, and issues relating to content (paragraph 5.48).

6.9 The Internet Service Providers' Association should implement a Code of Practice covering the problem of unacceptable content, including racist and anti-semitic material, on the Internet (paragraphs 5.50 and 5.52).

6.10 The Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services should be used as a model for consumer protection in Internet-based and other similar services (paragraph 5.50).

6.11 The Government should express its support for the Platform for Internet Content Selection as an industry standard (paragraph 5.51).


6.12 Pilot projects, such as the Cambridge Childcare Project, should be developed by public/private partnerships with a view to placing a "front end" across the vertical divisions of government departments, thereby creating a virtual "one-stop-shop" for those seeking information (paragraphs 5.53-5.54).

6.13 The Department of Trade and Industry should develop a Content Foresight Initiative as part of its Technology Foresight programme (paragraph 5.57).

6.14 All Government publications providing information of widespread interest to citizens should be made available free of charge in electronic form. The Government should set all Departments and Agencies minimum standards for the electronic publication of information (paragraphs 5.60-5.62).

6.15 All Government Green Papers should be available for consultation electronically (paragraph 5.61).

6.16 The Department of Trade and Industry should establish a Copyright Working Party to examine concerns about the Crown Copyright regime (paragraph 5.63).

Towards universal access

6.17 Steps must be taken to limit the development of information "haves", "have nots" and "cannots" in the UK. The ISTF should consider whether the community service requirements in BT's universal service obligation should be extended (paragraphs 5.64-5.69).

6.18 Terminals allowing Internet access should be established in all public libraries and in a variety of other public areas, such as post offices and town halls. The possibility of developing FreeNets run by public/private partnerships, along the lines of the American and Canadian models, should be examined (paragraphs 5.65-5.66).

6.19 The Citizens Advice Bureaux should be linked to an on-line database system (paragraph 5.67).

6.20 A programme of information-sharing and mutual assistance between Commonwealth countries in developing the use of Information Superhighways should be set up (paragraph 5.70).


6.21 Companies nation-wide should support the Free Computers for Education scheme wherever possible, and all Government Departments and Agencies should allow suitable equipment which is no longer needed to be recycled in this way (paragraph 5.72).

6.22 All initial teacher training courses should contain an IT module as an essential requirement. The Government should support the development of aids to in-service IT training for teachers, including video and CD-ROM (paragraphs 5.73-5.74).

6.23 Out-sourced services for schools, enabling them to pay a fixed, subsidised rate for a level of service including a specified band width and help-desk support, should be developed (paragraph 5.74).

6.24 The need to develop educational content addressing British curriculum requirements should be addressed by a targeted R&D programme, for which public funding should be made available to encourage private sector initiatives in this area (paragraph 5.75).

6.25 All new school building projects involving classrooms, laboratories or libraries should incorporate the installation of a local area network. Consideration should be given to including a requirement to cable schools in all new licences to cable companies (paragraph 5.76).

6.26 Selected schools should keep suitably-equipped classrooms open "after hours" to allow homework to be done on site. Special financial provision should be made available to support computer access in after-school clubs, since these are mostly used by poorer households (paragraph 5.77).

6.27 We recommend that a study be undertaken to assess the likely need for business access to SuperJANET, and, if a clear need is identified, that the Department of Trade and Industry and Department for Education and Employment consider funding mechanisms that might be appropriate to permit such access (paragraph 5.79).

6.28 UKERNA should take steps to ensure that British academic traffic has sufficient protected international bandwidth to support national research programmes, possibly by adopting a similar approach to the US National Science Foundation (paragraph 5.80).

Health Care

6.29 The Department of Health should set in place policy guidelines to encourage the development of facilities for GPs to book hospital appointments on-line. These guidelines should incorporate proposals for networking of GP practices, consultants and hospitals within a secure intranet system designed to ensure confidentiality (paragraph 5.81).

6.30 The Government should legitimise the keeping of medical records uniquely in machine-readable form, subject to strict safeguards concerning security, durability and back-up procedures, by removing the legal requirement for GPs to make records on paper (paragraph 5.82).

6.31 The Department of Health should draw up a clear plan of action to fulfil its own estimate that using e-mail for messaging and transmission of forms in the NHS could save at least £100 million a year (paragraph 5.83).

6.32 The standards applying to the security of health related information within the NHS Wide Network should apply equally to local authorities and the private sector (paragraph 5.84).

6.33 The use of an NHS intranet to disseminate new health warnings should be investigated (paragraph 5.85).

Environmental benefits

6.34 The Government should undertake research into the possibility of increasing flexi-working (working from home on certain days only), particularly on days when air pollution levels are expected to be high. The Government itself, as a major employer, could take a lead in encouraging this practice (paragraph 5.87).

6.35 The use of IT to reduce unnecessary use of paper whilst at the same time increasing efficiency, for example through the use of electronic filing systems, should be encouraged. Again, this is an area in which Government could lead by example (paragraph 5.88).

Electronic publishing and archiving

6.36 Electronic publications, which currently attract full-rate VAT in the UK, should be made subject to zero-rate VAT, to put them on a par with printed books and journals (paragraph 5.89).

6.37 Legislation should be introduced to extend the principle of legal deposit of publications in certain UK libraries to non-print materials (paragraph 5.90).

Encryption and verification

6.38 Strong, end-to-end encryption must be opened up to business and commercial users as quickly as possible, subject to certain safeguards. We therefore welcome the Government's announcement on 10 June 1996 proposing the licensing of Trusted Third Parties (paragraph 5.91).

6.39 The Government must join with other EU Member States in putting pressure on the USA to relax its restrictions on the export of encryption technology (paragraph 5.92).


6.40 We recommend the compilation of an electronic register of bodies giving grants to facilitate the use of Information Technology in the United Kingdom (paragraph 5.94).


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