Today saw publication of Lord Carter’s long-awaited white paper expounding the government’s ambition for the UK to become ‘one of the world’s leading digital knowledge economies’.
By way of a quick digression, the Digital Britain final report comes a week after Ofcom published research exploring access to the internet at home, which found that 70% of people aged 15+ have an internet connection where they live (Accessing the internet at home: A quantitative and qualitative study among people without the internet at home by Ipsos Mori).
Yet of those without access, 43% ‘would remain disconnected even if they were given a free PC and broadband connection’. These are the ‘self excluded’, who ‘tend to be older and retired and 61% have never used a computer’. Around another 30% say they’d like to get connected but cannot afford to do so (a group the report refers to as ‘the financially/resource excluded’).
Clearly the vision outlined in Digital Britain has a job and half to get the self-excluded online, and to ensure that no-one is prevented from participation in the 'digital future' by a lack of resources. "Broadband is becoming increasingly important to people's ability to participate in the economy and society," notes Ofcom's market development partner Peter Phillips. "The report shows that some creativity will be required if we wish to capture the imaginations of those who have yet to engage with the benefits the internet may bring."
Returning to the final Digital Britain white paper, I’ve barely managed to scratch the surface of the document. A thorough read through will have to wait until the weekend. But courtesy of the executive summary and the word find feature in my PDF reader (digital literacy in action...) I’ve been able to glean some snippets of interest from a film perspective.
First up, piracy. The UK Film Council has welcomed the ‘aggressive target of a 70% reduction in piracy over a year’ outlined in the report. But this is not strictly accurate. The report sets out plans for a reduction in unauthorised file sharing activity by at least 70% of those people notified by ISPs. The reduction in file sharing activity overall may be more or less than 70% as a result of this, as individuals will invariably be responsible for different levels of activity.
The white paper goes on to state that if the target of 70% is not met after one year, Ofcom will be empowered to ensure that ISPs take tougher action, like ‘blocking’, ‘capping’, ‘bandwidth shaping’, ‘content identification and filtering’. Use of thumb screws and water boarding were allegedly discarded in an earlier draft of the report.
Second, the white paper calls for examination of the case for tax relief ‘to promote the sustainable production for online or physical sale of culturally British video games’. This issues from the idea that video games ‘may in future have a cultural relevance to rival that of film.’
Maybe I’m getting old and out of touch (or maybe I’m just biased), but this sounds like a load of rot. Be that as it may, the idea of pegging video game tax relief to some sort of cultural test would put it on a par with the film tax credit currently available. So lawyers and accountants may well be big winners in Digital Britain. Nice to know some things never change, even in the white heat of technology.