CHAPTER 6 THE AGENDA FOR ACTION
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
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
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).
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
6.11 The Government should express its support for the Platform
for Internet Content Selection as an industry standard (paragraph
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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).
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
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
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).