Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport
Digital is changing our lives, and the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly increased the rate of this change. Digital is now an essential part of our everyday lives and being able to access online services is normal.
The Digital Strategy for Wales, published today, sets out the Welsh Government’s vision and ambition for a coordinated digital approach in Wales to make things better for people, communities and businesses.
Taking a digital approach is not just about computers or technology, it is about looking at old problems in new ways using a whole range of new tools and resources available to us. It is about designing public services around what users actually need, not just what organisations think they need; taking advantage of digital innovation to help businesses succeed; and, giving people the opportunity to develop digital skills and confidence to participate in everyday activities and be part of the modern workplace.
The COVID-19 pandemic required public services across Wales and the rest of the UK to rapidly transform the way they work.
Over the past couple of years the Welsh Government has invested in digital transformation in Wales. We launched the Centre for Digital Public Services and appointed new Chief Digital Officers for Local Government and Welsh Government, with one to follow for Health. My Ministerial colleagues and I have invested significantly in Digital Health (£75m), our Hwb EdTech programme (£92m over the last two financial years and £15m this year), Digital Infrastructure (£26m), digital support for business (£2m), the Centre for Digital Public Services (£4.9m) and Digital Inclusion (£2m).
We want to build on this momentum to create modern, efficient, bilingual and streamlined public services and support the best outcomes for future generations.
Improving service delivery must be based on the better use of data. The strategy details how we must work collaboratively, making sure all data is used ethically and shared effectively, has consistent standards, is protected and gets to where it needs to go. This will support seamless services for the professionals and people who use them.
We also want to support people to gain digital confidence to access the internet and enjoy the many benefits offered in a digital world. We already know that providing devices or connectivity alone is not the answer and we will learn from those who are digitally excluded and listen to the needs from all population groups or those with limited digital access, basic digital skills and confidence. We want everybody to develop digital skills at the earliest possible opportunity so that they are confident in exploiting the tools and technologies that surround them.
The Welsh Government recognises the importance of digital to ensure that Wales’ economy remains competitive in a global market while spreading wealth, resilience and well-being across Wales. We will support businesses to accelerate the adoption of digital to work smarter and drive innovation, making sure they are in the best position to take full advantage of the opportunities ahead.
Critical to the delivery of this whole strategy is the underlying infrastructure. This infrastructure is the foundation we need to build good quality digital services. Whilst digital connectivity and telecommunications policy are the responsibility of the UK Government, we will continue to invest to support service delivery where there is a case for it. We must, however, ensure that the UK Government fulfils its own responsibilities in Wales.
The Digital Strategy sets out the outcomes we want to see and how we intend to achieve them. The delivery plan, which is published alongside the strategy, details the key actions we will take to achieve those outcomes. We will take an iterative approach to the delivery plan, updating it regularly to reflect changing priorities.
We published a series of blogs about the draft digital strategy to crowd source ideas. The final version reflects the collaborative approach we have taken and has been strengthened by the wide range of ideas and opinions we received from people, organisations and representative bodies.
I am determined that this is just the start of continued conversations with people, communities, organisations and businesses as we build a truly digital Wales.