Government backs Impact Awards

Written by Julian Blake , Editor, Digital Agenda

The UK government has given its backing to DigitalAgenda’s Impact Awards, as DCMS joins our 2019 programme as an official partner in supporting projects using tech for good. Culture secretary Jeremy Wright confirmed the partnership in a speech today setting out a package of measures to help grow UK tech for social purpose.

DigitalAgenda’s Impact Awards, now in their third year, have official government support. Jeremy Wright, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, confirmed his department’s backing for our tech-for-good programme in a speech today at London’s British Library, that set out government plans to support UK social technology in the year ahead.

Addressing the Doteveryone Responsible Tech event, Wright said: “I am proud that we will be supporting this year’s DigitalAgenda Impact Awards as its official government partner. These awards, taking place in London on 7 March, will showcase the best innovations in responsible ‘tech for good’ from across UK businesses, government and non-profits.”

The government’s wider support for tech for good outlined today promises “measures to spark a wave of innovation in tech for social good”. These include £700,000 in support and mentoring for projects that deploy artificial intelligence to address challenges such as food waste and the illegal wildlife trade, as part of a world-first ‘data trust’ programme.

Also promised in the government’s measures is a new partnership with the Social Tech Trust to establish a fund of up to £30m to provide “access to finance and position the UK as a global leader in socially transformative tech”. A further £1m is being made available to “incentivise organisations to use tech to help tackle loneliness and bring communities together”.

The Impact Awards partnership brings DCMS into DigitalAgenda’s programme, adding its expertise to our judging process, as well as to our support programme for tech-for-good ventures across the year. That programme will back the 36 projects named this week as 2019 finalists through a range of network learning activities over the course of the year covering tech development, talent and investment. Those are the three key areas where for-good ventures have told us they need most support.

In his speech today, Wright added: “Technology is already making our lives easier in many ways but there is still so much untapped potential that we can deliver for social good. As a world leader in emerging technologies, the UK is best placed to foster these opportunities. The new policies announced today, backed by new funding, will encourage industry to deliver technological innovation to address issues as diverse as animal poaching, food waste and loneliness.”

The programme outlined today echoes sentiments from government’s most senior civil servant on digital, Matthew Gould, when he addressed 2018’s Impact Awards event, urging digital innovators to do more with technology for positive social change, to win back public trust in technology.

The 2019 Impact Awards headline sponsor is  Nominet. Responding to the secretary of state’s announcement, chief executive Russell Haworth said: “We welcome the minister’s commitment to  promoting tech for good, and his support for showcasing projects leading the charge through these awards. Our own programme aims to help a million young people thrive in a  digital age, and I’m delighted we’re part of a growing community of like-minded organisations.”

Also in the government’s announcement was confirmation of a collaboration with the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) and its network of social sector partners to “explore how best to support charities to embed digital in their strategy, services and culture”.

Organisations to benefit from a share of the government’s £1m digital leadership fund to “boost charity leaders’ digital knowhow” will include Age UK, Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and Cornwall Museums Partnership.

Welcoming the data trusts commitment, Open Data Institute chief executive Jeni Tennison said: “Data trusts are one potential way to increase sharing of data and unlock more social and economic benefits from data while protecting other interests such as people’s privacy, corporate confidentiality or, as in the pilot we’re doing on data about endangered animals, our environment.”


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