The National Digital Service

After the war there was a profound societal change, and the National Health Service was born. A similarly profound change is happening now, and the country needs to create a National Digital Service (sic) NDiS which should be constructed over the next 10 years.

Aspects of the National Digital Service include:

1.       Digital government services (already happening) but can be much improved using data and AI.

2.       Digital services mandated to be provided by private suppliers (a form of taxation)

3.       Digital Commons - mostly industry and innovation-related building blocks - lowRISC CIC is an existing example

4.       NHS services (already happening a bit) - for example how future patient self-monitoring should be formally incorporated in healthcare

5.       Provisioning, governance, and implementation pathway for potentially controversial emerging and future technologies - neural interfaces, AI, planetary observation for net zero, etc

Policy points include:

1.       Some forms of digital technologies should be considered a utility like water

2.       Who pays - saying there is no money is not an option - public private partnerships are one way

3.       Can/should we rely on Big Tech to provide services like search, ChatGPT, and others - in particular those that will be indispensable to society

4.       Is there a class of fundamental applications which are as important to individuals as (digital) cash yet cannot be obtained using money

5.       What are the control levers for AI and how do we require visibility of them from Big Tech and other suppliers (previous example was legislation on car emissions) - current hot topic

6.       Role of universities and how they are incentivised - most of the big AI platforms are coming from industry

7.       Should there be a universal National Digital Service obligation and what might it look like (as a parallel with the universal postal service obligation) - how far should it reach

8.       Privacy and security - how to nudge individuals to feel comfortable - what is the trust model - how to make the NDiS a UK treasure like the NHS

Advantages include:

1.       Directly dealing with the haves and have nots - by default NDiS is available to any UK entity or individual providing they have a broadband connection

2.       Some technology sovereignty and control

3.       A better system at the engineering level because the framework was thought about ahead of time

4.       A vision and plan for the UK beyond the political cycle - particularly post Brexit

5.       Wealth, health and happiness - well maybe - people will find it very hard to be without such digital services


Andy Hopper
9 August 2023