The Role of the Digital Champion

The Role

The world of digital technology is changing all the time, including the way we access information and how we communicate with each other.  It is important that citizens and communities do not miss out on the opportunities the internet delivers.  The web is for everyone.

A Digital Champion is an ambassador who provides the necessary leadership and inspiration for the development of a fully networked nation; someone who can create a sustained programme of change.

In the UK, a Digital Champion was sought because there was no natural leader of the agenda.

 Government interviewee: “We were seeking a national figurehead for the cause.  A role that was close to, but independent from Government.”

Two main characteristics were identified as essential to the role:

  • Public Appeal – the Digital Champion had to be interesting to the public at large and attract media attention.
  • Business Credibility – the Digital Champion had to have a business reputation which would help to establish relationships in organisations in all sectors.

Race Online 2012 Partner: “No one can fail to be enthused by [the Digital Champion].” 

Scope

  • Increase digital participation by raising awareness of the issue and influencing others to take action
  • Provide leadership by making the issue relevant and creating the opportunity to secure support from a broad range of organisations
  • Create sustainable solutions (beyond the role and tenure of the Champion)
  • Champion greater digital capability with Government.  In the UK, the role of Digital Champion is close to, but independent from government. The UK Digital Champion has had a major impact on the Government’s digital public services policy, recommending that the Government goes ‘Digital by Default’.

 

They have made it much more interesting.  The topic was so dry before.”  Race Online 2012 Partner.

Building a team

As a champion, you’re likely to need a small team to develop and deliver activity. Roles will probably change over time but may include:

  • research
  • strategy development
  • programme management
  • government specialists
  • relationship management
  • PR

Thought leadership is important. You may want to hire some team members specifically to develop long-term influencing programmes and secure top-level support from specific sectors.  In the UK, government, charity and social housing organisations were targeted.

To supplement the team, consider inviting experts to join on secondment (for example, from central and local government) and commissioning organisations to conduct pieces of work on a pro bono basis.  The UK team secured an estimated £2.2m of pro bono services, primarily in marketing and communications.

Funding

As a minimum, funding is required for the champion’s team, research, web assets and office resources. In the UK, very little expenditure on marketing and PR was needed because of the champion’s media appeal, her ability to enthuse, motivate and influence, the amount of pro bono support and the ability to leverage partners’ communications budgets and channels.  Funding levels should be determined according to what the champion is expected to do. In the UK the funding made available was more appropriate for leadership than large scale programme delivery as a delivery network already existed on the ground.

The UK experience was that, to better align initiatives, it would have also been useful for the Digital Champion to have a decision making role in Government funding decisions for digital participation activities.

 

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