Labour MP Chi Onwurah has called on the government and the Charity Commission to help boost charities’ data skills.
Speaking at a fringe event hosted by the Charities Aid Foundation at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool yesterday, Onwurah criticised the government for failing to establish a “robust framework for the use and sharing of data”.
The shadow minister for industrial strategy, science and innovation said that charities must be included in the establishment of such a framework, “otherwise it will be dominated by the interests of the tech giants who have both the voice and the resources”.
She said: “Any framework to have legitimacy has to be debated and discussed by everyone including citizens and civil society groups.”
Onwurah added: “I would like to see the Charity Commission playing a role here in terms of helping to forge that social compact and also in encouraging charities to grow their skills base, whether that is additional requirements on trustees or supporting training or creating new reporting duties around how data is used.”
Digital support needed
Speaking at the same event, Labour peer Baroness Young of Old Scone, member of the House of Lords’ science and technology committee, said she was encouraged by some of the examples in the civil society strategy of charities making use of technological advances.
However, she said that the charities mentioned in the strategy were unlikely to be representative of the sector and called on the government to help boost charities’ digital skills.
She said: “I think there is a genuine divide between those charities that have got one or two good ideas going and some who wouldn’t really know how to start.
“So there has got to be a lot of work by government to try and make sure civil society in its broadest sense is not left behind in this.
“They do in the civil society strategy admit that they have not done enough to involve civil society in these discussions about technology for the future.
“There is a commitment to set up a working group that is genuinely across government and I think we have got to make sure that that happens.”
Young added that there was “quite a hill to climb” to educate “a lot of trustees”, who “are in some cases older, less digitally aware, less technologically able themselves”.