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Making good things happen in ‘Our digital future’

Making good things happen in ‘Our digital future’

Technology has come a long way since the invention of the internet, and it’s having a huge impact on us all. 'Our digital future' sets out to understand how it's changing life in Britain today, and what the future may bring...

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Last year Virgin Media launched ‘Our digital future,’ to find out how digital is changing the lives of people right across the country, and what they really think about it. We may be a telecomms company, but it’s not just hardware that interests us – we know what really matters is how the web and digital technology can improve the lives and prospects of people, businesses and communities.

We kicked off by inviting around 3000 people to join the conversation about key issues in the digital world, ranging from members of the public and Virgin Media staff, to digital experts like Wiki-founder Jimmy Wales and Geoff Mulgan, CEO of NESTA, business leaders such as Martha Lane Fox, and policy makers such as Ed Vaizey, UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

The digital debate can be complex and difficult to understand, and to help us to gain the very best understanding of people’s views, we divided the conversation into three main categories:

  • ‘Your life’ looked at how the web has changed every day life, from how we work to how we socialise. We heard lots of views on keeping personal data safe and online piracy, as well as some great ideas for new uses for digital.
  • ‘Your family’ focused on family life in a digital age. Although the internet and digital technology provides some serious challenges to children and families, there are plenty of new exciting opportunities too
  • ‘Your UK’ looked at the impact of the digital world on communities. We have new ways of spending time together and doing business, and it’s changing the way communities function.

The initial externally-hosted research provided us with the robust start to the programme we needed, arming us with invaluable facts and figures gleaned from 2000 focus group and online survey participants. From these firm foundations, we designed an ongoing approach to the conversation that allowed us to include even more people in the ‘Our digital future’ conversation in a variety of interesting, fun and useful ways…

We hit the road on a national tour with the Big Red Box – an interactive, robot video booth where everyone could share their views with Roger the Robot – Richard Branson’s very own robotic twin. Over 260 staff took part at 4 of our key Virgin Media sites, including the brand new Eagle Court in Birmingham; and over 500 members of public took part at 11 locations around the country, from Edinburgh University to a leisure centre in Colchester.

We also invited people to take part on our dedicated ‘Our digital future’ website. With nearly 500 comments, the site has been a hub of activity, hosting the very best digital stories from across the media, as well as interview footage, polls, and even advice on key digital issues.

To get the expert perspective, we had one-to-one conversations with over 30 experts, including political aide and broadcaster Alastair Campbell, to entrepreneur Cindy Gallop, which provided us with a wealth of valuable perspectives on the current threats and opportunities of digital, as well as experts’ visions for the future. Many of the filmed interviews feature on the ‘Our digital future’ website, and, having amassed a considerable body of content, we will continue to post new films on the site during the coming weeks.

We have learned a huge amount from everyone who has shared their views with us. One of our key learnings, among many, is that the people of Britain are overwhelmingly positive about the impact of the internet and digital, and are optimistic about the future. Yes, people recognise that there are some serious challenges to an increasingly digital world – particularly data security and child safety; and yes, some issues, like network management, are tricky to understand, but the optimism and the excitement shine through.

What’s next? Having listened to what people from every part of Britain have to say, we are now going to focus on acting on all we’ve heard. As well as providing a full analysis of our findings, over the coming months we will be rolling out some fantastic new initiatives to help ensure that digital makes good things happen for people, businesses and communities right across the country, and that our digital future is as brilliant as we all imagine it to be.

Watch this space...