What exactly is a digital champion?

A digital champion is someone who acts as a catalyst for technology-enabled change. In an unofficial capacity they have been with us for a while: they are the person we turn to when we need help resetting our smartphone, the person who always seems to know the latest and best apps, the people for which technology just seems to ‘work’.

Without getting too dramatic they are the beacons of hope in a world where technology is everywhere.

More recently, the role of the digital champion has become increasingly formalised. The first official digital champion was Martha Lane Fox (the founder of LastMinute.com) who was engaged by the UK government in 2010 to drive efficiency of government services by encouraging people to go online. Now every member of the EU has there own digital champion and this has, in turn, created a movement of community based digital champion programs across Europe and the rest of the world.

Although each of these programs is unique, they all involve people helping other people increase efficiency and improve quality of life through the better use of digital technology.

Won’t the technology we invest in just go out of date?

Most likely it will. Generally speaking you will get a shorter useful life out of software and hardware investments than, say, investment in infrastructure or even office furniture. That is why when we assess the suitability of technology projects we calculate the returns over just one year. What is incredible is that even with such a short investment horizon many of these technology projects generate significant returns.

What makes you expert on this anyway?

The ‘expertise’ (for want of a better word) that Simon and the other coaches bring to this space comes from three things. First is professional experience in business improvement, information management, IT projects, app development and strategy. Second, after four years running the program we have experienced many different challenges in many different organisations and helped overcome them. Finally, we genuinely care about our members and are willing to commit the time to finding what does work if other things don’t.

The truth is, technology is a rapidly shifting landscape and it is difficult for any one person to build expertise across the broad domains that it covers. It might sound corny, but the real expertise lies in the community itself, the job of the coaches is just to help uncover and share it.

How do you keep up with all the new technology?

This is clearly a challenge and impossible for any individual or organisation to effectively undertake themselves. That is why a unique aspect of the Digital Champions Club is peer to peer sharing. By learning together, we can not only identify new opportunities faster, we can also avoid mistakes that others have already made.