Archive | June, 2013

Seeing the Value – will the UK Public Accounts Committee make the connections?

28 Jun

WestminsterIn matters of broadband policy many folks would not normally rate the chances of UK Parliamentarians having sufficient awareness to probe government policy to any great depth but in July their Public Accounts Committee will have the benefit of the National Audit Office report on the delivery performance of the Department of Culture Media and Sport – the current policy owner for the UK’s most critical infrastructure development.

The committee can, of course, give witnesses a fully televised hard time for the benefit of the wider public but much will depend on the members’ ability to ask incisive questions.   In their deliberations over the state of broadband policy the PAC will also have the benefit of the Information Economy industry strategy recently launched by the Department for Business (the former owner of broadband infrastructure policy) and, of course, the brilliant independent review of Public Sector Information by Stephan Shakespeare

Hearings of the Public Accounts Committee of the UK Parliament seem an unlikely platform for articulation of radical policy ideas.  The PAC may be regarded as ‘influential’ but in practice government can ignore its reports and the committee has no direct vote on policy issues.  At its best they can capture and deliver views that are of common concern – views and sensitivities that any government might be foolish to dismiss –  and this is why the combination of the NAO, IE and PSI reports is now so powerful.

Centre-right policy across the entire economy is firmly grounded in a view of competitive market efficiency that is so often a misinterpretation of its roots in the USA.    It is true that radical approaches to infrastructure provision in the USA have been routinely opposed in the courts with intensive lobbying from established industry interests.  That however has not prevented 135 municipal FTTP access networks from being deployed and is not deterring many others now in the throes of feasibility studies.  Indeed their regulator, the FCC, is actively encouraging the growth of new entrants to deliver local ‘future-proofed’ Gigabit networks – often in conjunction with local municipal Energy companies.

The reason for this municipal non-conformist economic behaviour is quite simple.  These cities and communities need jobs and economic growth – and someone has rumbled that the global market for the expertise that is engendered is not just huge; it is vastly greater than the growth prospects of an industry dedicated to limiting its own long-term growth in the interests of short-term market gains and value extraction from an outdated analogue infrastructure.

On the other side of the Atlantic the policy view of connectivity is analogous to their recently reframed position on Climate Change.  After years of resistance, after listening attentively to oil and gas lobbyists, realisation has finally dawned that the global market for sustainable energy is real, that climate change is real, and there’s an urgent need to gain qualifying experience if the opportunities are not to be missed.

Which is exactly the point made in the UK’s Information Economy industry strategy.  ‘UK Trade & Industry’ now understands that the global market for smart city management systems is worth around £400bn by 2020 and, if UK firms are to stand any chance of gaining a modest 10% market share, there’s an urgent need to have some sort of credible  qualifying experience.  So far only one UK city has made any real attempt to deploy an ultra-fast city network and, in a classically defensive and litigious response, BT and Virgin Media have opposed that initiative

The PAC may perhaps wonder why the Connected Cities programme is so lacking aspiration and urgency that the public funding is almost entirely ending up with established interests who are not keen to see citizens and enterprise provided with future-proofed fibre access networks.  They might argue the point from the view of Health, Energy, Transport, Environment, Education, Social Services or any departmental position that is now critically dependent on a fully connected digital economy.

They might even question the oddly antique view that the Information Economy is some small but growing sub-sector of UK industry – some clever clogs that do strange digital things – rather than the primary focus for revitalisation and rebalancing across the entire economy.

And, while they are rightly focused on public expenditure they might wonder about value for money for expensive public sector networks paid for by the public purse but not, it seems, allowed to be used for the benefit of citizens.

The digital penny may perhaps have dropped in a corner of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills but it is surely the Treasury that needs to understand the risks and true cost to an economy that cannot afford to prop up relics of the past.

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Related Links.

Searching for the Centre of the Digital Universe

Economic Revitalisation

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The power of Open Data

10 Jun

In this brief summary of our NextGen presentation at last week’s ICF Summit in New York, Marit Hendriks and I gave a few examples of innovations engendered by Open Data from both the community perspective and that of Enterprise.

The summary ‘Innovating in Public: the power of Open Data‘  includes material from the Ordnance Survey’s Geovation Challenge, the Open Data Institute and Simon Rodgers iPad book ‘Facts are Sacred’.

 

 

Shaken and Stirred in the digital economy

10 Jun

At the ICF Global Summit in New York this past week – listening to the stories from the world’s top 7 ‘Intelligent Communities’, your correspondent found that enthusiasms were not entirely dampened by New York’s inclement weather.

The full story ‘Shaken and Stirred’ describes a common factor in each of the case studies from these pioneering communities – they first started on their journeys by understanding where they were coming from and the perils of standing still.

 

Innovation and job creation: Intelligent Community Forum annual Global Summit

6 Jun

(David Brunnen and Marit Hendriks reporting from New York)

The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) is holding its annual Summit this week in New York City. This 3-day event is an international gathering of mayors, chief administrative officers, CIOs and economic development officers from cities, states and regions around the world that are designated Intelligent Communities by the ICF. The theme this year is “Innovation and Jobs”.

In partnership with the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, the event brings the world’s most dynamic communities together to discuss how to use information and communications technology innovation to create jobs and sustainable communities.

The high point of the event will be on Friday when ICF announces the name of the world’s 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year.

Amongst the speakers gathered from around the world will be Mike Lazaridis, founder of Blackberry, Uzo Udemba, developer of Lagos as an intelligent city and Mayor Michael Coleman of Columbus Ohio.

From the UK, Marit and I will today be addressing a conference plenary on the impacts of Open Data innovation and giving several examples of community development as well as the trends towards greater transparency in the commercial sector and environmental sustainability.

Developing this theme has been excellent preparation for the upcoming Intelligent Cities event in Leeds on June 19th.

Working with the ICF has hugely informed NextGen Events – particularly in helping to identify the key UK challenges faced by cities and communities as the investment priorities for digital infrastructure begin to be realised.   A brief summary of the 2013 themes can be found in our paper ‘Economic Revitalisation’.

Futurist Rohit Talwar takes centre stage at UK Intelligent Cities Conference

3 Jun

Rohit Talwar wbsizeGlobal futurist and CEO of Fast Future Research, Rohit Talwar, will explore the social, educational, economic and environmental potential of the intelligent city at the Intelligent Cities Conference in Leeds on 19 June. This will include a deep dive into how tomorrow’s city should be viewed as the enabler of the future, and the ‘soft elements’ of creating an intelligent city to take full advantage of upgrading its physical technological infrastructure.

Talwar will address how the development of intelligent cities is a critical move in creating a sustainable future. Which will engage and develop local economies, create community cohesion and build lifelong education platforms that equip children and adults alike for a lifespan that could last 90 years of more.

“An intelligent city is much more than just its technology,” states Talwar, who has been named as one of the top ten global future thinkers by The Independent. “It’s about the mindset shift that delivers the thinking, planning and rapid execution of ideas on how to build a sustainable society that makes maximum use of the facilities already around us. For example, repurposing unused stores on the high street as community resources and using public buildings, such as schools as multi-service facilities in the evenings to accommodate local libraries, community centres, doctors’ surgeries and even magistrates’ courts. Such moves would meet the twin goals of cutting the operating costs for local councils and taking local facilities and giving them more value to the community.”

Rohit will use real life case study examples about how the trends and forces that are driving and enabling this multi-faceted view of social, educational and community cohesion in a city that can be facilitated with the technology and infrastructure already available. Rotterdam’s investment in its planning for sustainability, Helsinki’s investment in energy and resources, and the IBM central city control centre in Rio de Janeiro which integrates the work of multiple agencies, are all examples of how cities around the world are taking a smart approach.

“Technology is a critical enabler of the smart city, but a truly sustainable and intelligent model requires us to go much broader and think about every aspect of what makes a city vibrant and viable. The Government is working hard to make the technology infrastructure a priority but it needs to see this as part of the vision not the whole solution to what we need for the future of our cities,” he added.

Rohit Talwar’s presentation will take place at 12.35pm at The Rose Bowl, Leeds Metropolitan University on 19 June. The Intelligent Cities conference will also include presentations from Cambium Networks, Ericsson, EE, IBM, Cisco Arup, aql, Leeds Data Thing, Medtech University of Leeds and Synchronoss Technologies. Paul Hadley who is the Deputy Director Information Economy Industrial Strategy at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will also speak.

The Intelligent Cities Conference is a business event and costs £50 plus VAT to attend. To register for the event please visit: http://www.regonline.co.uk/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1209906.