The State of our Digital Nation

31 Jul

2016 O2 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards

This is not scientific.

Its academic rigour may be some distance south of a tabloid’s opinion poll – but the final contenders in this year’s Digital Challenge Awards are instructive.

This is the 6th year of the Digital Challenge – an awards programme unlike any other. The categories and trophies are not set before nominations commence.

Every year the ‘Open Call’ simply asks for projects that exemplify great digital endeavour.   When the Call ends we review and define the Awards Categories and then create a shortlist for each. Every year that project shortlist reflects what is going on – real insights that might otherwise be overlooked.

Back in 2011 the focus was primarily on delivering better urban and rural broadband networks. That Rural Connectivity category remains, but elsewhere the attention has shifted beyond deployment to Network Innovations; their resilience, flexibility, performance and capacity.

Digital Inclusion projects have also been a constant category but they have evolved in so many different and imaginative ways – and some are now better aligned with an Economic Development agenda.

Projects devoted to boosting Digital Skills are far more evident (and delivering great achievements) but perhaps the brightest new category is for Digital Healthcare.   Some healthcare projects are contenders for the Digital Innovation Award and the willingness of NHS project leaders to transform their practice is evident in a flurry of very welcome initiatives in the mental health arena.

Meanwhile the Open Data category has lost its 2014 and 2015 prominence – now more business as normal rather than surprising breakthroughs.

  • Who in Westminster would have understood that Scotland is so digitally progressive?
  • Who would appreciate the educational/healthcare brilliance of body worn sensors embedded in fabrics?
  • How many Local Authorities understand the value of drones in combatting floods and other environmental risks?
  • How many judges (and jurors) know the value of Virtual Reality for visits to crime scenes?
  • How else would we be made aware of new care technologies for the elderly or the brilliantly imaginative Librarians whose services are so often under siege?

Many would decry the digital state of the nation – and sure there’s much more to be done – but the Digital Champions that step up to collect trophies in the House of Lords next October are leading indicators of massive transformations in the way we all work, live and serve.

 

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3 Responses to “The State of our Digital Nation”

  1. chrisconder July 31, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    And as ever, when we talk about our digital nation I feel obliged to point out that until we have ubiquitous connectivity all these things will be stalled. I have been pointing this out for 16 years. Tiresome I know, but it has to be said. We are falling behind other countries and will soon end up as a third world digital nation because we are being conned by a monopoly who wants to protect its copper assets whilst it scoops up mobile and content. Before too many years go by they are gonna chuck it all back at the government who will then have to lay real fibre.
    Just sayin.

  2. GroupeIntellex July 31, 2016 at 10:59 am #

    Entirely agree Chris – and when I wrote ‘and sure there’s much more to be done’ I agonised over expanding that line to highlight infrastructure – but gradually I’m learning to not overload the readers’ minds. So your comment is welcome. Thanks.

    By the way, has it occurred to anyone that the electricity demand case for Hinkley Point nuclear generation might look very different if folks stopped trying to get bits to flow through copper and send them through glass instead? Just asking !

    • chrisconder July 31, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

      Yes, fibre takes far less power than copper, it could really cut our energy demands. So too would ubiquitous fast connectivity enabling more remote working and less hospital trips. The power savings for mobile would be tremendous too. All this is stalled until a government with guts opens up competition.

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