Tag Archives: community

Blowing towards Thrushgill – East of Lancaster

27 Sep

[‘From our own correspondent’ – visiting rural Lancashire to get a feel for great digital design]

Place your finger on the map at Lancaster and then move it across to the East until you find a large dark patch. This remote and roughly triangular terrain, in and around the Forest of Bowland, is not some black hole where civilisation vanishes but a place where businesses blossom and communities thrive.

brn-vanThese remote 53 parishes contradict the supposedly inevitable economic migration towards ever-more-complex city conurbations. In this rural patch you can find a world-leading example of sustainable digital infrastructure – largely because, in the rough-hewn ways across Lancashire/Yorkshire borderlands, the locals would have no truck with BT’s ‘phone-line broadband’.

If you live, learn and work in a remote area you soon learn a thing or three about resilience. Here you value the interdependencies on which communities build sustainability. For technologists and economists (and most politicians) there are huge design lessons here.   One might imagine (given the popular substitutes for five minutes thought) that densely populated cities would most readily justify the investment in future-proofed fibre. It might be assumed that remote areas would be the least likely candidates for great infrastructure investment.

In the UK (and particularly East of Lancaster) almost the exact opposite prevails. Larger places may be woefully underserved by dependence on a supposedly cheap short-term fix but, in this scattering of villages and hamlets, that same dismal design would deliver an even worse performance.   Not for them the inadequacies of variable and unreliable phone-line broadband. Digital technologies are a great enabler of economic well-being – but only if they work in all weathers all of the time.

That is why the B4RN fully future-proofed design is not just a great example for those who live learn and work away from large towns or cities. It also tells urban city dwellers that they too could aspire to something vastly better, more affordable and more energy-efficient.   Local governments are slowly beginning to realise that, whereas BT saw their copper network as a great asset, it is the holes and poles that are of greatest value in this digital era. It is unfortunate that most of those holes and poles are cluttered with copper cables but Local Authorities who have the good fortune (Like Bristol) to own alternative ducts are enabled to speed ahead.

This, of course, is not a problem East of Lancaster. There are precious few ducts and many of the poles are rotting relics of a bygone era. So the locals ignore any old holes and poles and, with a great deal of local community cooperation, dig their own ducts into their own fields and blow their own fibres through them.

  • Fifty Three parishes served by 25 nodes,
  • More than 2200 fully-fibred connections
  • Serving 65% of all properties,
  • A small army of local folk who have learned that this digital stuff is not rocket science
  • And what they get is 1000Mb/s in both directions.
  • For £30 month (inc. VAT)

But no one should pretend that this community-led effort is easy.   It requires massive motivation and collaboration (particularly from landowners) and astute management of the entire cooperative scheme. Some would say that the broadband service itself is only a small part of the benefit: making it happen demands that communities come together and develop greater cohesion. At the outset in 2011 it seemed like a pipe dream and potential funding was unlikely. Five years on B4RN has shown that it makes perfect sense and, as the Chinese proverb says, ‘Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it’.

Local Authorities everywhere are thinking (perhaps for the first time) that the holes and poles should be far better maintained and unclogged to make way for the future. Down in Westminster, BEIS and the IPA (HMT/Cabinet Office) understand the need for business investor confidence, particularly during the UK’s structural separation from the EU. The most immediate trigger for inward multi-sector investment to the UK would be to signal support for well-designed, resilient and sustainable pure fibre networks and replacement of legacy copper.

B4RN, East of Lancaster around the Forest of Bowland, may, on a draughty day, seem a very long way from Westminster but strategic connectivity lessons travel at the speed of light – in both directions.

blowing-towards-thursgill

B4RN – ‘Blowing toward Thrushgill’ by B4RN shareholder Walter Willcox.

The B4RN ‘Show-Tell’ day was sponsored by the network’s ‘blown fibre’ specialists – Emtelle

 

Online Success – on dodgy lines

7 Aug

UNPACS LogoCommenting on the UNDESA report showing the UK as the world leader in government online services, Julia Glidden, an international specialist in Open Data, makes an interesting observation about long-term policy investment.

Julia attributed the UK’s ranking in part to “a concerted national strategy, dating back to the establishment of an Office of the e-Envoy [in 1999, and the E-Government Unit in 2004] to integrate back office functions whilst simultaneously driving cross-government institutional coordination.” That’s a dedicated decade and a half of puzzling out the better delivery of public services.

Meanwhile those who campaign for vastly better broadband connectivity – seeing that as an essential enabler of greater online usage – would say that much of the last decade and a half has been wasted on short-term fixes that will inevitably need replacement in the push for future-proofing, operational efficiency, energy conservation and greater reliability.

The technologists have a strong case – and one that is gaining both media and political traction. The government may also be cheered by the UK appearing at the head of a global league table – particularly as, post-referendum, national advocacy is much in demand.

If the long-term stance had been taken for connectivity as well as services, would the outcomes have been even better? What explains the success of the latter, in a less-than-optimal infrastructural environment, is massive and often voluntary societal investment.

This is shown very clearly in the shortlist for the 2016 Digital Challenge Awards programme. Derived from an Open Call back in January the shortlisted finalists reflect what is really going on in corners of the country that media headlines very rarely capture.

The shortlisted projects for work in Digital Inclusion, Digital Skills, Digital Health and Open Data dominate the field. Sure, there are great projects in Network Innovations (from providers), Advanced Digital Applications (from university researchers) and in Rural Connectivity (by desperate country-folk), but these often more-technical pursuits are outshone by the devoted efforts of Charities, Local Authorities, Housing Associations and myriad public services agencies including the NHS, Schools and Libraries.

With their dedication to making sure that neighbours, communities and employees are not left trailing behind in our increasingly digitalized world, we should appreciate that the underlying reason behind the UK’s reported leadership is not entirely down to central policy wisdom.

In the next decade and a half we might even be blessed with fit-for-future connectivity – if the people get their way.

The O2 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards 2016

6 Apr

The O2 NextGenAwards2016hires

 

Yes – you read the headline correctly.   NextGen is delighted to announce that the 2016 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards now features O2 as headline sponsor.

The origin of the Digital Challenge 6 years ago may have been rooted in concerns for fixed-line broadband innovation but the awards programme has over the years increasingly featured the mobile sector. The worlds of fixed and mobile are in reality, highly interdependent and will become more-so as infrastructure planning for the next generation of 5G gets underway.

However, there’s another dimension in the emergence of public sector interest in services delivery. Speaking with Billy D’Arcy, Managing Director, Public Sector Business at O2, it’s clear that their interest in backing the Digital Challenge derives from a strategic understanding of the value of community champions. The public sector works on behalf of all of us to provide a number of essential services. At O2, we are committed to helping the public sector deliver the best experiences for citizens. We also want to make sure their employees, both customer facing and in offices, can work effectively. We do this by helping to simplify processes using ICT solutions while adhering to increasingly restrictive budgets. As a result, we wanted to work with NextGen to celebrate the organisations that go the extra mile. That’s why the O2 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards 2016 will celebrate innovation, success and leadership in the UK’s digitally focused economy.”

The Digital Challenge has an excellent track record of identifying and celebrating achievements in the public sector that, in the general flood of marketing messages, might be overlooked – and inadvertently overlooked particularly by policy makers in and around Westminster. With this year’s awards presentation scheduled for October 13th in The House of Lords these important public sector and community messages will raise awareness amongst key policy influencers.

Full details of the awards programme and how anyone can nominate projects that have impressed can be found here. This is an Open Call and entry is free. The Digital Challenge honours projects and digital endeavours from across all sectors of the economy. The independent judging panel is keen to acknowledge projects and team effort rather than specific products or individuals.

The Open Call ends on May 27th

Shortlisted Finalists for each Awards Category will be announced on June 15th at the Connected Britain/NextGen conference in London.

 

 

 

 

NextGen 15 and the growth of online platforms

15 Oct

The Call from a subcommittee of the House of Lords was just too tempting.

Their Lordships’ inquiry into online platforms was prompted by the European Commission – a classic legislative HoLresponse to mutterings that surely ‘something must be done‘.

But looking at the questions posed, it became clear that the great success of online platforms might be largely due to the fact that nothing much has been done.

There may be a case for consumer protection in a world of uneven comprehension but there is certainly little justification for market protection by over-egging regulation.

And, moreover, jotting down some notes for their Lordships’ committee, it became clear just how good the UK is becoming at this sort of innovation.  We may not be home to the Googles, Twitters or Skypes but we have no shortage of great examples of online platform innovation.

So it was too tempting – how could we not respond?

The NextGen Digital Challenge Awards – this year being presented in their Lordships’ House on November 5th – provides just the evidence they need to encourage lawmakers to desist from further lawmaking that might stifle our innovators and entrepreneurs.

For readers addicted to following the ways of Westminster, the full Call from the Committee  ( online-platforms-call-for-evidence ) will need to be read alongside the Groupe Intellex response to HoL subcommittee on platforms Oct 15

Alternatively, and far more fun,  you could attend NextGen15 on November 5th and/or the Digital Challenge Awards Dinner in the Peers’ Dining Room of the House of Lords – but hurry – registration for the latter closes on Monday 19th October.

2015 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards: Intelligent Communities

20 Aug

 

[This is part 6 of an 8-part series profiling the shortlisted finalists for the 2015 Digital Challenge Awards – Ed.]

This new category for the 2015 Digital Challenge Awards celebrates how some folks are already thinking beyond the much-hyped ‘smart technology’ projects.

NGShortlisthi-resIn part it reflects the convergence of thought leaders both in the UK and North America but it must be said that, in our first introductory year for this award category, the contenders are recognized as contributory projects.

Emulating the vastly experienced global ICF awards would be a very tall order but there is huge scope in future years for UK recognition of more comprehensive ‘whole community’ projects. Meanwhile our contenders all have great relevance in their local impacts – reminding us that good things happen when centralised policy initiatives are made more sense in the context of action on the ground.

The six 2015 Shortlisted Finalists are:

DONATE – a digital platform enabling immediate charitable donations via multiple channels

Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) with My Knowle West App – a channel to a huge range of community activities

Link Group Ltd – so much more than a conventional Digital Inclusion Project

Nottinghamshire County Council with their Digital First project

RunAClub.com – a Digital Infrastructure and Support Platform to overcome the administrative hurdles faced by club leaders.

Tinder Foundation and NHS tackling health inequalities with Widening Digital Participation

All the shortlisted contenders will be reviewed by the independent judging panel during September. The winners will be announced at a dinner in the House of Lords following the NextGen 15 event on November 5th.

For details of event sponsorship opportunities contact Marit Hendriks

( marith@nextgenevents.co.uk ) or call David Brunnen via 07714 325 657

 

 

 

 

 

Brain Gain: ICF’s book launched today

23 Jun

Before they set off on some new adventure, mountaineers do at least know the height of their target.   Writers are mountaineers who set off with far less certainty.   Their imagined summit may not exist or be hidden in a fog of ideas, experiences and confusing signals.

ICF Brain-Gain-Front-CoverHaving followed the gestation of ICF’s new publication, sensing the highs and lows of the writing team as they plotted their way forward, today’s publication moment comes, like childbirth, as a huge relief – and a cause for celebration.

ICF – The Intelligent Community Forum – has garnered years of experience of progressive communities from around the world.  This experience is now brought to bear on issues of the moment – how innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption.

In our full review we applaud their myth-busting analysis and demolition of orthodox views.  This work underscores the need for a radical rethink of the priorities in planning for the growth of places and their people.  With so much political capital invested in the power of competition, the evidence shows very clearly that in our more-networked world ‘collaborative advantage’ is the new ‘competitive advantage’.

Read the Groupe Intellex review, ‘Brain Gain: community responses to digital disruption‘.

Toronto Triumphs as 2014 Intelligent Community awarded at ICF in New York

8 Jun
Intelligent Community Forum

Intelligent Community Forum

The climax of the 2014 Intelligent Community Forum’s annual summit  came as the ICF Top7 communities, their leaders and mayors from around the world gathered on Thursday night for dinner in New York.

The gathering also heard from Suneet Singh Tuli – Founder of DataWind and ICF’s ‘Visionary of the Year’.

In one sense all of the Top7 Communities were winners simply by taking part in the intensive ICF process but ultimately there could only be one winner – and it was Toronto that triumphed.

But the Summit was far more than just the award of the ultimate accolade.  Throughout the week Mayors and Civic Leaders from Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America have shared their experiences and gained great insights in economic and societal development.

Full story here