Tag Archives: growth

A Certain Uncertainty

16 Jul

Question Marks And Man Showing Confusion Or Unsure

Time and again in recent weeks the pleas from European business leaders (and particularly here in the UK) for an end to uncertainty – or at least less of a policy vacuum – might have seemed quite the opposite of what might have been expected from our supposedly mighty risk-takers.

Any fleeting signs of stability have momentarily bolstered stock markets and smoothed exchange rate readjustments and yet it is ‘disruption’ we are oft told that is the golden characteristic of progressive, thrusting, opportunistic and innovative times.

This apparent contradiction reveals another truth. Businesses like to disrupt others but otherwise dislike being disrupted – and larger business with more at stake like it even less.   Yes, they’ll welcome innovation – but only on their own terms. And that is, of course, why monopoly power is so dangerously regressive.

Even, as in the case of BT’s Openreach, where the threat of regulatory changes looms large, uncertainty can invoke the sort of paralysis that borders on an existential crisis. No wonder, then, that when interviewed CEO Clive Selley is sounding more like Macbeth: “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.”  There is no standing still in business and confidence is essential fuel.  Do nothing and nothing happens.

But his organisation’s current uncertainty exists only because of the ever-widening gap between national economic imperatives (championed by the regulator in lieu of government) and the resistance of an incumbent determined to extract shareholder value from legacy assets.

Put simply (though to be fair it is far from simple) Openreach can see little investment rationale in providing everyone with future-proofed broadband services. They would much rather stretch the capability of their existing copper assets and hope that demand for capacity can be constrained.

On the other hand, those who argue (in the national interest) for a future-proofed infrastructure (inevitably with vastly greater use of fibre) point to the wider creative constraints of underperforming connectivity. Download speeds are, they’d say, far less important than upload speeds, low latency, minimal packet loss, greater reliability and vastly lower operational costs.

And it is these factors that are now calling time on strategies that were decided well over a decade ago and based on dodgy economics. Fibre was said to be inordinately expensive. It was said many times over and that mantra became embedded in investors’ minds. And it was wrong. And facing up to that truth is awkward. Not perhaps as awkward as Brexit but, like that referendum, the choice has been determined by those whose delusions are most believed.

Now, more than ever, the UK needs to rethink the parameters around digital infrastructure investment. We applaud the creative industries and the clever clogs beavering away developing new services, cutting costs and making lives easier – particularly in the public sector. But all that cleverness is nothing without affordable underlying future-proofed connectivity.

Yes, in some places, gradually, we can find signs of a smarter approach. Yes, we can see that sharp, thoroughly commercial, minds have cracked the challenges of doing what was previously dismissed as not financially viable.   All that remains is for incumbents to recognize the new realities or suffer the consequences.

Meanwhile, leastways until our incoming Digital Minister grasps the issues, the UK will muddle through with a certain uncertainty.

 

 

Letting go of hopes not fully grasped?

5 Mar

Greek FlagIn March 2015 at the height of the Greek financial crisis I wrote of the great brain drain (‘Grexodus’) that would do lasting damage to that country’s future fortunes.  Little did anyone realise that within the year that brain drain would be replaced by a massive potential brain gain as thousands of migrants flock to its shores.

Most of those now escaping from the horrors of war-torn Syria, Afghanistan or North Africa are hoping to make their way beyond Greece to settle in the supposedly stable havens of Northern Europe – but their passage is now blocked as EU States shrug off Schengen and shrink back into populist isolationisms as if folk have forgotten the point of being ‘better together’.

We may despair of the lack of pan-European political mettle, the failure of long-term leadership and the collapse of collective moral decency, but amongst these dark clouds is a potential silver lining for that woefully disregarded Greek State. The question now is whether the Greek government and the people can rise to the opportunity.

Amongst the weary but determined families trekking north are many professional families well qualified to fill the gaps left by the earlier flight of the disenchanted – the loss of thousands of doctors, researchers, students, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, teachers, technicians and nurses.  The lucky recipients of that talented brain drain were Germany, Canada, USA and Australia.  In that 2015 fallout, few came to the UK (further diminishing our global growth prospects) but that was hardly surprising given the prevailing attitudes of extreme right & left-wing politics and media meeting themselves on the far side of the circle.

So, the question is: What is Greece doing to encourage those who could be tempted to stay – to learn Greek – to assimilate into local culture – to rebuild their lives and contribute to economic and societal growth?   Germany, initially at least, set a fine example. But will Greece be able to muster the enterprise?

We must hope so – for surely the rest of Europe must learn, and learn in time, that global mass migrations are the unintended consequences of disastrous failures of political leadership and disunity.

Learn in time’, I wrote. In time to stave of the tide of human misery and suffering that now besets us, or, in time to equip our leaderships with the intellectual and moral strength to deal with the next flood?  How will attitudes change when we Europeans must cope with thousands fleeing the USA in the event of a Trump presidency?

It is surely not beyond the wit of humankind to get a grip – to better imagine and manage the more easily foreseen consequences, particularly as the supposedly unforeseen lessons are being played out before our unastonished, but tearful, eyes.

ICF Global Summit Perspectives: the growth impacts of policy polarisation

15 Jun

TorontoReflecting on a stimulating week of powerfully concentrated insights and great inspirations, delegates at the 2015 Intelligent Community Forum’s annual Global Summit might well have spotted the irony of making hard choices between the competing Urban and Rural study streams.

In this gathering last week in Toronto, Mayors, Civic Leaders, Economic Developers and Policy Influencers from around the world would represent both intensely Urban and some more Rural environments. In plenary ‘Community Accelerator’ sessions these camps would come together – united in their understanding of actionable attitudes to local growth and development – and yet, in choosing to engage in either the Urban or Rural Master Classes, delegates indirectly accepted that supposedly ‘normal’ polarisation.

For sure, there were some crossover delegates but for the most part the Urban stream was the better attended. From way beyond the bigger (supposedly brighter and more-urgent) connectivity conflict zones, delegates were treated to myth-busting moments showing that, even if it is harder to resolve, disregarding 50% of your economy does not add up to a sustainable growth strategy.

The universal over-arching growth perspective is what so often gets lost in the demands for policy attention from increasingly pressured places with claims for ‘economies of scale’ and the massively complex infrastructure needs of metro-dwelling citizens.

Above and beyond urging stronger advocacy from less-favoured places, or even the creation of ‘Virtual Metros’ to notionally level the playing field, surely policies to provide future-proofed digital infrastructures (and the stimulus that they enable) should everywhere be rooted in the drive for the economic and social well-being of local citizens and enterprises.

In the race to be recognised as the Intelligent Community of 2015, the surviving Top 7 communities (whether large, small, urban or rural) understood long ago that long-term (10 – 30 year) commitments to their economic well-being needed a consistent strategic approach with evolving local leadership and attention to local needs. These local issues are largely beyond the macro interventions of national governments and Party politics.

It is ironic that such an approach can be described as ‘Revolutionary’. Surely that tag is an indication of the extent to which folks and their communities now need to reassert control of their local direction.

So much more can be said of this ICF Global Summit, the underlying international quest for community recognition and the intensity of the associated Study Tour experiences.

Horseshoe FallsThe urgent rush for change, the inevitable need to adapt our communities to the utility of a digitally mediated world, was no less impressive than the forces of nature we experienced at the nearby Niagara Falls.

 

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NextGen 15 – the UK’s 8th annual networking event to inform local government policy and provide a platform for the broader broadband sector will be held on November 5th in central London.

NextGen Events (an ICF Partner) and director Marit Hendriks is an international juror for the assessment of the Intelligent Community of the Year – awarded this year to Columbus, Ohio.

David Brunnen’s contribution to the 2015 Global Summit was based on the Groupe Intellex paper ‘Global Trade Development Outwith the Metros: not beyond belief’.

 

The Value of ish

15 Jun

multi-culture

Prompted by debates about British Values and reports of racial intolerance, we have written a reminder of the the significance of ish.

Read the full story – ‘The Joy of ish‘ – and embrace the future whatever.

Growth – Who Needs It?

20 May

Green sprout in an eggAdam Lusby, Founder of CE-optimal, writing as a guest contributor for Groupe Intellex, tackles a common concern – the addiction of our economic systems to growth.

He argues that the debate should not be between a choice of growth or decline but should more about the way we achieve growth.

Very much in line with the thinking behind the Circular Economy he argues for a more ‘restorative’ economy – and cites natural systems as the best guide.

Full Story here

Unintended Consequences – and U-turn challenges

18 Nov

Thinking back to the summer of 2012, Michael Heseltine and his team made many good decisions. With an ear for political consensus he crafted a way to get things done – and made 89 recommendations.

It may now be increasingly beyond doubt that those right decisions were made for some of the wrong reasons – but does it really matter that some stones remained unturned?

Full story here.

RSA City Growth Commission calls for input

12 Nov

Cities, inevitably, grow – but they do not always prosper.

The RSA’s City Growth Commission has set itself the task of asking ‘why?’

‘Multi-polar growth’ is their adopted term for a thinking about a less-London-centric rebalancing of the UK economy.

The Commission will no doubt garner views from umpteen shades of city advocate opinion.

Groupe Intellex has sent the Commission a response to all of their seven questions – and added an extra one for good measure.

City Growth Commission V4