Our editorial – ‘Unbalanced Economies‘ – considers the dilemma of would be devolutionists as they grope for government policies that might ease the woeful inequalities of local economies across the UK.
There’s no lack of awareness of the growing gap between the growth of London and the UK’s other major cities. It’s not just about jobs. The impacts are evident in health, education, culture, innovation, and umpteen aspects of society – and there’s no denying the dependence of local economies on centralised purse strings with stringent controls on spending anywhere that seems electorally risky. Nor would the Whitehall wizards deny the export potential for technologies that claim to make cities smarter – though they shrink away from encouraging innovative aspirations in the underlying digital infrastructure investment.
But solutions are not to be found in more top-down initiatives. If pushed the Whitehall policy police might perhaps concede that fostering maybe two provincial city hubs might be sustainable but such half-hearted measures fall way short of the natural aspirations bubbling up in places large and small across the country.
Enter the RSA’s City Growth Commission. No debate better captures the red tape that ties central policy development in knots and exposes how the digital economy is delightfully disruptive. Cutting the red tape lengthways is simply not good enough.
Full story here
As the UN considers the prospect that by 2050 over 70% of the global population will be working and living in cities, and as policy developers continue to invest in cities to stimulate their economies, the New-York-based Intelligent Community Forum announces its Rural Imperative – a focus on developing smarter rural communities to offset the strains of unbalanced and unsustainable mega-cities.
The economic and creative power of cities cannot be denied but inequalities in digital infrastructure provision are beginning to drive rural communities towards radical moves to build a more-balanced economy.
Full story here
Way back in the 1950’s the long slog of completing the great UK-wide changeover from AC to DC electricity was at last completed. It was of no great surprise that the last houses to be welcomed into that modern era were in the poorest and must run-down areas of of our cities.
In the 1970’s North Sea Gas conversions were still edging their way towards completion – and as with all such great infrastructure projects it was only with conversion of the remote ends of the network that the full benefits could be realised. Such is the nature of long term investments. Short-term patches and temporary fixes do not answer.
Right now, with the transformation of the entire economy, we are only beginning to understand the length of the long tail – a challenge that does not have a clear beginning and end because the pace of digital developments often runs faster than our efforts to catch up.
The report from the National Audit Office on the UK government’s ‘Digital by Default’ design for public services is a timely reminder that we have a long way to go – particularly for those who are most in need of public services.
This story will, inevitably, run and run.
While I’ve been deeply immersed in an altogether different journey my colleague Marit Hendriks has trekked to Cape Town and back.
Communications networks are seen by many as the threads that tie us all together but as Marit’s exploration of the African market shows it is the diversity of developments and their contexts that provide the most interesting insights.
Although her visit was focused on the Africa Com conference & exhibition, Marit arrived in South Africa in time to see beyond the glitz of the international conference centre. In the first of her reports (Under African Skies) Marit takes a trip into a township and takes measure of the vast inequalities and digital divisions.
At the conference itself the contrasts between Europe and Africa were also very much evident – the local approach to Social Media, the huge importance of Mobile Payment systems and the very different priorities for infrastructure in the wider wilderness. The venturing zeal, the local software industry, the scale of the opportunities are all vast – but the scale of inequalities and the size of the un-served market demands a very different approach to market development.
If there was one common theme between our two continents it might be found in the gradual reduction of relevance of the old ‘last generation’ Telco models – while millions clamour for connectivity the investment spotlight has shifted to the cleverness of Apps and the demand for higher ICT skills – and deepened the digital divides in places that are already desperately disconnected.
Over the past few weeks Groupe Intellex has devoted space to raise awareness of and prepare delegates for the forthcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development taking place in June.
We have now brought these editorials together in a single edition to make it easier for readers to navigate and comment on the series. Some of these have appeared in previous posts but together they add up to a fairly weighty reading list that delegates might turn to in the 6 weeks remaining before the mechanisms of global diplomacy and lobbyists for corporate interests seek consensus and commitments that might flourish more effectively than those made in 1992.
Our focus kicked off with Marit Hendriks’ piece on ‘Sharing Experiences‘ and the need to learn from others without being tempted to ‘reinvent the wheel’.
This was followed by another essay on ‘the end game for the next generation‘ – an editorial that has been widely shared around the world.
Distracted by racing cars cavorting in the Middle East the short piece ‘What, on Earth Day?‘ made us think more about the silo mentality that compartmentalises discussions that are, or should be, interconnected.
The publication of the Royal Society’s report ‘People and the Planet’ gave us opportunity to start the ‘Ready for Rio‘ series and then the Ellen MacArthur Foundation weighed in with a brilliant exploration of ‘The circular economy‘ – by far the most widely read of our trilogy to date.
Finally – not least because you now have more than enough homework before Rio+20 – we reflected on a more spiritual view – taking the thoughts of Dr Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury – and suggesting amongst other things that our fixation on growth, markets and the commoditisation of everything was somewhat ‘eccentric’.
Groupe Intellex will, in the next few weeks, seek out and publish the news and views of others (your inputs are welcome) and will then report on the outcomes of Rio+20 and the prospects for further progress toward sustainable development.
The Royal Society (London UK) today published a major report – ‘People and the planet’ – a good read ahead of the UN Summit in June.
All 10 recommendations would be more easily translated into practical policy if there was intensive investment in digital infrastructure.
Full story here.