Tag Archives: networks

Lightly Touched : Bank of England and Ofcom

3 May

(This editorial is reproduced here in full – ahead of its formal release on http://www.groupe-intellex.com. Editor)

In the Today Programme lecture last night Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, said, “with the benefit of hindsight we should have shouted from the rooftops that a system had been built in which banks were too important to fail, that banks had grown too quickly and borrowed too much, and that so called ‘light-touch’ regulation hadn’t prevented any of this.”

So what, you may well ask, has this anything to do with Ofcom and their regulation of digital connectivity markets?

In a sense there are, in Mervyn’s ‘mea culpa’ moment, important clues for the whole of the regulatory industry – whether Energy, Water, Health, Financial Services, Education, Environment or Digital and the entire gamut of the UK’s  arms length ‘independent’ supervisory bodies charged with the duty to protect citizen and consumer interests.

The Bank, apparently, didn’t grasp the scale of the looming financial crisis – and it still believes that there was ‘ no unsustainable boom’.  Coming on a day when a Parliamentary Select Committee criticised a media baron for ‘willful blindness’, this expert opinion stands as a giant warning of the dangers of a silo mentality.  The Punch and Judy show’s audience may holler ‘It’s behind you’ but the dedication to keeping the lid on things – or what big corporate interests call ‘a consistent and predictable regulatory environment’ – trumps all manner of disquietness.

Moreover, despite the semantics of Sir Mervyn’s ‘imbalances’, the Bank does not feel the need to take responsibility or say sorry for any failure.  It seems they didn’t have the tools, the powers or the political clout to deal with anything even if it had seen the need.  The best that his Bank could offer was in that ‘with the benefit of hindsight’ statement – and, let’s face it, is anyone in this regulatory industry recruited for their skill in shouting about anything?

Maybe this is where we can draw some sort of line between market regulation and political will-power.  We give these regulatory bodies all manner of remits and, almost inevitably, they are captured by the big guns of those who by nature resist regulation.  It is perhaps for the politicians to understand that they cannot absolve themselves from not giving their ‘arms length’ and enthusiastically light-touch regulators some clearer direction on national imperatives intelligently informed by the needs of citizens, communities and businesses.

So it is, with Ofcom, that the log-jam of spectrum licencing is standing in the way of better mobile services, that it doesn’t ‘shout from the roof-tops’ about the inadequacy of rural digital infrastructures, that it is perceived as being too close to those deemed ‘to big to fail’, that it confuses the needs of domestic consumers with those of enterprise and that it is not leading the way in reinforcing the message that dealing with the Digital Deficit is a vital pre-requisite for dealing with anything else.

In what other country would the need for smart electricity metering be interpreted as a need for another separate digital (wireless) infrastructure when any properly designed ‘fit for purpose’ connectivity utility could serve that purpose just as easily as the needs for personal health monitors and environmental controls. Or is that thought ‘out of bounds’?

In what other market are people expected to be content with a service (sold at a standard price) that is extremely variable in its performance – and often completely useless?

At least we can take comfort from Sir Mervyn King’s acceptance of the desirability of separating utility banking from the riskier investment banking.  If only Ofcom could understand that digital connectivity utilities (mobile and fixed) properly separated from other ‘over the top’ competitive services would, in our increasingly digital world, better serve citizens, communities and enterprise and enable progress on a wide range of government policy objectives in all other sectors.

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This editorial was written for members of the UK’s Communications Management Association (CMA) – a part of the BCS, the chartered society for ICT professionals.

Broadband Coverage – concerns raised over EU claims

2 May

With an increasing focus on the need for digital infrastructure investment to support economic growth plans and environmental improvements, concern has been raised  about the integrity of information on broadband coverage published by the EU.

The linkages between the digital, environmental and economic deficits are becoming clearer – particularly following widespread readership of Marit Hendriks editorial on Sustainability.

The issue of data honesty is of course much wider than that of the digital network sector and it highlights an area where ‘open’ data is beginning to empower citizens and businesses to get at the truth behind impressive claims that simply don’t match up to everyday personal experience.

The broadband coverage issue was raised by INTUG (representing mainly business telecoms users) in a strongly-worded letter to EC Commissioner Neelie Kroes – herself a champion for greater digital infrastructure investment.

The full story is on our main site (www.groupe-intellex.com) but feel free to comment here.

Preparing for Rio+20 – the full edition

28 Apr

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.

Getting ready for Rio

26 Apr

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.

Global Entrepreneurship and the UK’s Digital Deficit

26 Apr

GEDI – an index assessing entrepreneurship and development around the world – places the UK in 14th place and behind many Scandinavian countries.

In a separate analysis it is clear that 9 out the top 13 leading countries have a vastly better digital infrastructure than the UK.

There are many factors that bear on the overall assessments but it is becoming clear that for the UK to address its economic deficit there is a pre-enabling requirement to deal with the digital deficit.

Full story here.