Tag Archives: public

Seeing the Value – will the UK Public Accounts Committee make the connections?

28 Jun

WestminsterIn matters of broadband policy many folks would not normally rate the chances of UK Parliamentarians having sufficient awareness to probe government policy to any great depth but in July their Public Accounts Committee will have the benefit of the National Audit Office report on the delivery performance of the Department of Culture Media and Sport – the current policy owner for the UK’s most critical infrastructure development.

The committee can, of course, give witnesses a fully televised hard time for the benefit of the wider public but much will depend on the members’ ability to ask incisive questions.   In their deliberations over the state of broadband policy the PAC will also have the benefit of the Information Economy industry strategy recently launched by the Department for Business (the former owner of broadband infrastructure policy) and, of course, the brilliant independent review of Public Sector Information by Stephan Shakespeare

Hearings of the Public Accounts Committee of the UK Parliament seem an unlikely platform for articulation of radical policy ideas.  The PAC may be regarded as ‘influential’ but in practice government can ignore its reports and the committee has no direct vote on policy issues.  At its best they can capture and deliver views that are of common concern – views and sensitivities that any government might be foolish to dismiss –  and this is why the combination of the NAO, IE and PSI reports is now so powerful.

Centre-right policy across the entire economy is firmly grounded in a view of competitive market efficiency that is so often a misinterpretation of its roots in the USA.    It is true that radical approaches to infrastructure provision in the USA have been routinely opposed in the courts with intensive lobbying from established industry interests.  That however has not prevented 135 municipal FTTP access networks from being deployed and is not deterring many others now in the throes of feasibility studies.  Indeed their regulator, the FCC, is actively encouraging the growth of new entrants to deliver local ‘future-proofed’ Gigabit networks – often in conjunction with local municipal Energy companies.

The reason for this municipal non-conformist economic behaviour is quite simple.  These cities and communities need jobs and economic growth – and someone has rumbled that the global market for the expertise that is engendered is not just huge; it is vastly greater than the growth prospects of an industry dedicated to limiting its own long-term growth in the interests of short-term market gains and value extraction from an outdated analogue infrastructure.

On the other side of the Atlantic the policy view of connectivity is analogous to their recently reframed position on Climate Change.  After years of resistance, after listening attentively to oil and gas lobbyists, realisation has finally dawned that the global market for sustainable energy is real, that climate change is real, and there’s an urgent need to gain qualifying experience if the opportunities are not to be missed.

Which is exactly the point made in the UK’s Information Economy industry strategy.  ‘UK Trade & Industry’ now understands that the global market for smart city management systems is worth around £400bn by 2020 and, if UK firms are to stand any chance of gaining a modest 10% market share, there’s an urgent need to have some sort of credible  qualifying experience.  So far only one UK city has made any real attempt to deploy an ultra-fast city network and, in a classically defensive and litigious response, BT and Virgin Media have opposed that initiative

The PAC may perhaps wonder why the Connected Cities programme is so lacking aspiration and urgency that the public funding is almost entirely ending up with established interests who are not keen to see citizens and enterprise provided with future-proofed fibre access networks.  They might argue the point from the view of Health, Energy, Transport, Environment, Education, Social Services or any departmental position that is now critically dependent on a fully connected digital economy.

They might even question the oddly antique view that the Information Economy is some small but growing sub-sector of UK industry – some clever clogs that do strange digital things – rather than the primary focus for revitalisation and rebalancing across the entire economy.

And, while they are rightly focused on public expenditure they might wonder about value for money for expensive public sector networks paid for by the public purse but not, it seems, allowed to be used for the benefit of citizens.

The digital penny may perhaps have dropped in a corner of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills but it is surely the Treasury that needs to understand the risks and true cost to an economy that cannot afford to prop up relics of the past.

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Related Links.

Searching for the Centre of the Digital Universe

Economic Revitalisation

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The Sunday Breakfast Review: Seizing Our Destiny

21 Oct

As a follow-up to the NextGen 12 session ‘The rise of the Intelligent City’, our Sunday Breakfast review this week looks at the latest ICF publication – Seizing Our Destiny’.

This  slim volume profiles 7 cities and considers how they have sought to adapt to the challenges of the digital economy.   Instead of drifting with the tide of national economies, these places, their people, their enterprises and institutions, are ‘seizing their destinies’ – finding ways to create local prosperity and solve local social challenges.

This movement towards identifying local initiatives as the key to wider economic revitalisation stands in stark contrast to conventional market sector analysis.

Cities may of course be deserving of special funding to alleviate complex societal and economic challenges (and there are more votes in cities) but all communities – urban or rural – should take note of the need to make a start on adaptation to the digital economy.

Resolving their local ‘digital deficit’ is just a start – it needs several supporting actions – but it is the most obvious platform for rebalancing and revitalising the economy.

Full story here

UPDATE:  (23:00 EST 21 October 2012)  ICF names Smart21 for 2013.

Transforming Public Services – new report

4 Jun

Colin Coulson-Thomas has launched his latest report – Transforming Public Services – in which he debunks top-down management moves like restructuring.

What is really needed, he says, is far better performance support for people at the coal face – and this approach is cheaper, faster and far more effective.

You can find more of Professor Coulson-Thomas’s work in the Editorial (Management) section of the main Groupe Intellex publication.

Full story here

Business, Society and Public Services

23 May

It’s good to see the ‘Circular Economy’ mentioned in the RSA’s latest report but the primary concern is that policy development in public services and economic growth is not being tackled in any cohesive way.

Based on the experience of Community Study Tours in Scandinavia, Groupe Intellex has long argued that the glue that binds these things together is investment in a high quality digital infrastructure.

It may, of course, be far more obviously necessary in remote places, with extremes of weather and transport difficulties, to maximise the use of digital interaction for basic public services such as health and education but the impact has been equally beneficial for enterprise, innovation, competition, community development and the stimulation of inward investment .

The RSA report’s main title reflects the distinct labels of Business, Society and Public Services – regarded by many as being in entirely different camps –  but the subtitle – ‘a social productivity framework‘ gets a little closer to the ‘mashed up’ realities and interdependencies of the real economy.   It’s a brave step but probably far too much for ‘Sun headlined’  ideologically-driven policy developers looking for simple solutions.

Will sleepwalkers awake when digital floods rise higher than their knees?

Download the full RSA report (PDF) here