Tag Archives: sustainability

Developing the Economic Fabric of the Future

5 Jan

Thinking about the prospects and projects for 2014, several development themes seem likely to be woven into the complex economic and community development fabric.  

One of our great insights from last year came from the CIO of the City of Chattanooga in Eastern Tennessee as he explained his rationale for investment – a process that resisted the technology-driven desires and preferences of the IT industry and focused ruthlessly on the real objectives of his municipal client departments.

This, in the USA’s first ‘GigabitCity’ where connectivity and capacity is not an issue, reflected a determination to deliver real benefits to the City’s administration (and  consequently its citizens and tax-payers) without wasting the rich resources available.  And in the Mayor’s office we found two of them – the City Mayor and the Mayor for the surrounding County.  Their mutual understanding of the interdependent role of the City and its hinterland added a fresh dimension to discussions of ‘Smart Cities’ that are so often reduced to Urban versus Rural contentions.

Immediately after visiting Chattanooga we spent time in New York with the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) and, once again, their perspective on the challenges faced by communities around the world provided a new way of thinking about the priorities we give to economic development.

In The Fabric of Our Futures (PDF) we summarise some of the more obvious themes that will arise in 2014 and, hopefully, will inform projects and prospects for future Study Tours, the UK’s Next Generation Digital Challenge Awards and the platforms we organise for innovators and community leaders.

The full text is also available here.

Waiting at Wembley for Winners

30 Sep

wembley-imgIt’s always a tense time two weeks before any big conference event.

Right now the build-up to NextGen 13 is no different as the pace and pressure of programming for the conference builds.

The pressure may be even greater – not least because the 2013 themes are different in many ways.  One of the downsides for a conference series that’s enjoyed a long run (it’s the 6th year for this two-day event) is that many of the players must get up to speed with the changing agenda.   The annual conference reflects the topics of its time – not the battles of the past.

It is much easier for the speakers.  Recruiting them involves ensuring that they are relevant and have something new to contribute.  Exhibitors, all no doubt leading busy lives focused on their own rationales, only wake up to new themes at the eleventh hour.  Maybe this annual event provides a time for reflection – a chance to check alignments with market realities?   And delegates?  The regular attendees will once again be shocked that the agenda has shifted and newcomers will be intrigued to find they are not alone in their recent penny-dropping digital discoveries.

Amid the hectic noise of last-minute programme adjustments and choreography there’s one small corner where silence has momentarily settled.   The Digital Challenge jury is out and until 14th October fingers may be crossed but no one will tempt fate by speculating on winners.  Even here, in the Digital Challenge awards, the shifting agenda is apparent.  Three new trophies signal the importance of Skills, Innovation and Open Data – key topics that rise above the basic broadband battles.

The 2013 NextGen focus is not, of course, a secret.  Last December’s paper on ‘Economic Revitalisation’ set the scene.  The conference theme, ‘Changing Agendas: Shifting Broadband Futures’ was proclaimed earlier in the year along with an expansion of five topics that have since informed the final schedule.  And locating the event at Wembley itself carries a massive message about regeneration.  Delegates have options to visit the Stadium, the Arena backstage, local fibred premises and even Brent Council’s new Civic Offices to understand the realities of fully fibred networks and designs for sustainability.

Pulling it all together may be hectic.  Fitting all shades of opinion (and a fair few technologies) onto the platform and into the exhibition will demand another two weeks of patient attention to detail.  And the winners will be found in all those who change their agendas to meet the shifting demands of the UK’s digital economy.

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NextGen 13, October 14th & 15th, at the Wembley Hilton, London, is the UK’s leading event for Next Generation broadband activity

This annual landmark event will build on Digital Scotland 2013 and the Intelligent Cities conference (Leeds) – events also managed by NG Events Ltd.

NextGen 13 provides the focus to take forward the UK’s digital access and application requirements debate. An exhibition and trade show will run alongside the conference.

Registration for Delegates

Sustainable Development and socio-efficiency

5 Jul

GI LogoIn his introduction to the July issue of Quality Times the editor draws attention to the definition of eco-efficiency by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development – “eco- efficiency is achieved by the delivery of competitively priced goods and services that satisfy human needs and bring quality of life, while progressively reducing ecological impact and resource intensity throughout the life-death cycle, to a level at least in line with the earth’s carrying capacity.”

The editor, Pradeep Chaturvedi,  adds that ‘similar to the concept of eco- efficiency but so far less explored in corporate sustainability is the concept of socio-efficiency, i.e., the relation between a company’s value added and its social impact.  While it can be assumed that corporate impact on environment is usually negative, this may not be true for the social impact. . . .  Both eco-efficiency and socio-efficiency promote economic sustainability of businesses in the long run’.

This neatly introduces a paper by Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas that addresses Environmental Management Challenges and Opportunities for the World Congress in Dehli on 19th/20th of July.  In the context of a world-wide digitalisation of economies, empowerment of citizens, and the disappointments of Rio+20 last year this paper aimed at corporate boardrooms could not be better timed.

The Groupe Intellex summary of Colin’s paper is available here.

 

 

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

The Rural Imperative – Dig for a Gigabit-enabled Future

14 Apr

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

Sustainable Economic Development

14 Dec

Those who doubted the findings in 2009 of Wilkinson and Pickett’s ‘The Spirit Level’ may care to revisit the subject of equality in the light of the recent report from Boston Consulting Group.

In BCG’s ‘Sustainable Economic Development Assessment’ we have new methodologies and data for assessing the quality of GDP growth – the extent to which wealth is converted into well-being.

It turns out that countries with high rates of growth are not necessarily able to convert that into societal development whereas other less-GDP-impressive countries seem to have far better mechanisms for raising living standards.

Why should this matter when we seem to have little or no growth?  This study arrives at a time when people are drawing lessons from recessionary times and, in facing up to the creative disruptions of the digital economy, are more than ever beginning to appreciate the real role of infrastructure in enabling both wealth and wellbeing.

Full story here

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.

Quarterly Review and Index

28 Jun

Our editorial streams in the quarter April-June 2012  were dominated by coverage of the UN Sustainability Summit, (Rio+20) with considerable input from ‘Groupe Intellex Associate’ Marit Hendriks in Rio de Janeiro filming for NextGen TV.

Surprise hits, however, were the editorials on the ‘digital’ economy, New Economic Models and, from the archive, a heart-felt sermon on the iniquities of call centres, ‘ Please hold during the silence’.

The Quarterly Review includes references, acknowledgement, a chronological listing and a full alphabetical index of topics and people featured  in the last 3 months.

Rio+20: Pressing for a Restart

26 Jun

In this final editorial from the UN Sustainability Summit in Rio we consider the disappointments felt by many participants but also celebrate the digital connectivity that has taken the messages from this event to all corners of the world.

In Marit Hendrik’s compilation of voices from Rio we hear from the UN leadership, from those concerned with their own country’s leadership deficit in environmental matters and those who really understand the need to re-engage with a digitally-empowered and well-connected next generation.

Full story here with video from Marit Hendriks for NextGen TV.

Ria: a tribute to worldly-wise women of Rio+20

22 Jun

Ria in Spanish is the feminine of Rio and it seems only appropriate for our 4th report from Rio+20 to acknowledge the work of women around the world.

On a day when London and Brussels both experienced the power of dignified but determined voices we turn our Rio+20 spotlight on Tanya, Doris and Brittany – three voices with messages that lift us out of politics, resolutions and declarations and into the real world of getting on with finding solutions to everyday environmental problems.

In the rain forests of the Amazon or remote valleys in Switzerland or from the distant shores of New Zealand we feature three great examples of digital empowerment.

Politicians and the media may think the Rio+20 sustainability text is ‘insipid’ but life goes on and the present powers will be held to account by the next generation.

Full story here with videos by Marit Hendriks for NextGenTV.