Digital Scotland and The Royal Society of Edinburgh

Just returned from the Next Gen ’10 roadshow in Edinburgh.

The most interesting thing for me ( which I had compeletely missed before I went there) is that Scotland has approached this whole problem of upgrading the broadband network by commissioning the Royal Society of Edinburgh to look at the problem afresh.  Unlike The Royal Society (based in London), the RSE has maintained the “Scottish Generalist Tradition” and have brought an eclectic set of wise folk to apply new thought and rigour to working through the issue of broadband in Scotland so that it serves the wider context of society and the economy.  Technology is a means to a greater end, not an end in itself.

The Digital Scotland interim report can be found by first clicking on the RSE logo below and then clicking on the link right at the bottom of the page “Read Interim Report”:

Unlike the Digital Britain report which was written in the time of a dying administration by economist-politicians, bureaucrats and quangos, and then attacked by the new administration to become a nearly totally ineffective set of recommendations, Scotland has approached the problem with refreshing renaissance-style method that only a body like the RSE can do.  It is an elegant combination of mathematical logic combined with rounded, objective reasoning – and moves the debate forward so that Scotland might well take the thought-leadership position when it publishes its final report once the current comments have been digested.

One conclusion that I came away with is that the whole debate about where fibre goes should be re-focused around Fibre to the Community.  Many of the more rural areas in Scotland would benefit tremendously by digging a single fibre into the community.  The current ambitions of Jeremy Hunt and the Con-Lib coalition government for the UK to become the leader in Europe for broadband by 2015 – without any central government funding – becomes even more challenging when one compares us to Finland – which was very well articulated by Professor Michael Fourman in his detailed analysis backing up Digital Scotland at the conference.

One of the strange things is that the interim report talks of Fiber, not Fibre.  I am not sure how this American English has managed to get into a perfectly good Scottish-English Language document.  But Hey Ho – the world moves on!

The Scots, Edinburgh and the RSE have a long tradition of great invention and enlightened thinking.  This blog will keep a keen eye on developments North of the Border.

(P.S.  The talk that I gave on Sir Patrick Geddes will be put onto this post once I transcribe and edit it.)