Here is the “warm-up” speech I gave at the Next Gen Roadshow in Edinburgh earlier this week. Enjoy!
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.)
Broadband: The Final Frontier
I hope you enjoy my first upload to YouTube!
It mixes ideas on Next Generation Broadband with the structure of a Palindrome.
If you have not seen one of these before, hang in there! You won’t understand the real message until you get to the end.
Thanks to other Palindromes on YouTube for the inspiration!
Fibre to the Third Place (FTT3P)
The third place is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings which are separate from the two normal social environments of our homes (first place) and the workplace (second place).
In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place. Oldenburg calls one’s “first place” the home and those that one lives with. The “second place” is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time.
Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. Oldenburg suggests that the three hallmarks of a true “third place” are that they are free or inexpensive; provide food and drink (while not essential, quite important); and that they are highly accessible. Starbucks and Costa are obvious examples, but villages and rural communities often have other third places such as a cafe, a pub, a church hall or a school hall.
As more and more people choose to telecommute and work from home, third places become ever more important as the bridge between the old world and the new world of work: both paid and voluntary.
If we are going to re-invent society around more local, sustainable ways of working, then the nurturing of our third places becomes central to this new philosophy for 21st century living. And if we see want these “communities of place” to replace the industrial factories and call-centres and office factories of yesterday, then we must provide them with the latest broadband.
Hence Fibre to the Third Place. WiFi hotspots do some of it, but there remains a lot more work to do!