Here is the “warm-up” speech I gave at the Next Gen Roadshow in Edinburgh earlier this week. Enjoy!
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.)
It is well worth watching this latest TED video from Seth Priebatsch:
Seth cites four dynamics:
1. Appointment Dynamic
Where players have to do something at a pre-defined time/place…..I really like the way to create a game to take medicine as a real-world application. I don’t play Farmville on Facebook – but my children do and I can see it is addictive. The business world relies more and more on virtual appointments – but this area is surely still in its infancy.
2. Influence and Status Dynamic
3. Progression Dynamic
“The average player spends 6.5 hours a day on World of Warcraft”……I constatly ask what does this mean for work and the next generation of folk in the workplace? Players in this new world will demand more interactive, 3D experiences at work. They will not be willing to take jobs that are considered “boring”. This gap between the gaming world and the current tools and practices in the workplace is going to be a big challenge to bridge. But lots of opportunities present themselves as well.
I also really like the new way of ascribing grades so they are not pass or fail but encourage you to develop to the next stage. I am sure that good schools understand this already anyway! It takes a Princeton drop-out not to see this perhaps!
4. Communal Discovery – everyone has to work together to achieve something
The DARPA Balloon Challenge sounds fascinating as a really effective search mechanism – not sure I fully understand it, but what a great way to collect information quickly by rewarding those along the chain of collection.
The question I have is what are the other three dynamics?
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!
On looking at the challenges the UK faces on reducing spending, I am reminded of the second Labour of Hercules:
There was a beast living in the swamps of Lerna that ravaged the countryside devouring cattle. It was known as the Hydra. For his second labour, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to rid the world of this predatory monster. Taking his nephew, Iolaus (who was a surviving son of Hercules’ brother Iphicles), as his charioteer, Hercules set out to destroy the famed monster – which had nine heads, one of which was immortal.
Of course Hercules couldn’t simply shoot an arrow at the beast or club him to death. There had to be something special about the beast that made normal mortals unable to control it. If ever one of the mortal heads were cut, from the stump would immediately spring forth two new heads! Wrestling with the beast proved difficult because while trying to attack one head, another would use its fangs to bite Hercules’ leg.
Ignoring the nipping at his heels and calling upon Iolaus for help, Hercules arranged to have Iolaus burn the neck as soon as Hercules had chopped a head off. In this way the stump could not regenerate. When all eight mortal necks were headless and cauterised, Hercules sliced off the immortal head and buried it underground with a stone on top to hold it down. Having dispatched with the head, Hercules dipped his arrows in the gall of the beast, and in this way, as he would soon learn, he made his arrows lethal.
Upon returning to the outskirts of Tiryns, Eurystheus denied Hercules credit for the labor because Iolaus had helped out.
As I see it, the coalition government has a Herculean task of slaying the nine-headed monster of Government Procurement. What is required is that all existing mega-procurement national contracts are isolated and cauterised before two new heads can grow. Savings are seldom made through encouraging this kind of national monster to feed on the fragile local economies that keep the country serviced. The more contracts that can be given to local businesses the better. It will take a lot of courage to ignore the heel-biting that will appear as this particular Hydra is systematically de-capitated and destroyed.
With the abolition of the RDAs and with a solid plan coming out of DCLG last week, along with other cuts in other national spending programmes, the signs so far are promising that the government has a systematic plan, like Hercules, to slay the monster.
It will considerable time to kill the other heads of the Nine-Headed Hydra of National Procurement – as well as some courage not to allow new heads to emerge in the before the monster is dead. I already see new heads in BIG BUSINESS emerging under other guises wanting to keep the monster alive for as long as it can.
In the end, even if, as in Hercules’ case, David Cameron and his team do not get all the credit because they have been helped by the Lib-Dems, then the battle will have been worth it just to have slayed the monster. Even so, some would say there are still ten Herculean tasks to go before we get the country back on track!
Just as Ethernet comes before Fibre in the alphabet, I can’t help but think that rather than debate the merits of FTTH, FTTC, FTTX etc. we should be debating about:
Ethernet to the Home
Ethernet to the Small Business Park
Ethernet to the School
Ethernet to the Pub
Ethernet to the Fridge
If we put more emphasis on providing Ethernet to the Community….or ETTC and let the Fibre follow the demand for Ethernet services, then that would be a much easier model to rally around. The technology could then be pulled by the increasing demand for Ethernet services.
After all, E comes before F!