September 2010 Archives

Broadband at the Party Conferences: let the 2015 election campaign commence

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For all the current interest in Broadband, it does not appear to have featured at the LibDem and Labour party conferences and there appears to be only one directly relevent meeting at the Conservative party conference: the Conservative Technology Forum meeting on Sunday October 3rd, 5.00 for 5.30, ending by 7.00. That meeting is outside the security zone at the Institute for Engineering and Technology, Austin Court (between the ICC and the National Indoor Arena) so there is no need to have a security pass in order to attend.

Skills to bring forward the recovery: the need for "Tax Free Training"

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Recession is a time to catch up on maintenance and training. Slump is a time for radical change in order to survive. That means you will need a very different skills mix when recovery comes. But so will everyone else. You will go down in the competition for the new skills if you do not plan ahead. The same is true for UK plc. Given that HMG has no money, part of the national recovery package should be a short order "tax free training" programme to use the opportunity to reskill the existing UK workforce for the 21st century - beginning with a reform of IR 35 to reflect the full cost of keeping skills up to date.

 

Skills for sustainable growth - or protecting the past from the future

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I expect to spend most of the week-end ahead drafting responses to the BIS Consultations on which I blogged a couple of days ago. The more I read the consultation papers, especially that on FE funding, the more depressed I become. "Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose". About five years ago the Council of what is now the Information Society Alliance (EURIM) declined to allow me to spend more time on workforce skills until I could show evidence that major employers were willing to mount the political pressure necessary to overcome the departmental inertia and vested interests that have prevented change for over twenty years.  

Putting your life on the line: Dare you rely on the Internet?

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Among the e-mails I have recently received on "The Dark Net" and the  "Black Internet" was one from Professor John Walker. He has given me permission to reproduce it as a guest blog. My own thoughts are at the end:

 

"One of the major considerations for any organisation considering adoption of a Cloud, or Extended Perimeter Solution is to understand their dependencies on the Internet Backbone and to arrive at a critical conclusion which will:

 

a) Consider their appetite and tolerance for downtime

b) Consider their option for Mitigations, and Risk Reductions

The Battle for Borders Broadband: my money is on the Steel Bonnets

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Last week I said (in my post on the Chattanooga plans) that I thought Rory Stewart's broadband conference would prove to have been a seminal event. We can now see the tectonic plates shifting with the semi-public emergence of BT's plans to hoover up public budgets, at every level, to fund its transition to a proper Next Generation Network, capable of supporting fibre to the home (whether or not it is installed by Openreach) and the other players having to decide their game. Ian Grant's article "Fibre pioneers run into problems" is an excellent introduction to the problems that have to be addressed to short order by BIS, DCMS and Ofcom if they are to be part of the solution rather than the problem. Meanwhile the Commission has put Ofcom on notice to pull its finger out on Spectrum

 

Education for unemployment or training for the jobs of the future

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On 9th September I was tasked to organise a response from the Information Society Alliance to the BIS Consultations on: Skills for Sustainable Growth and A simplified further education and skills funding system and methodology. Both have a deadline of October 10th. I have just realised that I have seen no publicity for either and fear a re-run of the consultations we have had every couple of years for about thirty years - with responses dominated by those farming a system of state support that dates back to 1917.

However, the current spending crisis and need to preserve the UK from terminal economic decline may offer an opportunity to secure genuine change.  I therefore urge all those with an interest in the subject to make their own submissions as well.

Citizen or subject: The politics of personal identity

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The debate over ID Cards has not gone away. It will return next year, with plans for security during the Olympics (as an "extension" of the NATO agenda for identifying Goivenrment employers and contractors, including security staff and volunteers), for residents' cards (to cut the cost of delivering public services) and for EU initatives (supposedly to aid pan-Euopean inter-operability). Meanwhile those wanting us to transact on-line will wish to promote their dreams for global identities that will help them cement market share. It has therefore been suggested that I update my 2004 guide to the politics of Personal Identity to help a new generation (including politicians and those lobbying them) to understand what has changed and what has not. Here goes:

 

Rory Stewart's reivers steal the show on Broadband

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I am told that Ian Grant's excellent summary of the bidding war that took place in Penrith in Saturday tells only part of the story. You too can share the rest. My thanks to Lindsey Annison for giving me links to the video record produced by John Popham, the live blog and the film about rural fibre from Chris Conder. Lindsey also comments that the many blog posts on the conference and the 'instant' availability for everyone in almost real time "puts to shame all conference organisers who charge hundreds or thousands of pounds to attend their do and then often take months to get videos and presentations online, if at all!".

P.S. The Border Reivers had stolen anything that could be moved for hundreds of years until   James VI  of Scotland (James 1 of England) brought about peace on the borders between his two kingdoms by shipping the worst of the troublemakers to Ulster so they could create the Irish problem before going on to America to create Bourbon and bring mayhem to the Wild West.

 

There is nothing quite so dangerous as ignorance in motion

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The European Commission is about to review the Electronic Signatures Directive. The proposals will need to be looked at in the context of the NATO drive for a PKI-based common identity root - initially for government employees and contractors. We should remember that the last set of proposals to supposedly clarify the law on electronic signatures were initially bound up with back doors for surveillance by the security services and tied to RIPA. What is it that is needed that is not covered by the UNCITRAL model law on Electronic Commerce, including its provisions on electronic signatures?

Chattanooga Choo Choo v. Pigeon Post v. UK Broadband

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Yesterday I blogged on the Chattanooge Gig to the home for smart metering, grid and domestic broadband. Today the BBC carries news of a contest between carrier pigeon and UK rural broadband for an uploaded file. I have just done a quick calculation and it looks as thought the carrier pigeon would also beat almost all UK urban broadband upload services, including those which offer "up to 20 mbps" for download.

 

Your Gig is here: broadband convergence - Chattanooga Style

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On Monday I heard that some of the Broadband Delivery UK team still do not think users need more than 2 mbps and wish to quietly slip the deadline for even this from 2012 to 2015. Meanwhile there is an expectation of separate multi-billion pound networks for smart grids and metering. Yesterday I learned that Chattanooga  plans to deliver both, plus a gigabit  to the home - and finally received a promise that an engineer will call tomorrow to find out why my supposed 7 mbps line runs at only 1.6.

 

 

Do Whitehall procurement frameworks add value?

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One of the first tasks under the Cabinet Office "Structural Reform Plan"  was the creation of a new Cabinet Office "Efficiency and Reform Group" which would overhaul procurement. There is a presumption in some quarters that this will lead to a new and more centralised regim. Is that the correct approach? As you will have gathered from opening of my previous blog, I am equally unconvinced by the enthusiams of "the Network for teh post-Bureaucratic Age". 

I fear months of intellectual masturbation involving the procurement "experts" and "consultants" who have made good livings and reputations from creating the current and previous swamps. Meanwhile irreparable damage will be done to the supply side. Would it not be better to adopt a process of natural selection: kill off those processes which do not give value for money, encourage the use of those which do and allow for the emergence of new and better processes over time?    

Nothing Comes Free: the Open Source Business Models

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"Better for Less: How to make Government IT deliver savings"  is a great read although the idea that six months of tight central control can lead to a transformation of government IT sounds a bit like the approach of revolutionaries through the ages: from Robespierre through Marx to Chairman Mao. I have, however, promised that I will do a serious review because the report makes many good points and valid criticisms that need to be answered, not dismissed. A core part of the recommended approach is the re-use of Open Source software. On 27th September I am due to chair a session on "Free" Open Source Software at a Westminster Media Forum event. Chairmen are supposed to keep quiet and I accepted because chairing experts is a great way to keep up to date and some-one else's expense. I thought therefore that I would blog my thoughts (and by implication my own questions) in advance.   

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