What do you want from Santa for 2009 ?

Were you good little boys and girls in 2008?


Are you entering the worst recession since  …. (pick your own date) with loyal customers and reserve funds in a bank/currency that has not yet collapsed? 


If not, Santa has a copy of Voltaire’s Candide for you. 


The slide of sterling, down 30% over the year to date, means that the window between deflation and stagflation, for stimulating an relatively painless UK recovery, is likely to be short.


Already suppliers are declining to supply equipment within framework contracts for which the prices were fixed when sterling was riding high. Add another set of cable failures to remind us of the fragility of relying on offshore call-centres, plus growing perception of the problems of information security along supply chains, and we can expect a sharp swing against off-shoring.


In parallel we will see exercises to make more efficient use of existing hardware and reduce software and support costs – and an end to resource-hungry upgrades for which there is no business case.


ICT suppliers can therefore look forward to an even leaner year than most of their customers.


So what could government do to help bring forward the recovery?  


The first six areas for action that come to mind are: 


·         100% capital allowances for investment in infrastructure, especially communications networks and power supply, where service fluctuations are becoming serious 


·         A period of zero valuation for new build for business rating purposes, again to help bring forward infrastructure investment and shorten the period of vulnerability


·         Scrap “administrative incentive pricing” (the merry-go-round spectrum tax on those whose options and budgets are both determined by Treasury) 


·         Bring UK public sector procurement practice into line with the rest of the EU, enabling fast, efficient and open procurements in support of phased, rapid payback programmes


·         Allow all training cost to be offset against tax (personal or corporate) as in other countries, with salary while under training exempt from PAYE.


·         Pay all product and service suppliers to central government inside 10 days of valid invoice provided they, in turn, pay their subcontractors inside 10 days.


So what you want from Santa in the Digital Britain announcements in January?


And what should industry, including its professions, do in its turn?


The first six actions that come to mind are:


·         ISPs and law enforcement to co-operate in removing the predators who are clogging up the Internet with spam and malware and frightening off paying customers


·         Shared programmes to train supplier and user staff in relationship management and dispute avoidance so that savings from cost-cutting do not vanish in legal costs


·         Rebuild information governance skills, so that decisions are based on data that is fit for purpose, not mountains of semi-fiction: consistantly distorted or randomly erroneous  


·         Support community broadband projects which turn risk investment into leasing deals, with costs slashed by the use of alternative, but also inter-operable, technologies 


·         Co-operate with local Colleges/Universities to organise modular, flexible training, including work experience, for the skills that will be in demand when recovery comes.


·         Be politically active in the party of your choice and use its channels in parallel with those of your trade association and profession to make your views known where it matters.


What would you add? 


I have just received the draft reports on three excellent EURIM meetings last week on some of the actions needed with regard to information governance, procurement reform and spectrum allocation). I will blog on these when these go on the website after Christmas.


In the meantime, do be careful on New Year’s Eve: the radio systems of the emergency services are massively overloaded because the additional spectrum identified for them before Ofcom was created has still not been made available.