Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Connected Britain

I went to a panel debate last week, hosted by the London Transport Museum, on the subject of how connectivity is affecting where and how people live in the UK.

It was extremely interesting, and raised some very good points. The panel was chaired by BBC journalist Evan Davis and included writer and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter, futurologist James Bellini, Robert Ainger from Orange and The London Mayor’s Transport Adviser Kulveer Ranger.

Today, Orange put out a press release about the event, claiming the conclusions of the panel were essentially that "
rather than destroying human interaction, technology will enhance it".

It's certainly true that that view was expressed to a certain degree. But I would say some of the panellists also expressed concern that an increased reliance on technology and working from home will in some ways also alienate people, and create more loneliness. That side of the debate did not seem to make it into the press release! Also, the panellists noted that they were really talking about a small minority of people who currently work in offices: A lot of people do not and have no choice but to go where the work is.

For me, the elephant in the room was the current state of Britain's connectivity. There seemed to be the assumption that in a few years time we would all be able to live where we wanted because high-speed broadband Internet would be available everywhere. As things stand, I am not sure we can assume that!? Who is going to build all this rural fibre? When are the spectrum auctions actually going to take place? And is the 2-Mbps promised under Digital Britain really going to be enough?

I think we've got some way to go yet...

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