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Dealing with The Deficit - the top down and bottom up of digital deficits PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Friday, 31 August 2012 09:17

This editorial first appeared in the technology section of Bdaily - the online news forum for Bitish business.

We all know about The Deficit.

On-message Ministers are never slow to remind us that resolving The Deficit is the top priority.  Truth is, of course, there are many deficits.

Excess government borrowing and the gap between tax revenues and public sector expenditures are the visible part of the economic iceberg.  But, searching for a safe passage in these treacherous waters, captains of industry find their way blocked by many hazards.

Head of CommunicationsThe construction sector is appalled at the housing deficit.  Air-transport lobbyists are short of runway capacity.  Educationalists need better-educated (and better-funded) students.  Railways could use more and faster carriages. Retailers need more shoppers.  Energy utilities need smarter meter reading. Small businesses need more investment.  Manufacturers need higher-skills.  Rural areas need more inward investment and doctors and patients need to be better connected.

Sometimes it seems that the only surplus we have is ‘hassle’ – the annoying stuff that gets in the way of doing business.  But underlying all these deficits is a deeper darker deficit - ‘Digital Deficit’ – an affliction prevalent in most parts of the country and known as DD.

You can look at DD in two ways – top down or bottom up.  There’s MacroDD – that’s the decade-long underinvestment in digital infrastructure – and MicroDD - a rather more personal assessment of your own digital expertise.

MacroDD is usually deniable by government, regulators and incumbent suppliers – they see their job as maintaining confidence in the economy.  But, as any recovering banker knows, the therapy only starts with an open acknowledgement of past sins.  This confessional process is now becoming less voluntary largely on account of the non-deniability of an increasingly global digital economy that has impacts for every sector and almost every citizen – driven by the simple fact that folks can now uncover things faster than they can be covered up.

So it is not surprising to find that enterprising folk in the UK are suddenly aware that just across the North Sea in Scandinavia the Digital Deficits are nowhere near so apparent or business-life threatening on account of a decade of municipal investment that allows local taxes to be reduced, inward investment in remote places to boom and public sector services to be more effective.

As regards your own Digital Deficit – MicroDD – the government has recognized that, being behind the curve, we all need to up our expertise.  Is it really surprising that our nation’s greatest innovations are created in a few exceptionally well-connected places?  While MacroDD deniers say ‘no demand’ and thus avoid future-proofing their broadband access networks, we can be sure that there will be little proof of a future in digital investment.  Valued like gold dust, today’s most confident and competent CTO’s were allowed to ‘play’ with a BBC MicroB in their teens.

All this wouldn’t really matter were we not living in a would-be digital economy where the elimination of daily hassle is the prime target of digital innovators who see the need for everything and everyone to be better connected.  The quality of digital infrastructure networks is measured by how best they are used.  We are, apparently, quite good at last-generation online shopping but there should be no denying that having a Digital Deficit we are still a developing economy.


The author, David Brunnen, writes on innovation for the Communications Management Association (part of the BCS) and for NextGen12, the conference in October that brings together all those engaged in building broadband networks that are fit-for-purpose in a digital economy.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 August 2012 09:28

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