|Written by David Brunnen|
|Sunday, 12 February 2012 14:07|
How much easier would work/life be if . . . .
Many research reports publicised in 2011 confirmed what had been apparent in other countries for some time; economic growth is directly linked to the quality of local digital access networks. More significantly the impacts of digital investment across the entire economy are now better understood.
Our own studies of networks in Sweden and the research reports produced for the Swedish government have also emphasized the societal benefits that become apparent beyond the initial network investments motivated by the search for economic growth and enterprise productivity.
Industry analysts have historically regarded both the source and outcomes of ICT investment as a Technology Sector topic. It is now more widely understood that around 80% of the benefit of ICT investment is felt in other sectors and often far removed from the centres of technological expertise.
Meanwhile the focus of investment in the next generation of digital connectivity remains firmly rooted in the established telecom sector where it is generally regarded as an incremental upgrade of existing network services to deliver connectivity for households rather than businesses. This ‘upgrade’ stance contrasts with those who argue that we should be embarking on a totally fresh approach to digital network provision akin to the conversion of electricity from DC to AC completed in the mid-1900s.
In terms of future competitiveness it is instructive to contrast network performance in different European states. The graph shows that citizens in countries with very dominant incumbent Telcos are experiencing little more than average performances whereas, in countries with greater competition in that sector, network services are significantly more innovative.
Beyond a simple focus on headline download speeds there are many other factors that impact on the quality and effectiveness of local network services. Many businesses might wish for the freedom of ‘dark fibre’ in designing and operating their own private networks but other important factors include upload speeds, response times, packet loss, concurrent and secure VPN capacities, open access to competitive services, local community-specific service development and hosting, and the availability of meaningful ‘service level agreements’. Network technology could allow users to enjoy ‘dynamic bandwidth’ – massive extra short-term capacity when needed at the flick of a switch – but such flexibility needs high-quality network management systems.
In this digital world almost every country can be regarded as a ‘developing nation’ – and, like road and rail investment, the relevance of what happens in the technology sector is of vital importance to the success of enterprises across the entire economy. Large businesses may be able to afford custom-made solutions to offset local access difficulties but the deficiencies are of much greater concern for micro and small/medium sized enterprises – i.e. the vast majority (99.5%) all UK businesses, widely acknowledged as the main source of jobs, innovation, exports and potential economic growth.
What is missing from the current mix of cautious investment and management of network transformation is a strong demand-side steer from outside of the technology sector. With some urgency organisations of all persuasions need to ask how much easier their work and life would be if they had ubiquitous and dependable access to high quality digital networks that really were fit for purpose.
That is why NextGen supports ‘Connected Causes’ – a partnership programme to engage many diverse organisations from across the UK economy - and further afield - in demanding faster and better deployment of high-quality digital access utility networks.
With an expansion of conventional ‘contra-deals’ (reciprocal in-kind cross promotions) NextGen invites organisations from every non-tech sector (private or public) to engage their audiences in debate about digital network adequacy. To facilitate that engagement we provide free resources in the form of graphics, presentations, expert speakers, editorial materials and opportunities for partnering organisations to speak at NextGen events across the UK.