Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Guest Post (by Chris) What the Big Society means to me:
This blog post can be read at 5tth.blogspot.com
Big society is like the inside of a watch.
In the 'Old Days' our society revolved round communication. Over the garden wall on a Monday morning when the washing was pegged out, the 'gossip' would go down the roads, passing on wisdom, advice and help through the cogs and wheels. Meeting the kids after school in the playground all the mums would catch up on stuff, again sharing problems or worries as well as having fun. This is how a big society worked, just like a watch. The lads would meet up at the chapel, the auction, the pub etc and do the same. (Contrary to most belief the biggest gossips were the men)... but that is the way to get stuff off your chest, and in the process get or give help. Gossip is what makes the fingers on the watch and the world go round.
If you don't know the lad up the road just lost his sheepdog you don't get the chance to let him know the lad down the road on the farm just whelped a tidy litter.
If you don't know the man next door has just been diagnosed as a diabetic and is very worried, you can't put him in touch with the lady you met at church last week whose husband is coping brilliantly with diabetic treatments and living a totally normal life.
Due to the pressures of modern life and lack of TIME, caused by most young families needing two wages, and youngsters moving away to cities for work, away from extended family, this social interaction is now being done digitally. Facebook, twitter, blogs, texting and chatting.
In many rural areas this is not an option, due to limited connectivity to the pipeline known as the internet. Mobile phones don't work in many areas too.
For a big society to really work we need access for ALL to technology. This does not mean everyone needs to be able to do a spreadsheet or format documents in microsoftflamingword. It means access to whatever apps they want to use. In a similar way to how they communicated in the past, when all the women were at home in the daytime. Whether it was talking over the garden fence or in the village shop, or school or church. With a fat pipe, a digital village pump in every parish it means communities can get together and build a digital infrastructure to take the place of the washing line.
To get back to the watch idea and the cogs... the whole big society concept is about communication.
A mandarin in London will think he is a big cog, and a little old lady in the sticks may think she is a small cog. No matter what size we are, we all have an invaluable part to play in the endgame of Next Generation Internet access in our country. For Big Society to work, the watch has to keep the time. Every jewel and cog in the watch is a vital component.
Someone wearing a carer's watch, looking after a family member with Alzheimers is the biggest cog in the watch, and even the king/queen/prime minster are tiny cogs in comparison, the local doctor's cog is larger than royalty, and a best friend can be a larger cog still. The carer's need for an internet connection for remote assistance is just as great as a banker wanting to move stocks and shares.
The kids trying to access the school Moodle for homework are just as important as the businessman wanting to access the company database. The kids are our future, we need to build a next generation network for the next generation.
In our own circle of influence within our timepiece, we are all large cogs. If we are on someone else's wrist, ie a government's, we may be small, but no matter, we are all vital to success. None of us can keep the time on our own.
It is time for us all to collaborate, innovate and work together in a Big Society to build the infrastructure we need, fit for this century and bring us out of the dark ages of copper. A councillor can help with town planning issues. A farmer can help with access and advice on how to cross his land. A parish councillor can help engage his/her community. A neighbour can help the little old lady get a decent connection to do a bit of video conferencing with the doctor or family.
Getting connected isn't just about using a computer, it's about all the other benefits that internet access brings. Remote monitoring and Ehealth don't even need the user to own a PC.
Here up int'north we have always had a big society. We look after our own. We need to be able to do it digitally too. Internet access is now a distinct possibility at this moment in Time. We must not waste this opportunity. Time to act.
At the Rural Broadband Conference on Saturday 18 Sept at Rheged let us be ready to be wound up. IT's time to get this show on the road.
Follow the Rural broadband conference and discussions on Twitter on #rbc10