Search This Blog

Monday, 26 January 2009

The consistent lack of consumer and community input

Just before this Carter Report comes out, (any time now, am fed up with hitting f5 on the DCMS site!!) I was just looking again at the steering board. Although it is no doubt indeed made up of experts in their own fields, where are we being consulted, and our views represented? It seems rather telling once again that those driving the Digital Britain agenda fail to include consumer and community representatives.

I know it is an old beef of mine, but considering what a huge proportion of the nation we make up (ie 100%!!!), it occurs across the board.

ISTM that across policy making in general there is a failure to seek out and then listen to the voices of the people for whom the decisions will have the most impact, or be of the most concern. Where it does happen, many times it appears that it is just lip service being paid to our inclusion as stakeholders.

This doesn't just seem to be a Westminster Village lack of hearing aids, but across many councils and public sector bodies who seem to be too busy attending internal meetings to hear the views and opinions and concerns of those whom they are tasked to "serve" - I presume that is where the term 'civil servant' comes from.....

My inbox and phone over the last few days (as it has been now for a decade) have once again been flooded with people for whom broadband in this country is currently poor, and many of these people feel that they cannot be heard in resolving the issues and shaping the future.

These are not just people complaining. These are people with some pretty exciting ideas about how to solve the problems and move a broadband-enabled UK Plc forwards at the rate required. And you can find great consumer and community suggestions on every forum and website where broadband is mentioned, from The Register to the BBC, Samknows and ThinkBroadband, to consumer sites such as MoneySavingExpert and beyond.

Are they being heard?? Today may well give us that answer...

I've personally this week received suggestions about extending the gas pipelines whilst laying fibre; a levy instead of a USO to create a pot for the disconnected areas; auctioning off the content provision once the network has been built as a mutually owned utility; femto and pico cell suggestions for FiWi, etc. There have been queries about quotes for rural digs that have brought together farmers, landowners and digging experts to discuss the best route forward for JFDI dig where you live broadband. I have had a very interesting conversation at a Burn's Night do with a rural female (aged 60+) who puts most of us to shame in understanding the technicalities of her broadband problem and what she has done to try to solve it.

There are people in rural areas using the internet in ways that I suspect many in London (or even the local councils) are totally unaware of, because of rural isolation, poor employment prospects, lack of and/or a diminishing number of facilities townies take for granted, and so on. But it's not just in the countryside, necessity is breeding innovation in towns and cities too.

We need to find out what people are using the Net for, why those who don't use it don't, those who can't use it can't, and how to educate those people so they are included in our digital society.

This report is due imminently. I await it with a growing interest to see how and whether it has addressed many of the issues that face the citizens and businesses of this nation. Not just the media, broadcasters etc.

The UK, IMHO, is not made up of people just willing to sit back and consume ignorantly, but ever more apparently, it is becoming a nation where people want engagement, innovation and interactivity to bring the best for the population.

Action is and will be taken by those who know what is required and will find the way to do it from what I am hearing, if they have to. If it comes down to a repeat of "Dig for Victory", I think we may see that if this report misses the targets.

Back to hitting F5..........

No comments: