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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

ITs Time for Big Society... and action

Guest Post (by Chris) What the Big Society means to me:
This blog post can be read at

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



Cyberdoyle said...

The inventor of the Web has called for everyone to have access to his creation for free.
Totally agree with TBL. I don't think we should pay for low bandwidth services, that will just do to get more engagement, then people can pay for a better service as the needs grow. What I do object to is in rural areas we pay an awful lot for a very inferior product,(dial up) and this balance can be changed if we get our digital village pumps and build our own community owned infrastructure.

GuyJ said...

I like your post - it grasps the need for people to get out of their boxes of isolation, of anonymity that the modern world seems to impose if we let it of course!

Its about technology as the Greeks originally meant it the use of tools

Back in July I posted
as a way of looking differently at MaggieT's notorious statement
maybe there is some tie in there with what you are saying?

PEN said...

Chris's post highlights the importance of bridging and bonding capital that forms the bedrock of rural communities, even today. What modern networks do is increase the reach and frequency of that capital and allows for asynchronous long term development of ideas. Who knows what innovation can arise from having access to NG infrastructure.

This piece also highlights that in its current form Big Society is very urban in its roots let us hope that an urban model is not imposed on rural communities.

Cyberdoyle said...

Agree Guy, I think I was trying to make the point that we are big cogs in our own watches but only small ones on the wrists of the great and the good, but I think your metaphor is probably clearer.

Pen, I do hope the urban lords and ladies will take the time to try on our watches before they impose edicts from on high. You are right, we already have a big society, which NGA can only make stronger. I am glad we have one of the first beta trials, and I am sure a lot will be learnt here in t'north which will help other parts of this country. Thanks for your feedback chaps.

Cyberdoyle said...

Just had a conversation on twitter about watches. Mike Chitty sent me to look at this post:
He says watches are complicated, but people are complex. I didn't understand what he meant until I read the above link. Well worth a read. To help big society keep the right time. A prior read might have helped me write this blog and I may have chosen a different metaphor to compare it to...
... or maybe not. I like the watch idea. ;)

Unknown said...

I'm proud to be a cog Chris!
Glad you made this post because #bigsociety has to understand it's not just about getting the cogs in the cities to engage and work together, but the cogs in the country have an equal part to play, which they cannot do effectively if they can't even get in the watch!

Rural small businesses and social enterprises need to be able to be as efficient as their urban cousins. They need to be able to grow, and employ, and put the heart back in their communities. Can't do that without connection!

Love the "digital village pumps" analogy too!

Have a great day on Saturday; will be following on #rbc10

Cyberdoyle said...

thanks for the comment homojo group, and you are so right. We can do this... I can feel it. Our Time is Now.

Cyberdoyle said...

soz Howard, I spelt your name wrong on earlier comment. I am a very bad spelling cog. hojomo I should have put... mea culpa.

MB94128 said...

My original comment seems to have been lost.

#1 - Cyberdoyle - "Tim Berners-Lee calls for free internet worldwide" (BBC online 15 Sept. 2010)

MB94128 said...

#2 - GuyJ - "There is No Final Third" (FibreStream blog 8 July 2010)

MB94128 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MB94128 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
socialreporter said...

Brilliant post Chris, bringing some real humanity to Nat Wei's analogy of Big Society as the Internet I know you got there first though :-)

MB94128 said...

#5 - Cyberdoyle - Link suggested by Mike Chitty :
R. Paterson's blog
"More on Complex versus Complicated" (21 Nov. 2006)
Plus :
"Complex or Complicated" (23 Nov. 2006)
"Complexity - Why Heroes can't cut it" (8 Sept. 2006)
"Consulting - All Change Here" (18 Nov. 2006)
"Consulting All Change 2 - What Change?" (20 Nov. 2006)

MB94128 said...

My apologies for the repeated comments. It seems that the comment handler used by likes to eat comments that have a live link to the BBC article. C'est la guerre ...

Cyberdoyle said...

Thanks for your comment David, I think Nat has the right idea, he has been all over the country listening to people, so he is well placed to be one of the government cogs I talk about. As long as we have good people like him then there is every hope that the government dream will come true, IT is time.

Cyberdoyle said...

thanks MB, those links took a lot of reading! I especially like this quote from one of them:

This is what Emergence looks like. It is the result of a powerful but simple equation being recursed many many times. In effect it is like having a powerful question conversed about many many time. The question and the recursion deliver a new form that has Emerged.

This is why Community is going to be the organization of the future where the Many talk to the Many.

Conversation between the Many and the Many is the Darwinian Creative Process that delivers Emergence. For the right Conversations to happen - you need a Trusted Space. A Trusted Space must be Peer to Peer. Extreme power differences prevent conversation and hence emergence. Hence traditional bureaucracies have profound challenges in coping unless they find ways of opening up the space safely inside to allow for peer to peer.

Jeff Mowatt said...

Regrettably, what's happening in rural broadband funding contradicts what Big Society proposes:

Cyberdoyle said...

flippin eck Jeff, that is an example of exactly what happens when the big cogs chuck out all the little ones. I read the blog and the link you sent. Its really bad news. We have been involved in RDPE funding up here, and our council (Lancaster City) have been just the opposite of what you describe, so obviously the big cogs up here are doing a good job. I don't know what the answer is for your area. Maybe if our project is a success then it can serve as a good example and yours can serve as a dire warning?
All the little cogs like us are a valuable component in big society. We are the big cogs in our communities. I just hope the urban cogs get the drift...
thanks for the comment and the link.

Cybersavvy UK said...

@jeff, surely the point is that "BT may have already been selected as the provider" ?

How many of us have either heard that before, felt it could be true, or had the misfortune to say "told you so" about that phrase in the last decade? And where exactly has this 'going with the big fish' got us as a nation? I suspect we have been the bait.

Back at the beginning of this decade, there were several pre-ADSL community projects who were taken out at the knees, gazumped or there were just some very odd shenigans going on (multiple during trigger level time). I could, and with legal advice would, name the projects if it were to prove anything.

However, the real winner for UK PLC came courtesy of the ADIT under the formidable leadership of Ed Brown. When BT declared 23 exchanges unviable in Yorkshire and Humberside, ADIT negotiated with BT to enable those exchanges on the contractual agreement that monies would be paid back if the exchanges then achieved viability. I was told by Ed that BT had paid back in the region of £1M. (Exact figure lost in the mists of memory, but I do have notes somewhere on this meeting).

The point being that if you are going to play that game with public monies, you surely have a responsibility to recoup some of that money should xyz project then become profitable? After all, if you funded a CIC to do the same job, 65% of the profits would be returned to the community BY LAW.

@mikeriddell62 said...

I have to confess that until i started connecting with @Cyberdoyle on Twitter, it never really occurred to me what impact poor bandwidth could have.

In particular it's impact on children's ability to learn.

I'm so pleased that the interweb is giving so many previously unconnected people the chance to connect and share thoughts, ideas and plans. It is time, as you say, for things to change and be done differently.

I right behind your campaign to get fibre into the home. I'm a revolutionary at heart I've concluded, it's nice to know i'm not alone.

Vive la revolution.

and keep up the good work.


chris said...

thanks Mike! I think support is rising for the case for fibre to the home as more and more people realise that copper can never deliver Next Generation Access. If we don't shape ourselves now then we will be forever left behind in the digital slow lane.