Continuing the development of my thinking around the Framework for Digital Local Public Services I wanted to share some really basic thoughts around how the connectivity challenge can and perhaps should be approached. This isn’t really a post about what is happening in Devon either, but i’ll naturally use examples locally to help illustrate the point
This post is really just a set of ideas, I’ve not dug deep into the legislation to see how viable this is as I’m starting to think that it shouldn’t really be the barrier…if something needs to be done to help our communities then we really should be doing what we can to remove those barriers given that over the next 4-8 years we will lose a significant amount of funding and unless we challenge the system we operate it we will only even get what we’ve got but slightly more efficient, which isn’t going to be enough.
In the framework it states:
- Connectivity: Access that is high-speed, reliable, affordable and available everywhere (wired, wireless, digital).
- Education: Provide access to training and technical support for users to become comfort-able and proficient. Enable a mind shift in citizens that value learning, connecting and communicating through technology, and that recognise the business and other opportunities of expanding Internet participation.
- Hardware : every citizen requires the capacity to connect to the Internet and tap into the full range of its resources and content.
- Software: that meets the needs of individuals, families, businesses and communities.
- Participation: Access to and participation with local data and intelligence to help shape decisions in communities.
So I’m going to take each one of these in turn over a few posts and propose a set of ideas which could help us move forward…
So starting with…
Now there is work going on to bring connectivity into the many rural areas across the country and that is a good thing, although many people are arguing that this isn’t good enough, fast enough or even fit for purpose given the challenges ahead – in essence some are saying the work currently under way is short sighted and unsustainable.
I’m not going to get into a political argument around this as I simply want to propose some ideas around how we could think differently to provide connectivity.
The first and most obvious thing in my opinion is to look at all public sector organisations currently providing connectivity to their own buildings and assets which are located in often remote parts of our counties and rural villages – for example Libraries, GP Surgeries and Schools as well as some council offices.
You may find that in certain communities the public sector network in all its forms, provides a level of connectivity which the community itself has failed to secure as part of any wider commercial offering. This in my view is not good enough and I know there are some challenges around state funding, but if we are to create a wider public sector system which allows communities and individuals within those communities to access, deliver and even commission services for themselves then we need to redefine what we consider to be a public sector network and therefore what constitutes state funding.
Therefore my basic idea here is to open up what we currently recognise as public networks and allow our communities to piggy back on the connectivity through wifi or via small charges to communities themselves.
This feels like something that we can do quickly if we have the energy and desire to do it and is something that we have prototyped using public libraries for a while so we know it works as well.
We can then focus energy on making sure those areas which literally have no connectivity are connected with a fit for purpose solution.
It is much easier to write then it is to deliver as it does require not just basic change but a change in the system of government in order for these solutions to come to fruition.