The capabilities for digital local public services – connectivity

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:

Capabilities

  1. Connectivity:  Access that is high-speed, reliable, affordable and available everywhere (wired, wireless, digital).
  2. 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.
  3. Hardware : every citizen requires the capacity to connect to the Internet and tap into the full range of its resources and content.
  4. Software: that meets the needs of individuals, families, businesses and communities.
  5. 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…

Connectivity

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.

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10 Replies to “The capabilities for digital local public services – connectivity”

  1. Its certainly possible – in fact i’m pretty sure its already being down. The BDUK procurement passed state aid exemptions – so it was seen as ok to subsidise broadband where market failure meant it wouldn’t be rolled out by the private sector. I’m aware of schools in rural areas that have guest networks that villagers use. I guess thats not necessarily saying its legal – but the issue is also who is going to take them to sort? Satellite Broadband providers? Probably not.

    1. If it is being done, then this should be more widespread…the public sector network is currently very closed and locked down…so it would be interesting to see how this can scale

      1. In ESCC we are partners in ‘The Link’ – the PSN. looking to rollout connectivity and digital services on the back of connectivity to the vol sector and others. Does need to be scaled.

      2. I have some concerns about how PSN has been created – I’m not convince that it has been set up to meet the needs of the future – but assume it can be changed quite quickly.

        Also question why it needs to exist anyway, it reinforces the current system of government and doesn’t really provide platform to think differently.

        But I could be very wrong

  2. Carl

    There may be learnings in Scotland, some that are beneficial and other ones to avoid. Highlands & Islands Enterprise ( HIE ) will have similarities to English rural areas I imagine

    I do not know if we have the PSN – I have heard instead of SWAN ( Scottish Wide Area Network )
    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Economy/digital/digitalservices/strategy

    We also have an Inquiry into Digital Participation
    http://engagingdigitalscotland.wordpress.com/
    This is open and participatory, and taking views of stakeholders across Scotland

    In Highlands and Islands, we have Community Broadband
    http://www.hie.co.uk/community-support/community-broadband-scotland

    Community Broadband Scotland is a new £5 million initiative to help kick-start community-led broadband projects in rural communities.

    A BDUK procurement for the Urban Broadband Fund in Edinburgh did not pass state aid rules, so this is still a difficult area

    Perhaps a conference call between Devon and Scotland might help exchange ideas, and could involve our Khub in West Lothian

    Alex

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