Infrastructure: #digitalbritain postscript 1

Like others I needed a little space to try to make sense of the peculiar melange which took place on Friday where the fringe seemed to be a lot more interesting than the front. An having had that space I would prefer to comment on the issues around a national strategy for taking Britain forward. Because I don't believe I heard anything suggesting there is a national strategy or likely to be one.

Simcity Let's talk about infrastructure: whether prisons, drains, recycling, sewage systems, air travel, railways, power stations, cable TV you name it.  Infrastructure is expensive. It can only be built by governments either directly or through regulation.  Our current government has attempted to build infrastructure this using private/public partnerships as a way of managing costs. With dubious results – what gets built may not work very well. Infrastructures need to be repaired and replaced constantly. The UK has a glorious history in building infrastructures. Because the industrial revolution started in the UK we have pioneered most of the modern infrastructures: mercantilism, finance, canals, trains, power grid, telegraph, mobile networks. I could go on.  And this continues to the present day. You can measure a civilisation by the number and diversity of its infrastructures. No nation can afford to develop all its infrastructures at once. And it is easy for the hierarchy of infrastructure systems to get out of synch.  India notoriously opts to put satellits in orbit while sending Dalits into its victorian drainage system to keep them clear by hand.

I expected #digital Britain to answer 2 questions for me: How high up in the Infrastructure To do list does the getting of the rest of the UK population online rank with our political establishment?  And how do they propose to get it done vis a vis public and private funding? I didn't think either of those questions started to be answered. And without the answers to those questions the rest of the debate was marginal. Saving regional newspapers, criminalising those who file share music, giving the 'poor' access to the internet – was old hat and could have been debated 5 years ago – indeed it was with no resolution.

There is a simple reason for the pointlessness of the digital Britain debacle. And that is our politicians unlimited commitment to repairing the financial infrastructure of this country on which its security and success is believed to depend. Gordon and Mandy would have saved us all a great deal of time by telling us that the development of the digital infrastructure is so low on scale of nationsl priorities that even if we are falling behind we can't do anything about it. File under pending.

At which point it would have been interesting to have debated what the UK could trade in terms of content, programming formats and the like to draw foreign investment into the country to develop the digital infrastructure further without the meddling of the politicians. All this weekend my household has been playing reruns of Britain's got talent – a global programming format attracting global attention. As Google continues to leech advertising revenues off to the USA wouldn't it have been helpful to have done an audit about how the UK can continued to build its position as a hub in the digital world. Instead of which we got a parade of entrenched business interests tell us and each other how tricky it is at the moment. British creativity is in rude health at present. Politicians are out of ideas but that's why we need a change of government.  What hoped for was some visionary thinking – how to move digital Britain forward when there isn't any cash. When it continues to be low on the scale of prioirities. I didn't see any of that. More's the pity.



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