|The great dot-joining debate continues|
|Written by David Brunnen|
|Thursday, 11 July 2013 05:24|
It seems unlikely that anyone at the UK’s Federation for Small Business (FSB) would imagine that their latest FSB report (revealing the power of small businesses in local economies) will feature as another dot on the mind-map of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee when they meet on 17th July to consider the National Audit Office Report into Rural Broadband.
To know whether the FSB report will merely be a nano-dot – a tiny floating speck of ephemeral evidence easily brushed aside - or emerges as a Giga-blot on the agenda to inspire pointed questions and unsettle well-briefed witnesses, is impossible to predict. The minds of Select Committee members move in mysterious ways.
The topic of day – making the UK better connected – is tailor-made for a great dot-joining, silo-smashing, remit-stretching debate. Or maybe not.
In the current ‘exam fever’ season your parliamentarians may stick to asking the questions on the paper, not straying from the narrow narrative and not encouraging fresh thinking. But somehow I doubt it. The broadband batsmen summoned to the crease should expect a few tricky balls from these select spin bowlers. Constrained by corporate ties and policy cuff-links, defensive straight bats may not impress the open-minded.
If indeed procurement nano-dot becomes bothersome broadband Giga-blot it will most likely be driven by parliamentarians trying to reconcile the austere experiences of their constituents with the effectiveness of national policy – the bottom-up gritty realities of fostering local economies in contrast with the modest face-saving aims of top-down policy technocrats.
So why should a well-researched report on local public procurement be on the minds of MP’s trying to understand the government’s broadband delivery performance?
"Small businesses are the heartbeat of our local economies. Today's report shows the benefits of working with local firms - for every £1 spent with a small business 63 pence is reinvested locally” – Local Government Minister, Brandon Lewis MP
Back in their constituencies Select Committee members know that the life-blood of their local economies lies in the health of vigorous small businesses and start-ups but from a Westminster perspective they see centralized minds encouraging too-big-to-fail brands peddling low investment risk but far from future-proofed broadband solutions for British businesses and communities.
“The [FSB] report”, says Dr. Vince Cable (Secretary of State for Business innovation and Skills),“shows what I have known for a long time - more of our small and medium sized companies must get a fair share of public contracts.”
What we’ve also known for some time is that locally inspired and managed infrastructure solutions to providing future-proofed broadband access networks (the essential local utilities for modern times) are a massive economic stimulant in communities across other parts of Europe and the USA.
"Councils have a vital role to play in driving economic growth by helping create the right infrastructure and environment at a local level to enable business to succeed, from maintaining roads to helping companies cut down on their energy bills” – Cllr Peter Flemming, Chair of the LGA Improvement and Innovation Board.
We know that every start-up business this year – no matter whether it’s some clever technology company or a café – is in someway digitalised and dependent on local connectivity for its future.
We also know that the predicted global market for smart city management solutions is worth £400bn by 2020 – leastways according to BIS in their strategy for the UK’s Information Economy – if, of course, we have the practical proven expertise to gain a share of it.
So why, the PAC may ask, are local councils everywhere voting to publicly fund the bland leaders when locally inspired digital infrastructure initiatives are not being encouraged?
Joining the dots between the things that we know – making the connections – will determine whether the UK makes headway in an increasingly global digital economy. The FSB’s report is a nano-dot in tidy, structured, safely-silo’d, remit-respectful, minds but could be a giant broadband Giga-blot on the cover of the NAO report.
Quotations source: FSB Media Release 8th July 2013
|Last Updated on Friday, 12 July 2013 04:07|