[On Monday I attended the Broadband Summit in Westminster. It was interesting to see Ed Richards' keynote make clear statements on the challenges ahead with reference to Ofcom's DDR Digital Dividend Review, announced last week. This also came up in conversation with delegates at the Summit. Below is the press release by the event organisers.]
21st November 2005.
SUMMIT SPARKS DIGITAL DEBATE
Nearly 500 top decision-makers from business and public life met today (21 November) to shape the UK's digital future and to examine how the way people live and work will soon be changing.
The Broadband Britain Summit, at London's QEII Conference Centre, included key presentations from The Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Minister of State for Industry and the Regions, Sir Digby Jones, director general of the CBI and Ed Richards, chief operating officer of Ofcom.
It was hosted by InterForum, the not-for-profit, independent organisation which promotes the acceleration of information and communication technology to improve the business performance of the UK. Said its chief executive, Phil Flaxton: "This year the summit looked at how achieving digital excellence can improve the cohesion of UK society, the wealth of its economy and the quality of life of its citizens.
"The growth of business being done on the Internet continues to accelerate, and more and more companies and organisations large and small are joining this tidal wave of connectivity. But, there is a social benefit which is only just beginning to be realised and that is the potential of more flexible working. Advancing ICT means that staff can undertake many activities from any workstation in any office almost anywhere, and even from home.
"This whole huge area of changed working patterns is the subject of Work Wise Week, which is being staged next February, to demonstrate the massive benefits to UK business of facilitating more flexible working."
In his presentation, The Rt Hon. Alun Michael MP, Minister of State for Industry and the Regions detailed the Government's digital strategy. It is committed to ensuring that the whole of society can reap the benefits from advances in technology. Internet connectivity is increasing in the UK with currently over 55.7 per cent (13 million households) having access [August 2005], of which 55 per cent are broadband connections. Nationally, broadband is available to 97 per cent of homes and businesses [BT].
Sir Digby Jones, director general of the CBI, explained how the UK's GDP and global competitiveness will increase with the implementation of new technologies such as broadband. With online sales in the UK reaching £71.1 billion in the UK this year, a massive increase from £39.5 billion in 2004, demonstrates the increasing importance of the Internet for doing business.
Ed Richards, chief operating officer at Ofcom, outlined how content will deliver extensive opportunities for a successful UK knowledge economy, with Karen Price, chief executive of E-Skills UK, introduced the education and skills agenda - embedding technology into people's lives - how processes and people fit together.
Peter Thomson, director of the Future Work Forum at Henley Management Centre looked at the flexible working agenda, previewing the Work Wise Week initiative taking place throughout the UK from the 19 to 27 February 2006, which will show how technology will change the way we work and live.
A key element of the summit was a debate, chaired by Declan Curry, business presenter for the BBC Breakfast programme, where an invited audience of 470 decision-makers from forward-thinking businesses, Government (central, regional, local), regional development agencies, professional and trade associations and Members of Parliament discussed digital Britain.
The Summit was also supported by the regional development agencies. Andy Walton, eBusiness manager at One NorthEast, said: "eBusiness and eCommerce are key to improving our regional economy. Broadband is vital to making the digital economy work, which is why we are supporting the Broadband Britain summit."
"Events such as this help One NorthEast move the agenda forward. The discussion which needs to take place with the region's SMEs is no longer just about having broadband, but more about adopting new technology effectively and making the internal business changes needed to ensure our business community gains competitive advantage."
Fabian King, Head of Regional ICT at the South West of England Regional Development Agency, said: "Businesses in South West of England are using ICT to become more competitive and access international markets, which is good for the region's economy. Community groups and individuals are also benefiting from broadband access as it can improve people's quality of life and enhance skills and learning opportunities for all ages."
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Notes to editors:
* The summit was presented in association with: DTI, DEFRA, the South East of England Development Agency, South West Regional Development Agency, North West Regional Development Agency and One NorthEast.
* The summit is also supported by the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, Technology Means Business and Information TV.
The media will be invited to a briefing in the morning, with opportunities to interview the principal presenters - invitations and notes to editors will be sent out directly.
* Further information about the summit and InterForum can be found at www.interforum.org. There is also a media centre with downloadable resources including latest news, background information and print quality images.
Small businesses 'risk missing opportunities of broadband'
November 21, 2005, 15:45 GMT
The CBI says that broadband operators have let down the UK's SMEs by focusing on football and porn rather than business services
One of the leading players in the UK's business sector has warned that small businesses are in grave danger of wasting the opportunity given to them by the rapid growth in broadband availability in the UK.
Sir Digby Jones told the Broadband Britain Summit 2005 in London that high-speed networks give every company the chance to compete on the global stage, and also let them transform their own working practices.
However, as broadband gives companies across the world this chance, UK firms who won't react may struggle to survive.
"We live in a world of globalisation, where China wants your lunch and India wants your dinner," said Jones, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, in the opening keynote at the event.
According to recent Ofcom figures, more than 30 percent of businesses now have broadband. But, Jones warned, many aren't getting full value out of it — and he believes large telecoms operators are to blame.
"Only relatively recently have suppliers begun paying attention to the business market, rather than the entertainment needs of consumers. The indifference felt by some companies is a legacy of this," claimed Jones. "Surely business matters as much as football or pornography on broadband."
"We need to ensure that businesses have services available to them that help them make the additional investment they need to be able to take the pearl from the broadband oyster," he said.
Jones wants to see small businesses using modern connectivity methods to bring in flexible and remote working, offer e-learning to their employees and change their sales and purchasing patterns.
One attendee warned that companies who haven't yet embraced broadband risk being left behind nimbler rivals.
"When Internet access was first available, the early adopters got a big jump on everyone else. The government did then do a good job of getting more people online, but it took four years."
"The early adopters of broadband are already there. Medium and late adopters need to wake up," the attendee added.