Liveblogging: Lord Carter's Digital Britain keynote at NESTA

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Lord Carter’s Digital Britain interim report made waves earlier this month, and not in a good way. Cory Doctorow roundly thumped it; Charles Leadbetter deconstructed it in the context of what he calls mutual media, reaching the rather damning conclusion in his report (PDF) that Digital Britain can be saved, so long as Lord Carter rethinks his entire approach (not kidding).

This morning Lord Carter gives his first major speech since the report was published; he’ll be joined by Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media; media expert Peter Bazalgette and the discussion is chaired by NESTA’s Jonathan Kestenbaum. None of these luminaries are on Twitter yet (to my knowledge – tell me if they are).

Here we go…

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:32 AM:  Not a good start – we’ve just been asked to turn off our phones.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:33 AM:  Kestenbaum says that Digital Britain interim report strikes a balance between the importance of users in content and network creation and the difficult economic times we find ourselves in. Has he read the report?

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:38 AM: Livestream here.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:38 AM: Carter’s up. He has a prepped speech, but will just talk off the cuff.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:39 AM: Drawing the distinction between reports to government and reports of government, saying Digital Britain is the latter, because it’s meant to be implemented in the real world for the purpose of making a real change. The goal is to get the people to debate the issues as objectively and analytically as possible. Slating the public nay-saying sentiment that prevails at the moment – I’m thinking he’s read the backlash since the report was first published.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:43 AM:  @dominiccampbell points out people can tweet their feedback on the report to @innovationedge

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:44 AM: Carter’s going through the list of key focus areas in Digital Britain, starting with infrastructure.Media misunderstands how public policy and private sector markets can work together to create the infrastructure which will drive demand for higher capacity networks.


(Above: A word cloud generated by the Twitter feed during the debate)

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:50 AM: Legal protection, online safeguards – third area of interest. Admits is the area where report’s ideas are least formed, and the area on which they could use the most help from industry/users. This aspect is forcing businesses to find new models and new chances.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:53 AM: Universal service obligation for broadband is a critical building block – sans this, we could never move to switch off analogue services, such as the broadcasting signal. Other public services must follow, but this can only happen with a base level connectivity for all, which is what they based their 2MB USO connection forecasts on. This is looking ahead to digital public service delivery in future.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 8:57 AM: Moving on to the panel discussion now. Berkett up first. Virgin’s perspective very simple; Digital Britain embraces all the questions, accepts that it’s a complicated issue. Next stage around engagement with public is critical. Important thing is to focus on what we can do now to make it happen.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:00 AM: UK plc needs to demonstrate what next generation access will look like, proving the commercial model without disrupting those who have already invested (Virgin’s spent £13bn on its networks)

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:02 AM: Content must be available for all platforms – doesn’t mean ‘give it away’ for free, though

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:03 AM: We seem to have a reluctance to accept that business models must change to manage and control content to safeguard users and providers.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:05 AM: Peter Bazalgette’s turn. The paradox: vast amount of digital activity with very little revenue.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:06 AM:  USO question – Public utility vs boosting the economy. Which is more important – that everyone has access, or that the networks are boosted in terms of speed and capacity? He thinks the latter is most important now. Has ideas for revenue creation – like product placement on TV, online’s godsend might be behavioural advertising – paying for content with our attention spans and our personal data – but we need to sort out policy around this area.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:09 AM: (OT: Peter Bazalgette’s got the funkiest socks on the panel)

Peter Bazalgette's funky socks

Peter Bazalgette's funky socks

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:09 AM: Exploring the future for IP and content creation should not protect old industry (draws parallels to shipbuilding industry in the past). Cites the example of Tate and British Library creating their own content and distributing by podcast – that’s a classic example of public service broadcasting.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:12 AM: Public money now twice as significant when it’s spent, so it must be spent wisely. Good point from the backchannel: #digitalbritain report makes no mention of software or data – content is more than television shows and music clips #carter

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:14 AM: That’s a wrap – moving on to questions now.Kestenbaum repeats Carter’s comment on the importance of the atmosphere in which the debate is conducted before opening the floor.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:16 AM: Q1. How does government plan to deal with the challenge of anticipating the rate of change of technology? Berkett answers: It’s a phenomenon we all have to live with. Referencing Virgin’s technology, the concept of having fibre closer to fixed line connections is not new, their vision is to have gigabit connectivity in the next 10 years. Technical solutions should be driven by commercial need. Carter answers: Government is trying to do as little forecasting as possible. Citing DAB as an example of one of the few calls on technology choices that government has made. Knows there is an interesting debate ongoing across Europe on 4th gen mobile, UK government feels we should harmonise on spectrum.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:23 AM:  Q2 on digital education in schools. Carter: government isn’t organised in a converged way, agrees that government needs a radical review on digital literacy, says it’s a huge issue and that there is a marker on this subject in the Digital Britain report.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:27 AM: Response from the floor – from Nico don’t see anything in the report about the people’s involvement in Digital Britain.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:29 AM:  Charles Leadbeater asking about service delivery, creative use of new business models and the dividend around entrepreneurial activity. Bazalgette says: it’s already there. Doesn’t think it’s Carter’s job to supplant that. Social dividend is there and developing and will continue to do so. Economic dividend is not there.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:33 AM: Carter’s ready Leadbeater’s paper, thought it was great and asked very good questions. “But when you’re doing what I’m doing, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.” The questions are real and profoundly important, but isn’t sure his report can answer the questions *and* achieve its goals.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:36 AM: Carter: (referencing content delivery platforms like the BBC) In a decade, these will be open source platforms because they’ll have to be.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:39 AM: Berkett: The issue of ‘protection’ needs to be cracked or else the [media] industry’s going to suffer. Bazalgette says there isn’t a single media company who knows what their model will be in 10 years’ time.

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:41 AM: Carter: Britain is naturally good at tech/media stuff – question is, how do we maximise the opportunies?

Tue 24 Feb 09 @ 9:43 AM: Kestenbaum’s final observation: the models and assumptions around the issues have totally broken down, Carter’s rebuilding and rebooting them for the Digital Britain of the future. There isn’t a single theme in public policy now that has as much enthusiasm and optimism around it.

And that’s it. If you’re interested in joining the debate, register your interest at digitalbritain@berr.gsi.gov.uk.






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