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The need for 21st century ideas [Jul. 6th, 2009|05:34 pm]
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Lee Bryant's favourite politician is Silvio Berlusconi. Well, he is his favourite 20th century politician governing in the 21st century. In a similar vein he thinks our Government is pursuing 20th century ideas and methodologies to solve solve 21st century problems.

He outlined how we need to move beyond the debates about 'protecting' or 'cutting' public sector spending, and instead focus on how to re-invent these services to meet the challenges and opportunities of today. To do this we need new ideas and concepts to permeate the higher echelons of government. Many of these ideas have been embraced by organisations such as 4IP and Social innovation camp. It's now time for government to innovate and experiment in delivery projects using 21st century approaches.

His ideas for delivering services more cheaply and efficiently include:

1). Treat all government budgets as innovation/investment funds. The problem with government procurement is it takes to long and is dependent on a few large contractors. Government needs to make its money work to benefit communities and those with innovative ideas. This will challenge government contractors to improve their services, and perhaps ensuring they partner with communities or small businesses in their delivery.
2). Government needs to learn to do more with less. We need to place humans above process, and accept the process based management techniques picked up from the private sector have not worked. The theory of best practice processes is doomed to failure, and instead Government should just hire the best people and 'let them get on with it'. 
3). We need rapid feedback on the performance of Government services. This can drive substantial evolutionary improvements in services, but is not commonly implemented within Government departments or agencies.
4). Government needs to recognise the importance of open data. Government projects should provide data back to the people, and subscribe to Open Government data principles. Data.gov has set an example in the US, and the UK should follow suit.

The UK Government is already looking at many of these ideas, including the creation of a similar data portal. While the technology can be easily implemented changing the working culture and ideas of those in government will take more time.

(image from podruzny on Flickr)

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Banking 2.0 - Risk, robots, ROSCAs and Wonga [Jul. 6th, 2009|05:06 pm]
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Proving the point that online banking and financial management goes beyond remembering yet another PIN , the new faces of innovative web enabled finance services were here to explain and inform about how Banking 2.0 is working already in the real world.

The session included:
  • Kris Jenkins from Bullion Vault, a new way of investing and exchanging gold online including the use of automated robots that trade in gold in the exchanges to help create a vibrant marketplace
  • Kubera Money's Rahul Verma explaining the little known Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCA) and how they fit into today's economic landscape
  • Giles Andrews from peer-to-peer lender Zopa
  • Errol Damelin from Wonga, a totally automated, completely online short-term cash lender
What do these all have in common? They're all new, certainly innovative, and none of them are banks...Perhaps the future of banking doesn't lie with banks at all.

I talked to Dave Dawes afterwards to get his take on what he'd seen and heard.

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Embracing a networked world [Jul. 6th, 2009|04:10 pm]
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Alan Moore, Founder of SMLXL, kicked off his Reboot session on networked society with the idea that traditional ways of doing things – structuring our organisations into carefully contructed silos – no longer supports our current way of life. And perhaps more crucially, is creating barriers for the future generation of employees and innovators.

Traditional organisations, which take a linear approach to information sharing, will struggle to recruit the fresh, young talent needed to reinvigorate their business. Moore argues that young people coming into traditional organisations – technically savvy people for whom social networking is second nature – are confronted by alien worlds constructed by silos.

Paul Miller, CEO of School of Everything, honed in on a similar issue in a seminar following Moore’s, arguing that our institutions haven’t caught up with our technologies and the massively connected, collaborative world we now live in.

But how do you play catch up when the networked landscape is changing at lightning speed? Miller reckons we need more ‘schools of everything’, where people are encouraged to gain a much broader range of skills and experience, and to become part of the education system rather than simply be an output of it.

Moore fights in the corner of having an ‘open society’ – a society that doesn’t just satisfy, but inspires every single one of us to want to be engaged.

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The meaning of words [Jul. 6th, 2009|02:11 pm]
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'Think of a word that has special meaning to you. Express your views on video. Upload and bring your word to life!'

That's the premise of a new startup called Wordia. They're a cross between Dictionary.com, Wikipedia and YouTube, and focus on defining words in an interactive and visual medium.

The site is based on a wiki and allows anyone to upload a video giving their representation of a world. They're currently running a RebootBritain week to look at the values and definitions we assign to a set of words. These include definitions for Community, Start up, Open, Swarm, Hope, Entrepreneur, Innovation.

During the 2008 election campaign Barack Obama captured words such as HOPE and CHANGE. Wordia want the public to define the meanings of words in today's environment. As these words change, the site hopes to outline a narrative and shared understanding of the current association of words.

To get started, check http://wordia.com and start uploading a video of what different words mean to you.
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Applying open source thinking to the global food supply chain [Jul. 6th, 2009|01:56 pm]
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John Fagan and Paul Skinner shared some of their ideas with me on unlocking the opaque and complex global food supply system by applying some of the open source principles like collaboration, crowdsourcing and data sharing. 

By exploiting the potentials of networked collaboration, perhaps individuals themselves could become the social and environmental auditors of the food industry?

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Social media: Waking the sheep [Jul. 6th, 2009|01:27 pm]
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The Stalemate session was presented by Mick Fealty (Slugger O'Toole), Alberto Nardelli (Tweetminster) and Jenni Russell from the Guardian. The discussion focused on the relationship between politicians and the mainstream media. Jenni Russell explained that she was 'stunned' by the way in which MPs have morphed into timid sheep under the control of party whips. Speaking out against the Party line was likely to get you 'kicked in the head', and so MPs were reluctant to speak their views and challenge party policy. Rather, MPs are rewarded for obedience and not rocking the boat.

This reminded me of the Hazel Blears video in which George Monbiot questioned her about her allegiance to the Labour Party. She never voted against the Party line and was thus rewarded with a cabinet position. It seems towing the Party line can lead to great rewards, but in doing so requires suppressing core values and beliefs in the hope of a greater good. 

Jenni explained how it was important for MPs and Ministers to hear from outsiders, rather than to always accept the prevailing orthodoxy within Government or their party. Alberto picked up on this, and outlined how social media e.g. Twitter, Facebook and other social networking tools, can enable MPs to present a more personable image, in contrast to that sometimes seen in the House of Commons or on Question Time. The use of social media tools makes politicians more approachable, and enables them to build a brand and a support network. This can be important to enable them to challenge the status quo within government. Receiving instant feedback and support for their ideas, can galvanise them into taking difficult decisions.

Mick Fealty discussed the power of blogging and how these can produce intelligent analysis not seen outside new media avenues. As an example, he referred to Guy Fawkes and his blog, which has been an important avenue for alternative opinions and ideas, not often outlined through traditional media. 

Social media provides the public with a direct communications channel to their elected representatives. It can create greater trust in politicians, if they are more open and transparent in their decisions and the rational for these. Empowering MPs to be more honest with their views is critical to changing the relationship and power structure, between the executive and the legislature. Only when MPs regain their confidence to express their views openly, can the idea of timid sheep coerced by party wolves be resigned to history.
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Exploding the myths of rural broadband [Jul. 6th, 2009|12:39 pm]
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Ask why Daniel Heery from Alston Cyber Moor and Brian Condon, from the Community Broadband Network (CBN), are at Reboot Britain and they'd probably say they want to explode some of the myths of rural broadband. Like does it really cost £125 per metre to lay fibre to the home, when local communities can (and are) doing it for a fraction of the cost?

And they should know, together with the Commission for Rural Communities they have produced the most comprehsive map of areas under the proposed 2MBs Universal commitment as part of the 'Mind the Gap' report.  The picture is patchy and worrying, and not just in rural areas,  but the story of Alston shows it doesn't have to be, especially if local people don't rely on the big players like BT and Virgin. This lack of infrastructure competition has driven Alston to do-it-themselves to gain access to next generation learning, tele-health opportunities as well as a plain old decent connection to the internet.

On the ground this means laying cable using local suppliers and setting up social enterprises and community based operators and sometimes selling bandwidth on to local education authorities to help connect remote schools.

But even with reduced costs - where does the money come from for a Digital Britain?

There is hope from Lord Carter's the Digital Britain report and his encouragement for the landline levy to fund local operators, especially in partnership with regional development authorities. Another model are community shares, with individuals and communities themselves buying equity in their fibre supplier - happening already with Fibermoor.

So the message from Cumbria is that is it happening now and it might be the only way to get a great 21st century network for the whole of Britain.

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Introducing today's live-bloggers! [Jul. 6th, 2009|11:02 am]
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Apart from actually being there in person, there are several ways in which anyone can participate and enjoy the content from today's Reboot Britain event.

The four main ones can be linked to from www.rebootbritain.com:

  1. live-streaming of the main lecture theatre sessions
  2. Newsdeck - the exciting multi-channel platform from Amplified, the specialist social media collective

  3. Live commentary here on the Independent's blog platform

  4. And of course the Twitter stream

So all day here you will find an all-day commentary of some of the most interesting content by a small but perfectly formed team of experienced bloggers and social media experts. Let me introduce them:

Meghan Asha | @meghan
Meghan is a technology blogger, on-air commentator and founder of NonSociety.com She is in London with the Travelling Geeks, a dozen leading bloggers and commentators from the US
Paul Henderson | @paulhenderson
Paul is a social technology consultant who inhabits the often strange world between the hardcore techy types and normal people who just want things to do with computers to work
Richard Fahey | @faheyr
Richard works as a consultant for a large French consulting company. His interests are Social media, Collaboration, Government 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and Cloud Computing.
Rohan Gunatillake | @rohan_london
And I'm Rohan and I work for NESTA, the hosts for Reboot Britain. Today I will mainly be manning Reboot Britain's Twitter HQ but hope to pop in here when I can during the day.


The programme for the day kicks off at 930 and can be found here.  It's looking amazing.  And if you'd like any particular session reported here on this blog, please use the comments field and let us know.

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RebootBritain - The rise of collaborative individualism [Jul. 6th, 2009|09:33 am]
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Jonathan Kestenbaum, CEO of NESTA kicked off today's RebootBritain with an emphasis on how the use of digital technology can tackle the huge social problems the country faces today. A coalition of business, social enterprise, public services and communities are coming together online to meet three pressing challenges

Jonathan Kestenbaum, CEO NESTA at Reboot Britain
1) A Perfect storm - A bankrupt public purse is being challenged to meet the rising expectations of the public. 
2) Self-organising groups - Society has found new ways of self organising. It this vein their expectations of what government should provide has risen.
3) No shortage of ingenuity on the Internet. Need to embrace this ingenuity to solve pressing social issues.  

Meeting these challenges will result in a prize nothing less than a total reshaping of how we approach a new and empowered population. He explained how this movement is a story of optimism and transformation.

Jeremy Hunt MP ( Shadow Secretary of State of Culture Media and Sport) at Reboot Britain
As a corollary to this, Jeremy Hunt (Shadow Secretary of State for Culture), explained how the Internet can affect massive change through empowering people to make more informed decisions. He described two significant trends he has seen as an MP:

1) massive growth in the use of technology. When he started as an MP four years ago some of his colleagues refused to use email
2) massive increase in cynicism towards elected representatives

In this vein, he described a joke he heard. What is the difference between an MP and a Supermarket trolley? You can limit the food and drink you can stuff into a supermarket trolley. This raised a tense laugh, no doubt with many thinking of the expenses scandal and the various claims for food and drinks. 

He described how the public self organised to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in the absence of Government help. Government has a choice in how it reacts to citizens self-organising on the internet. They can either:

* can try to fight it (like the Chinese through blocking and filtering)
* can try to ignore (like the UK Government)
* can embrace it (which is the Conservative policy)

He emphaised how a Tory government would be more open and transparent with data. They would publish all expenditure over £25,000, and make masses of government data available to the public to enable them to make more informed decisions. The center right has always liked decentralisation, and as such they see trememdous power in the the use of the internet to shift power to individuals ,and away from centralised government institutions. 

Empowering and promoting collective individualism - in which people self-organise online, often for altruistic reasons - creates a means of redistributing power to the people. This redistribution is one of the central tenets of the Right and as such they see the Internet as their natural ally in this movement. 

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Tune in for live-blogging on Monday [Jul. 3rd, 2009|02:42 pm]
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For the last two weeks the Independent has been trailing the Reboot Britain series of articles such as Paul Miller highlighting the potential of public service start-ups and Tom Steinberg wondering how digital tools can make parliamentary processes more open.

The articles has been building up to the Reboot Britain event on Monday in London and I'm delighted to say that there will be a small but perfectly formed team live-blogging the event right here as part of the extensive social media coverage the day will enjoy.  I'll introduce them to you on Monday as well as explaining how best to experience the event if you are not able to attend in person.

And as well as the many excellent speakers and sessions on the day, Monday will see the launch of the Reboot Britain essay pamphlet, a sneak preview of which you can see above.  It's insightful and it's now it's illustrated...and if you can't get a hard-copy you'll be able to download the colourful pdf version from Monday onwards.

In the meantime, find out more about the event at www.rebootbritain.com

Posted by Rohan Gunatillake.  Rohan works for NESTA, the National Endowment for Science Technology and Arts and he is excited about the power of networks to effect large-scale social change.

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