Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Great Britain: A Nation of Innovation?

Last month, I posted the following comment on the blog of Andy Pryce, the First Secretary for Public Affairs in Washington:

"I've been wondering recently just how web savvy and innovative we truly are... Organisations wishing to invest in the UK should recognise where British web stregths lie. The question remains though; are us Brits truly as web savvy as those from other nations?"

The comment, which was made in response to a post that describes the UK as 'web savvy and innovation orientated', challenged Pryce. I was convinced that Great Britain lags behind other countries in the innovation stakes, and at the time I was keen to express my position. Maybe I was wrong...

I have no problem with admitting when I am wrong; it's character building. In this particular instance, the reason for my change of heart came after I read an article detailing government plans to provide children from deprived families with computer equipment. The initiative, which was originally proposed in January 2007, has finally been recognised, and is currently being piloted in Suffolk and Oldham, England. What truly surprised me though, were the comments made by the school's minister, Jim Knight, in response to the Government's proposal. Knight claimed that:

"There has to be a culture where families see home access is as important as making sure their children have pen, paper and calculator at school... The bottom line is that having home access to the internet or a computer is no longer an optional extra for school work it is fast becoming essential"

Strong comments indeed, but in an environment where technology is everywhere, hardly unjustified. I was surprised that these comments came from someone within the government; a stuffy, Bureaucratic organisation that clings rigidly to the traditions upon which it was founded. Many would argue that government and innovation are polar opposites. Perhaps not. The government's specific intention in employing this strategy is to leverage the educational benefits afforded by IT. Whether or not the scheme will prove to be successful is yet to be seen.

In any case, what the above does illustrate is that the British Government has made addressing the 'digital divide' one of its top priorities. By implementing various social media tools which include blogs and Twitter profiles, the government is demonstrating that they are perhaps more in touch with technological innovation than I have previously given them credit. Hopefully, their efforts will continue to prove people like me wrong, whilst successfully addressing the digital divide. I also hope that initiatives such as those described above facilitate Britain in retaining its position as a technologically aware nation.

I know one thing is for certain; I owe Andy Pryce, and the 'web savvy and innovation orientated' nation of Great Britain, an apology...

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  1. Sounds like the British Government wants to keep the UK competitive.

    Afterall, the World is indeed flat, and it is technology that has made it that way.


  2. Your right IHP, it just comes as a bit of a surprise. Technology is the great equaliser. By ensuring that the population has equal access to computer equipment the government can help to ensure that Britain remains competitive as a nation. If we consider Porter's Diamond of National Advantage, we recognise that Demand Conditions comprises an important element of achieving national competitiveness. By ensuring a highly demanding population, the government is effectively enhancing organisational competitiveness by encouraging consumer to demand more from the companies that serve them.

  3. That is surprising news. I always felt that the UK lagged severely behind when it came to technology and particularly online advances (much due to BT's archaic and monopolistic approach to broadband).

    Yet if this is indeed a new mandate, then it's to be applauded. Perhaps they can get involved in the One Laptop Per Child initiative?


    And congrats, Chris - always nice to see humility ;-)

  4. I have to admit, I am sceptical about the current government, but this does seem like a worthwhile investment. It will invariably need a little work, but there is real potential for dragging Britain into the 21st Century.

    As for me being wrong, I actively encourage people to contradict me! It's a good way to stimulate debate!