It’s something that’s being floated just months away from a general election, so keep that in mind, but the British government seems to be really trying to break the barriers to online interaction with the country’s people.
As part of a far-reaching plan announced today by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, every British citizen would get a personal Web site in the next year through which they could find out about what local services are available to them and do business with government.
Brown touted the personal Web site as a way for making interaction with government as easy to do as banking over the Internet or shopping via Amazon.com. Sir Tim Berners-Lee — the “father” of the Web — is the most prominent of the advisers who have been pushing this program.
Along with that specific suggestion, Brown also pushed the notion of “superfast” broadband that would finally bring a digital economy to the country and create another 250,000 skilled jobs by 2020 — minus, that is, the tens of thousands of public servants that would lose their jobs because of the personalized Web pages. But I guess they could use their own personal pages to more quickly apply for unemployment benefits.
The plan, at least in intended reach, seems very similar to the one that the Obama administration and Congress are trying to develop for the United States, and which finally became public last week. It follows just a few months after the United Kingdom launched its own version of Data.gov.
Then there’s the little question about how all of this will be paid for: apparently through some measure of taxes on landline telephony, plus surplus funds from the fee everyone in has to pay to watch BBC TV shows. That should become clearer when the next budget is presented on Wednesday.
The bigger question, however, is whether any of this will ever happen. It will probably start, since the Conservative Party is also committed to broadband, if not along the same lines as Brown’s Labour government. So whoever gets into power after the election will have a promise to live up to.
How it will end is the big point. As the example of the National Programme for IT (Britain’s attempt to digitize health) shows, government tech programs are not easy to take to a conclusion.
Posted on Mar 22, 2010 at 7:27 PM0 comments
British lawmakers are trying to make a case that the current state of cyberspace security, which is under constant attack from criminals and government adversaries, requires an international consensus on global regulations to govern it.
According to a Reuters report, the Brits feel that efforts at building security are now entirely ad hoc and work only “with loose groupings of people from relevant parts of industry coming together to address particular incidents.”
That’s probably true, but the idea of some kind of governmental superbody controlling even some aspects of the Internet runs contrary to the online ethos, which from the beginning has affirmed that cyberspace should be open and free from political influence.
However, cyberwar – whether or not everyone agrees on the term -- seems to be changing a lot of minds. It was one thing when cyber threats were mainly from spotty teenagers out for a lark. Now it’s sophisticated criminals, government-driven espionage and advanced persistent threats (APTs).
Some people in the U.S., while not yet going as far as the Brits, are increasingly calling on the government to get involved. The Internet has become just too important to the country’s economy and continued existence, they argue.
If, for the sake of argument, we agree that all of this is true, what kind of body should oversee this new effort at Internet governance? A cyber NATO? Perhaps not a good model, given NATO’s current level of dysfunction. A cyber U.N.? Some would argue that’s even less of a functioning body.
Whatever it is, given the reach of the Internet, it has to be truly global to be effective. Cyberspace stretches from the northernmost Inuit to entrepreneurs in Tierra del Fuego. Gone are the days when the Internet could be influenced by the equivalent of the G-7. Now it would be the G-196, depending on how many countries you think there are in the world.
One really interesting thing to come out of this, however, is that such a body would perforce likely have to operate through cyberspace. It’s also only fair, given that it’s about governance of cyberspace. Now, that would be something!
Posted on Mar 19, 2010 at 7:27 PM0 comments
The Federal Communications Commission has finally published it’s much awaited plan for making the U.S. a broadband nation but, really, you didn’t expect that to be anywhere close to the final say, did you?
It’s going to be many months, if not years, before we see just where this plan leads. Between here and there lie many pit stops, potholes, re-evaluations and outright negativity that will delay, hijack and perhaps re-direct the whole thing.
Here are just a couple of the early indicators of what this plan faces.
Cliff Stearns, the top Republican on the House Communications Subcommittee, launched a pre-emptive salvo at the end of last week that showed what kind of ride he expects to give the FCC’s plan once it gets to his panel.
From what he’d seen so far the plan represents nothing more than “the success of the national broadband plan that we already have,” he wrote in a letter to the FCC. He also said he expected the plan to be based on private investment – the old free-markets-know-best routine – and that he hoped the plan would not be “littered with hidden agendas.”
Stearns also said he wanted to know what the FCC spent in coming up with the plan. How’s that for putting someone on the defensive?
Another possible fly in the soup is a Congressional waiver for agencies to defer from releasing details of their spectrum use, if by doing so it would harm national security or public safety.
The Radio Spectrum Inventory Act now being considered by Congress is needed for the FCC to identify spectrum it can provide to the wireless industry, given the squeeze that’s becoming apparent because of burgeoning broadband needs for video etc.
However, if there are swatches of data missing on various parts of the spectrum used by agencies, how can the FCC identify if it can be reallocated? And – my suspicious mind at work here – what’s to stop agencies who don’t want to give up the spectrum declaring it subject to the national security exemption, even it might not be worthy of it?
Like I said, there are still miles and miles to go.
Posted on Mar 16, 2010 at 7:27 PM0 comments