Thursday, 18 February 2010

The IT Crowd

Information Technology has become an almost universal truth in daily life (well it's certainly vital for the blogosphere) and its' position in society has been placed under the spotlight from a number of angles in the past few days.

On Tuesday evening the local branch of the chartered institute for IT, BCS Berkshire, held a meeting under the title 'Professionalism in the IT industry' to help explain why it should 'take its place as a valued and respected profession'.

The industry held 'Safer Internet Day' on 9th February to launch an advertising campaign to raise awareness of issues surrounding internet usage.


Insafe provide a round-up of reactions.

BCS has also been the inspiration behind two recent campaigns. The first advocated for greater help to reduce the 'online generation gap'

This was complemented by a government-sponsored programme to provide grants to 270,000 low-income families to widen access to the opportunities access to technology brings. Reading Borough Council helpfully advertises how to apply for the grants.

Labour's Rachel Eden was particularly pleased with this initiative. She says it will save money on physical resources and help remove the stigma and embarrassment between children from backgrounds with different income levels by giving chances to develop internet and computer skills.

Meanwhile the group has also lobbied political parties to push for quicker roll-out of universal broadband.

The Communications Managers Association (part of BCS) issued a statement that it
"understands the respective strategies by the Conservative and Labour Parties to provide universal broadband, it does not believe plans by either will achieve this quickly or comprehensively enough to take advantage of the potential opportunity for growth provided by the online economy."
CMA Chairperson Carolyn Kimber explained that their plans would require a relatively insignificant commitment of £150-200m of investment per year.

Mike MacNamara raises the question and explains that broadband is an electoral issue, as market forces are failing to deliver universal access and support is needed to build the national infrastructure for the next generation.

Conservative MPs Rob Wilson and John Redwood responded in kind to the criticism.

Rob Wilson picked up on the issue and argues against Labour's new £7 tax to be levied against properties with multiple fixed-line telephones, saying it is unfair that pensioners who have no interest in internet take-up will be forced to pay.

He says the sums can be paid for by introducing more competition into the telecoms market, particularly by opening up and unbundling BT's ongoing 'local loop' monopoly on infrastructure ownership, usage and maintenance.

Mr Wilson also gives space to West Reading candidate Alok Sharma, who explains the ideological reasons behind Conservative proposals.

Meanwhile John Redwood attended a business solutions seminar with over 50 companies where the issue of technology was addressed. He reprints a press release explaining that he takes the economic side of the argument because investment leads to commercial growth.

However in a poll conducted by the CMA opinions are divided on the tory proposal to bring in 100mpbs broadband connections by 2017.

Completely equal numbers (31.6%) say that their proposals are and are not an improvement on the current plans made by the Labour government, while 36.8% say there is wide scope for improvement.

So there's obviously some space for other parties to get involved in the debate.

Cllr Daisy Benson speaks up for the LibDems criticising Labour's plans as a one-off gimmick, which she describes as an "attempt by Labour to try win votes from working-class voters rather than actually getting to the root of the problem."

She argues that access to IT is a secondary issue behind adequate education in schools - where much money has already been spent on hardware and software, but the ability to learn is limited by class sizes and the quality of tuition.

Separately IT users have been having their say.

Scaryduck isn't convinced by the idea to give everybody and their dog greater access to the internet - he seems to be saying with greater access comes greater responsibility, and he clearly doesn't think everyone is completely responsible.

Elsewhere Mr London Street has been developing a new customer database at work which is designed to make lives easier, but he is not completely thrilled with the reality if what is on offer.

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Update: RU technology department has been set the task of living for a day without access to comupters. Understandably Shirley Williams found giving her lecture on programming a 'challenge', while Pat Parslow finds his world suddenly disconnected.

Meanwhile Elizabeth Thomas has started to feel an obligation to her blog, which she says is draining.

Chairman Bill offers some sanguine thoughts about how the obsession with technology can go too far - he clearly thinks the ground rules and basic human skills of effective communication are laid down during face-to-face human interaction.

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Background: Geeks Get Organised

More stories on the local media & communications

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