Scotland gets digital broadband minister?

Sunday 17th October 2010
Mapping broadband: Courtesy:

The Royal Society of Edinburgh calls Scottish ministers “mistaken” for leaving the improvement of the country’s internet infrastructure to the UK government, reports The Sunday Herald.

Professor Michael Fourman (right) at the University of Edinburgh has told the Sunday Herald that bringing high speed broadband to 70-80% of the population implied that "a high proportion of the remaining 20% would be in Scotland."

The think-tank’s Digital Scotland report, due for publication at the end of the month, follows an earlier preliminary report  by the body, and endorses the findings in the influential recent Digital Power report by fellow think-tank Reform Scotland.

Fourman said: “If Scotland doesn’t pay attention to the .. next generation network we will have a disproportionately large digital divide [among our population] because of geography and the way our population is distributed.

“In our report we have identified ways of addressing that, using devolved powers and without making calls on the public purse. But it requires determination from the Scottish Government to make things go in the right direction.”

The Scottish Government has previously rejected criticism that it was insufficiently engaged in promoting superfast broadband infrastructure in Scotland on the grounds that telecoms was a reserved issue. 

Fourman's response is that although regulation is reserved, many actions that need to be taken at local level are devolved issues, such as planning regulation to promote the network being completely devolved.

The RSE is also reported to be backing the persistent urging, re-echoed by Reform Scotland’s call for a dedicated digital broadband minister, on the grounds that insuring optimum digital infrastructure is of an equivalent economic importance to that of the road and rail infrastructure overseen by a transport minister. Hang on in there Barra!!

Axe grinding for elderly & disabled

Emeritius Professor Alan Newell from the School of Computing, University of Dundee (below) also took issue with the Digital Scotland reports definition of digital inclusions in an interim response this month.

"Our research implies that the majority of those who are saying it is “not for me” (voluntarily excluding themselves) are probably too scared and/or confused by the technology to be prepared to try to use it. This is a fault with design and should be tackled from that perspective, as well as attempting to educate older people to battle with badly designed technology.

"At Dundee University, one of the largest academic groups in the world investing the design of information technology for older and disabled users, has been researching into these issues for 30 years.

"Professor Vicki Hanson, (left) who was until recently the Accessibility Manager of IBM New York, has joined our group. We have published widely on these issues.

"We are not alone in the view that there is an urgent need to tackle the design issues, and the “Manifesto for a Networked Nation”, had the inclusive design of IT products and services as one of its key recommendations.

"I was a keynote speaker at the Department of Work and Pensions’ seminar to explore “Design Solutions for an Ageing Society” in September and present the challenges older people had with information technology, and how to tackle these.

"At this meeting, Michael Wolff, the UK Government’s Inclusive Design Champion, said that “The inclusive design of products and services is an issue of which both designers and manufacturers need to be acutely aware”, and that “the
current Government recognises that inclusive design plays an important part in facing the challenges of an ageing population”.

"If Digital Scotland is to become truly inclusive of older and disabled people, it must also address the issue of inappropriate design of digital technology, and, I believe
that this aspect should be highlighted in the report."

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