The news has been reporting that the British government is to reveal plans to provide “super-fast broadband”. Oh, good grief! We’ve had this back in March when Gordon Brown had the same idea.
I despair over our leadership as they seem rudderless when confronted with a changing world. I remember when PCs were becoming popular some idiot politicians thought that we should have typing taught as part of the national curriculum. This, at a time when kids were getting home games computers before they became teenagers and picking up typing naturally.
Now our government look around and see everyone talking about e-this and i-that and hits on some daft idea which they consider will prove their leadership regarding technological change. But copying Singapore is not providing leadership.
My broadband is quoted as about 6 meg download. I don’t get that of course due to contention ratios and other technical factors. The point is that my speed is usable. I work from home now and then without issues. If my work required faster speeds I could get it. I’d just have to pay more. I know that maximum broadband speeds are unevenly spread across the UK but I do not believe that this is a limiting factor to technological economic growth
As I said, I work from home now and then. Most of the time I join the nightmare commute north every morning to sit opposite another poor sod. We grunt “good morning” and then spend the day talking to people on the other side of the world. As soon as is permissible we join the commute back home and then slump in front of the telly.
This wokring from home is termed telecommuting. The reason I do use it most of the time is not technological, it is because of outdated management styles. British management like to see their workers sitting in the office; this makes them think that they are getting their monies worth even if the employees spend most of their time on Facebook. It can be no coincidence that for many years prior to Facebook the Japanese word for this time wasting has been “face time”. It is pointless and it costs industry millions.
The reason that facetime is so popular is that it is easier on the manager. He can hide in his office, then once his boss puts him on the spot, he can strut around giving instructions and demanding information. Having his staff scurry around makes him feel important and may impress his boss but this is poor management and detrimental to economic performance. Facetime should be eradicated irrespective of telecommuting policies but and telecommuting can help this process along.
Eradicating facetime means implementing effective achievement based management. The manager needs to plan his team’s activities, create schedules, allocate time and resources and them review progress. Employees should then be judged by the efficient and timely completion of tasks which they are set.
Many companies already have successful telecommuting policies but not enough. Achievement based management is more of a challenge as it involves the manager having to put in some effort. It is here where the British government could usefully intervene by providing training for managers and by implementing tax breaks for employers and employees.
The government encouraging telecommuting would also encourage achievement based management. Telecommuting would also ease transport problems, make industry more efficient and reduce CO2 emissions. It’s is a no lose proposition and would show real leadership.
Government should set policy and not get involved in implementation. This is where New Labour went wrong. The government should not use tax payers money to provide high speed broadband access to every shed on every mountain top in the country. Market forces can be left to supply broadband to where it is required.
Let’s not forget the last government technological big idea. Digital Audio Broadcast. OK, many of us have DAB radios but how many of us have them in our cars? And how long before the whole DAB experiment is shelved in favour of wireless internet access?