Giving the Future a Nudge
Future thought is not the future until some time in the future, when
they look back at the past they see that thought as the future. We are
at the cusp of the future where all we have to do is help people
understand what the future holds.
With broadband networks that are universal comes the long awaited promise of
convergence of distance communication.
If the age of telephony started a revolution of communication where the average
person was able to communicate immediately over long distances with ease
Broad band networks will bring the next revolution in communication and data
The telephone system was not widely accepted until the process was simple and
wide ranging access
Broad band network will not be widely accessed until it is simple and accessible
to a significant population.
That being said let us look at the practicality if implementing Broad Band networks and
the resultant platform for us to deliver distant education effectively and to enrich more
traditional forms of education.
Few if any networks will be built for the purpose of distance education.
o It is too costly a process to have a dedicated network for education
o We will have to piggy back on other applications such as private
enterprise, government and non government enterprise
It is clear that there are two aspects of successful Broad Band networks.
As a rule the education enterprise is a conservative one
o Because the cost of education is so high there are few dollars to
“experiment” with new technology.
o We tend to follow rather than lead
Given that we in this room are the converted. We can see the promise. We know the
I have been attending this conference for several years and I have heard and seen
bright ideas, promising experiments and committed people.
In most cases we are talking about the future or small scale initiatives.
The people who can make this happen are not seeing what we are seeing.
These are the people who plot the strategies of the telcos.
They are government decision makers and others that can make broadband
Let me briefly tell you my story.
I was a superintendent of schools with the same problems as superintendents
any where. We needed to balance the books, improve achievement and
attract and retain the best teachers possible. It was only through my
relationship with my friend and colleague, Craig Montgomerie, which it
became clear my fundamental goals might be satisfied by using this
technology. Together and with a great deal of help from others, we built
To build RACOL we needed sufficient resources not only to acquire the
hardware but also to train the people who would use it. The resources had to
come from somewhere else than our regular funding. Some of the money to
do this project came from research grants. The money to build it came from
the provincial fund that builds classroom. Indeed the project took the funds
requited to build 3 or 4 classrooms. This money was hard to get and
involved selling the project to politicians and government officials. In
addition the jurisdiction had to invest a great deal of human resources in the
We had to sell the project to government, to the Board, to our staff, students
I contend that if we are to expand distance education using Broad Band then we must be
better sales people
We need to work with other sectors such as health, municipalities and other
elements of the public and private sectors to create the demand.
We need to work with Telcos to show them the potential profit and their
contribution to society.
We need to work with governments to create environments where the Telcos
recognize the opportunities and where governments can see opportunities that will
improve their business.
We need to work with teachers and their unions to demonstrate that this is not a
method of downsizing human resources.
We need to get the message out.
The first message for success of this enterprise, while technologically broad band might
be very complex; its success is in its simplicity. The system must be:
Little more complicated than operating the telephone
Little or no technical support needed
The second message is that it must be capable of accomplishing the tasks that will meet
the demands some of which have not been articulated yet but that the telcos see a
Multipoint to multipoint video that is equal to or better than the accepted standard
Mass data transfer and storage
Deal with robotics and distant manipulation of equipment and protocols
High definition Video with Dolby digital sound. (At least equal to DVD quality)
Support virtual supercomputing
Clearly it must be able to all it is asked to do.
The third message is that it must show profitability.
Profitability is based on two directions:
o sales to the government(s) and
o Sales to the private sector.
Government is the key because their demand will transverse huge areas and will
offer a multiplicity of services.
I believe government will be the foundation of most broadband business plans.
o Networks will be structured in a P3 format (private/public partnerships).
o Broadband network is an essential need if Countries are to succeed in the
o They are necessary infrastructure for all government jurisdictions.
o The government itself has huge needs in broadband computing. Areas
such as agriculture; internal communications; health; education; defense;
the legal system; research and more are will demanding access to broad
Demand from the private sector has only begun.
o Largely data transfer is necessary for the operation of business;
The potential of a broadband network that is virtually universal has only begun to
o Centralized operation will save money, manpower and improve
o Improved telephony; video telephony and easy data transfer will affect
how and where business is done.
o The potential for collaborative research and the entertainment industry
have not been widely explored.
Simply put, we in the education sector must partner with other sectors, with governments
and private enterprise to develop broadband networks. For the most part Presidents and
premiers either do not understand what we are talking about or see it as a low priority.
Telcos tend to look mostly at the telephony market. School superintendents and
principals are to busy fighting budget short falls to see the potential. In short we all must
become sales people.
This brings us to the challenge to the telcos, “Work and listen to us because while we
may not be the source of profit and growth, we are the vanguard of it. What we devise;
what we develop; what we dream of are applicable to business and government which is