The social impact of the web society, government and by han19590

VIEWS: 91 PAGES: 38

									The social impact of the web: society,
government and the internet

Speakers                  George Osborne, MP
                          Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer


                          Mick Fealty
                          Creator, Slugger O’Toole


                          Bryan Appleyard
                          Author and journalist


                          Lee Bryant
                          Director, Headshift



Chaired by:               Peter Kellner
                          Chairman, YouGov



Date:                     8th March 2007
Venue:                    RSA, 8 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6EZ



NB
This is an unedited transcript of the event. Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy there
may be phonetic or other errors depending on inevitable variations in recording quality. Please do
contact us to point out any errors, which we will endeavour to correct.
To reproduce any part of this transcript in any form please contact RSA Lectures Office at
lectures@rsa.org.uk or +44(0)20 7451 6868

The views expressed are not necessarily those of the RSA or its Trustees.

                                             www.theRSA.org



        RSA | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 1
      Matthew Taylor: Morning everyone.                           and successes, but few I think would argue
I’m Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the                        that the high hopes for e-democracy in a
RSA and I’d like to welcome you here this                         virtual Commons, as it were prevalent a few
morning.                                                          years ago, have been met in the ways that the
                                                                  pioneers of the web had hoped. In the end
        Just to say to you that like most RSA
events, this session today will be broadcast live                 overall, Web 1 seems simply to speed up and
                                                                  reinforce the ‘us and them’ style of politics.
on our website. An edited audio file and
transcript will be available in a few days’ time.                         I’ve got in enough trouble in the past
                                                                  commenting on bloggers. I’ve never been so
        This RSA policy event is looking at the
social implications of the web, how we conduct                    publicly abused. I shall avoid it today. I simply
                                                                  want to thank Mick who’s on the platform,
our politics, how democracy will function, how
we run our public services.                                       for a quote in his recent blog which has
                                                                  instantly become an absolute favourite of
        We’re very grateful to Steve Moore                        mine. He quoted a blogger saying with a
and Policy Unplugged for organising the event.                    wonderful shot of self-awareness, “The
And in a moment I’ll hand over to Peter                           philosophers have only interpreted the
Kellner and our panel, and in particular our                      world. The point is to complain about it.”
keynote speaker, George Osborne. Let me just
                                                                         The question is whether the ‘us and
say a couple of words before I do that.
                                                                  us’ technology and culture of Web 2
       We see this event in part as a taster for                  exemplified by the Wiki, means that we can
an RSA day conference on Friday 20th May,                         have renewed enthusiasm for the web’s
which will explore many of the issues that we’ll                  scope to renew democratic and civic
be talking about today. The speakers at that                      discourse. This answer to this question will
event will include Professor Cass Sunstein,                       lie in the interaction of public attitudes,
from the University of Chicago. You can pick                      innovation, and the willingness of government
up details of that conference outside the                         and politicians to exploit the potential and
auditorium.                                                       accept the challenges of democracy 2.0.
        The RSA is keen to work with other                               Let me just very quickly go through
organisations to explore the broader social                       the other areas in one line each really.
impact of the internet. There’s surely no
                                                                          The second issue we want to look at
question that the web has profoundly changed
                                                                  is the impact of the internet on public
society, and as it evolves, so does its impact.
                                                                  services and whether we are thinking nearly
Overwhelmingly this is positive, bringing
                                                                  radically enough about the fundamental re-
economic dynamism, new opportunities,
                                                                  engineering of public services so they can
freedoms and forms of self-expression. But as
                                                                  take full advantage of today’s and tomorrow’s
we know from the last technology to have had
                                                                  communication technology.
arguably a similarly profound impact on our
lives and our society, the motor car, along with                          The third set of issues we want to
the opportunities and freedoms can come                           explore and why we’re so pleased to have
other effects, not all of them necessarily so                     Cass Sunstein joining us in May, is the wider
benign.                                                           issue of the impact of the internet on public
                                                                  discourse. As many of you will know,
       I want our work here to look at four
                                                                  Sunstein argued in his book Dot Com Republic
issues which I’m going to spin through
                                                                  that the internet would reinforce polarisation
incredibly quickly, because I’m not even
                                                                  and prejudice as people only ever went to
supposed to be speaking.
                                                                  sites and read material which agreed with and
       First the scope for the internet to                        exaggerated their own opinions. Subsequent
provide ways to reinvigorate politics,                            research suggested that wasn’t true actually,
democratic decision-making and civic society.                     that people who went onto, for example,
Now of course there have been innovations

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 2
American Republican sites, were more likely to                    on our capacity to define ourselves as human
visit American Democratic sites. And people                       beings in the future?
who read one particular style of newspaper to                             Anyway, those are just some of the
read an alternative newspaper. This is I think, a                 issues that we want to explore in May and in
very interesting and important debate. And                        future work in this area. But enough from
another aspect of that is the nature of                           me, I’m simply expressing some of my
knowledge on the web, an amazing source.                          frustration about not getting chosen as a
Sites like Wikipedia are incredible, but also the                 speaker. That’s what I can do when it’s my
web has become a very powerful way of                             house. I’m delighted now to hand over to
spreading what people have called counter-                        Peter Kellner. I won’t need to introduce
knowledge, or bad knowledge.                                      Peter. You know him as his role in YouGov
         And then finally, and it really is finally               and his role as a political commentator over
from me, what is perhaps the most fascinating                     the years. We couldn’t have a better Chair
question of all, and that is the impact of the                    for our event today. Peter.
internet on social relations. In part this is about                     Peter Kellner: Thanks very much,
the impact of text and MSN Messenger culture.                     Matthew.
I watch my son every night simultaneously
speaking to 15, 16 of his friends. I’m not sure                           Incidentally, there are still a number
whether I should be pushing him out to play on                    of vacant spaces on the second and third
the street or be encouraged by the fact that                      rows in particular, so don’t feel you have to
he’s interacting with kids not just in London,                    stand. If you want to stand, that’s fine. If you
but all around the world.                                         move now before George gets up, if you
                                                                  want the seats, please do.
         I was recently interviewed when I took
my job at the RSA, and I was confronted by my                            I’m only going to speak for a moment
Wiki page, which featured a photograph of a                       or two. We’ve got lots to do in the next two
girlfriend I hadn’t seen for 20 years. And this                   and a half hours.
put me in mind of the fact that one of the                                Incidentally Matthew, I loved that
aspects, of course, of the internet is the idea                   remark about ‘philosophers who only
that every single event in your past, every                       interpret the world, the point is to complain
misdemeanour, will be carried around with you                     about it.’ I heard it for the first time
for the rest of your life. Maybe politicians are                  yesterday afternoon on your father’s radio
used to that, but the rest of us ordinary                         programme, so I don’t there whether there’s
mortals are not.                                                  a family link there.
        I was talking to someone the other day                             George Osborne, as you well know,
who said that they’d gone back at Christmas to                    Shadow Chancellor, Member for Tatton for
a family Christmas and they had a cousin who                      the last six years. But for those of you who
had slightly enjoyed the high life and she’d been                 haven’t read it, I would advise you after this
out to two in the morning and they confronted                     to look … I suppose everything’s on the net.
her the next morning and said, “Were you out                      It’s there permanently. George did a
on the razzle?” She said, “No, no, no.” She just                  powerful and important speech, the Olsen
couldn’t get a taxi back. And then they went                      lecture before Christmas, on this topic. I
onto her MySpace site and in her MySpace site                     think today we’ve in a sense got part two.
she regaled the readers with her night of                         And it was clear to me as I think it would be
bottles of vodka and high jinks. And what                         to anybody reading that speech that George
amazed the person I was talking to was, that                      is at the very, very forefront of thinking by
she didn’t seem to realise that if you put                        politicians, about the social and political
something on MySpace, you’re putting it there                     implications of this enormous revolution in
for everybody to read and it would be there                       how we communicate with each other. So
forever. What is going to be the impact of that


       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 3
I’m looking forward very, very much indeed to                      in this room, certainly myself, to resist the
hear what George says.                                             urge to push back, to regulate, legislate, to
                                                                   try to tame and to control.
         George Osborne: Thank you very
much Peter. Thank you for that kind                                        Instead I would argue we need to
introduction and for mentioning the Olsen                          harness the internet to help us become more
lecture which did receive a lot of internet                        accountable, more transparent, and more
traffic, people looking at it. But the Olsen twins                 accessible, and so bridge the growing gap
are in fact one of the most popular couple of                      between government and governed. Our
people for teenagers on the web. And I think                       willingness to change needs to match the
most people mistakenly came across my                              scale of the technological revolution taking
lecture on the web when they were looking                          place all around us. Just as companies all over
for the twins. But it is a great pleasure to be                    the world are changing the way that they do
here in this amazing room, which although I’ve                     business, so too must we in politics and
been in this building I’ve not been in this room                   government evolve. Our ambition, I think,
before. And I’m very grateful to Matthew and                       must be no less than this, to recast the
Peter for inviting me to speak.                                    political settlement for the digital age.
        I guess we’re all here (I’m making an                               Last November in that lecture I talked
assumption) this morning because we share a                        about politics in the internet age and I
common belief, that we believe in the power of                     identified some of the key social changes that
technology, in its ability to help transform                       had been unleashed by this technological
society for the better, by giving individuals                      revolution. And today, as Peter said, I want
more freedom, more choice, and ultimately                          to go further and set out some of the pillars,
more power. At heart we are technology                             the three pillars, upon which I believe this
optimists. And of course technological change                      new political settlement should be built.
isn’t (Matthew was talking about this) always                              And the first of these pillars is about
easy to deal with because it so often disrupts                     equality. Equality of information. And what
the established way of doing things. Just look at                  Eric Schmidt, Chief Executive of Google,
how digital networks have completely                               called the democratisation of access to
rewritten the rules of production and                              information, when he spoke to our party
distribution. Shelf space, airtime, room on the                    conference last autumn. Of course, I invited
pages of a newspaper. These used to                                him by email, as you do when you’re inviting
determine which artists got their records                          the Chief Executive of Google, and the only
played, what TV shows were watched and                             query he had was “How long is Bournemouth
which elite opinions appeared in print. And                        runway?” which he sent back by email. I
today of course anyone can record songs and                        didn’t understand. He said, “I’m flying in.” I
put them online. They can shoot home movies,                       assumed he meant he was flying in on a
edit them, add special effects, broadcast them                     Google corporate jet, but he turned up
to millions of people worldwide. Or they can                       having actually flown the plane himself to
start a blog, sharing opinions and comments                        Bournemouth. But it was great to have him
with readers in different countries and on                         to speak at the party conference. And he
different continents.                                              talked about this democratisation of access
        In fact, I think the internet is like a child              to information because, of course, for
pushing at the boundaries of authority and                         centuries across the world, access to
challenging the established way of doing things.                   information and the ability to communicate it
Challenging the business models from the last                      was controlled by a few, the powerful, the
century, the traditional media, long accepted                      wealthy, the well educated. Today by typing
notions of national jurisdiction and concepts of                   just a few words into a computer, the
governmental control. And the challenge is for                     individual at home not only has access to
the pushed, probably most of the people here                       more information than whole governments


        RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 4
had access to just a generation ago, just as                      public services work, and I know from what
importantly he or she has the power to search                     you’ve just said Matthew, you agree. I read
through it more quickly than any government                       the lecture you gave last month here where
clerk.                                                            you said “We need to move away from
                                                                  government-centric models to citizen-centric
         This is rapidly eroding traditional power
                                                                  models” and I agree.
and informational imbalances. No longer is
there an asymmetry of information between                                 What’s needed in government is as
the individual and the state or between the                       much a cultural shift as a technological
layperson and the expert. And this shift is                       change. A shift to a culture that actually
changing the world. It’s empowering                               welcomes criticism and comment and then
individuals, raising expectations of government                   reacts to it. A shift to a culture that seeks
services and increasing accountability for all of                 customers’ views and ideas at every stage of
us who work in the public sector and in                           developing a service. A shift to a culture
politics.                                                         where every service can be improved and no
         Sadly I think government thinking is still               service is ever fully developed. This means
a long way behind ideas like this. Take the area                  more than constantly tinkering with public
of my responsibility, the Treasury. In the US,                    services for the sake of it. It means being
the Federal government is now creating a                          open to fresh thinking and input from both
website that allows people to see how and                         users and deliverers. And this approach is at
where their money is spent by searching                           the heart of our social responsibility agenda.
through all the contracts, grants and                             The democratisation of information is
programmes of the Federal government, and                         changing        the     relationship     between
they call it “Googling your Tax Dollars” in                       Government and the citizen for good and it’s
America. We’ve introduced legislation in the                      the first pillar of that new political settlement
House of Lords (while it’s still there) that                      that I want to talk about.
would introduce a similar system here in the                              The second pillar of a new political
UK. It’ll enable British taxpayers to find out                    settlement will be founded on new social
how much is spent in their local school, how                      networks. Now I have asked this question
much is spent by their local GP surgery, or                       before, but let me ask it again. How many
indeed any other piece of information they                        people here are friends with Tom Anderson?
want to find out. The legislation has gone                        What have we got? Nine people. Right. Well
through all the stages in the House of Lords.                     you’re not alone. The rest of you are looking
It’s coming to the House of Commons and I                         a bit bemused. I’m surprised you don’t know
know from the private conversations that go                       Tom. I actually went all the way to Los
on in politics that there are indeed quite a lot                  Angeles to meet him last year. He’s 31 years
of people in government who like the idea. But                    old. His interests are music, movies and the
sadly the Treasury is almost certain to kill it off               history of communism. His favourite bands
when the Bill comes to the Commons, and of                        are Superdrag and the Sex Pistols and he’s
course, the government has created some new                       got 125 million friends, Tom, nine of whom
websites and many of the forms you need to                        are here today. Tom is the co-founder of
fill in now are available for you to download                     MySpace and when you join MySpace as nine
online. You can indeed now even fill in some of                   people here clearly have, and 125 million
those forms over the net, which is a big step                     others have, Tom is your first friend.
forward. But that is the most basic reaction to                   MySpace of course is that online social
new technology; doing the old things in a new                     network. Each week (think about this)
way.                                                              250,000 new people join MySpace. That is
                                                                  roughly the same number of people who are
       Instead just as successful companies are
harnessing this new technology to do things in                    members of the Labour or Conservative
a new way, so we need to re-think the way                         Party in total joining MySpace every single
                                                                  week. These people are not brought together

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 5
by common geography or experience. What                           the health of the movement that I’m part of.
they share is a common interest. And we’re                        At the moment, very little like it exists on the
used to people living in a particular place or                    government side and that is because I don’t
being employees of a particular company or                        think you can imagine the current leaders of
members of a Trade Union or a political party.                    the government working with a website
We’re used to being organised by others,                          where the Labour Party supporters regularly
having others speak on our behalf. These                          took pot-shots at them. And that’s got to
online networks are different. People are                         change in my view. I think top down politics
organising themselves and speaking for                            is no longer sustainable in a bottom up age.
themselves and they are mobilising politically.                           Now there are some who say that
       Ever since Howard Dean raised $30m                         blogs and online petitions and so on merely
through donations from internet activists,                        give a platform to the angry activist. Matthew
mainstream American politicians have woken                        referred to this. He said that these are the
up to the vast potential of social networking.                    voices of shrill outrage. Well, here Matthew,
The Presidential elections in 2008 will push this                 I’m afraid I disagree with you. Of course the
envelope still further.                                           internet provides another channel for the
                                                                  activist (shrill voiced or otherwise) but it’s
        Barack Obama already has 300,000
supporters on Facebook alone. He set up his                       also opening up politics to people who would
                                                                  never ordinarily engage with politicians or
own social networking site, barackobama.com.
                                                                  mainstream political parties.
Online political networks are springing up in
the UK too. Now, and interestingly they are at                            Look at what happened in Los
the moment (although this is starting to change                   Angeles last year. Five hundred thousand
and I think it’s a good thing that it is) almost all              people took part in a march to complain
Conservative ones.                                                about the treatment of illegal immigrants. It
                                                                  was one of the biggest marches ever in
       Some of these networks are actively set
                                                                  American history. And it was organised
up by the Conservative Party. For example,
                                                                  through online social networking sites rather
each week on Web Cameron, not only does
                                                                  than by trade unions or pressure groups. So
David Cameron post his thoughts in short
                                                                  the marchers were not the usual hardened
video clips, but the public is invited to submit
                                                                  political activists. They were mostly non-
questions that they think he should answer.
                                                                  voters, students and immigrants, indeed
And each week the question asked the most,
                                                                  exactly the type of people that conventional
no matter how awkward it is, gets an answer
                                                                  politics usually fails to reach. So as people
from him in a video clip. I do look forward to
                                                                  come to be increasingly disengaged, sadly,
seeing Web Gordon.
                                                                  from traditional models of political
        But it’s not the official Conservative                    engagement, these new technologies and the
websites that I find most interesting. It’s the                   social networks gives us in politics and in
unofficial ones. Take conservativehome.com,                       government an opportunity to connect and
which some of you may have come across. It is                     to listen to new audiences as well as to
an online community of Conservative activists                     engage with old ones. And I think it’s too
that engages in a constant commentary, a 24                       great an opportunity to be missed.
hour a day commentary on what the
                                                                          The final pillar of this new political
Conservative Party leadership is up to. And
                                                                  settlement is open source. Last week I sat in
although myself and indeed other members of
                                                                  the audience of another lecture and heard my
the Shadow Cabinet are frequently the target
                                                                  friend Professor Jeffrey Sachs, deliver the first
of conservativehome.com, it is for me an
                                                                  of the Reith lectures, and he talked about
unambiguously good thing that it exists. For, it,
                                                                  open source politics.
and other websites like Ian Dale’s blog and the
new Conservative internet television station                             Open source politics means rejecting
‘18 Doughty Street’ are sure signs for me of                      the old monolithic, top down approach to

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 6
decision making. It means throwing open the                       yielding $3bn worth of gold for the company
door and listening to new ideas and new                           and turned a pretty small company into a
contributions. It means harnessing the power                      huge multibillion dollar mining industry.
of mass collaboration. And rather than relying                            Proctor & Gamble are taking a similar
on the input of a few trusted experts, it means                   open source approach to their research. On
drawing on the skills and expertise of millions.
                                                                  top of the 7500 scientists they directly
        The most well known example of open                       employ in the traditional manner, they now
source is of course Wikipedia, the online                         connect with more than 90,000 other
encyclopaedia. As I’m sure most of you know,                      scientists who they don’t employ, but
every one of its entries is created, edited,                      through their incentive network they use to
corrected, updated by the online community.                       help solve their R&D problems.
The idea of course stands on it’s head the                                And at YouGov, and your Chairman
concept of the traditional encyclopaedia                          Peter Kellner is here, there’s an online polling
written by the most learned experts in the                        company that uses the internet to pull
field. And I congratulate the RSA on                              together polling samples much faster and
recognising the power of this approach. As I
                                                                  indeed, as I understand it, cheaper than
understand it you’ve just created your own                        would otherwise have been possible. These
Wiki, enabling your Fellows to contribute ideas                   new collaborations are not just commercial.
for future research projects and allowing them                    Gene Bank, the world’s largest public
to comment on ongoing projects.
                                                                  database of genetic information is the result
        Companies are now increasingly using                      of an open source approach that is enabling
Wikis to solve internal problems because you                      free and open collaboration between
can have lots of people working on them at                        scientists and companies all over the world.
once. Those people don’t necessarily have to
                                                                         How can this approach be harnessed
work for the company and this is of course a
                                                                  in the public sector? Well, we need to start
totally radical departure from our traditional
                                                                  by taking advantage of the collaborative
understanding of the business model.                              forums that are already emerging on the
        Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams                         internet. If you have a query about Google,
are authors of a fascinating new book just                        for instance, you can visit their online
come out called Wikinomics. They use the                          question and answer website to pose the
example of a Canadian gold mining company                         question. And because everyone else’s
called Gold Core to illustrate their point. Gold                  queries and the responses to them are
Core’s Chief Executive was frustrated that his                    published on the website, the chances are
in-house geologist couldn’t accurately work                       that your query will already have been asked
out where new gold deposits might be in the                       and answered by other people. This of
territory that they owned. So he did something                    course saves Google on its resources, but it
no one in the gold industry or indeed the                         also provides users with more information,
mining industry had ever done before. He                          more quickly, than if a team of experts have
published all the geographical data his company                   tried to second guess every question that
had about his mine online and then he                             could possibly be asked.
challenged the world to do the prospecting for                            Similar collaborative approaches I
him. Enticed by the offer of a financial reward,                  think can be applied in government. The
over a thousand of virtual prospectors                            Patient Opinion website, a social enterprise
submitted their thoughts. These included not                      set by a Sheffield GP is already demonstrating
just geologists, but mathematicians, physicists                   what can be achieved. Patients use the
and computer systems analysts who brought                         website to post accounts of their experiences
unorthodox ways of thinking to a pretty                           of the NHS, positive and negative, and these
traditional industry. And in total the online                     are then forwarded to the relevant hospital
community identified deposits that ended up                       or clinic which can respond, and these trigger

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 7
micro-conversations about the quality of care                     will have open source IT strategies by next
and service that often result in practical                        year – 95% of those companies.
changes being made on the ground. The effect                             Far-sighted governments are also
is to create a real time exchange of qualitative                  taking advantage of this trend. In Japan the
data on public experience from seemingly                          government is moving its entire payroll
trivial issues like the lack of clear signs in a                  system over to an open source platform. The
hospital, to bigger issues like poor quality                      switch is expected to cut their operating
outpatient care. And the direction of travel is                   costs by a half. The Spanish region of
clear to my mind and I think the government                       Extremadura migrated 70,000 desktops and
needs to get on board.                                            400 servers in its schools to open source
        Another way the government of course                      software. It’s calculated this decision has
can harness the open source approach is                           already saved them over £10m.
through the procurement of open source                                   In 2001 the German Parliament ruled
software. Open source software again, as I’m                      that open source software should be used
sure many of you know, is software that’s                         wherever doing so would cut costs without
developed collectively by a community of                          compromising standards. In Holland, ten
developers including individuals, universities,                   cities including Amsterdam, The Hague,
small and large companies from around the                         Eindhoven, have begun implementing open
world. They build the product, suggest                            source evaluation projects.
improvements, check the code and critique
each other’s work. By this extraordinary and                             Here in the UK there are some public
often unguided collaborative effort, they                         bodies that have already shown what can be
produce software that is then made available,                     achieved. A recent Department for Education
again often free of charge. What’s more, unlike                   report found that on average, primary
traditional proprietary software, users can                       schools using open source software cut their
access the source code making it possible for                     IT costs per PC by 50%. Now they are not
them to tailor their software to the needs of                     alone. Bristol City Council, Bridgend County
their own use and make constant iterative                         Council and many other local government
improvements. Not only is this a cost effective                   bodies have also used open source software
way of designing software, but it’s often faster                  to cut costs while meeting their IT
and indeed more effective too.                                    requirements.
       Ever since I visited the headquarters of                           Adopting open source software in
Mozilla in Paolo Alto, I’ve become a user of                      government      departments     does    not
their open source Firefox web browser. And                        necessarily mean having to stop using
I’m not alone. Almost 20 percent of online                        Microsoft products. That’s not where the
Europeans use Firefox instead of Internet                         real savings often lie, because many open
Explorer.                                                         source software applications are used for
                                                                  backroom operations such as databases and
       There are plenty more examples of                          infrastructure. And Microsoft are indeed
open source in practice. Take Linux, the fastest                  themselves actively engaging with the open
growing operating system in the world. It’s an                    source movement. So it’s not about being
open source model that IBM has now based                          anti Microsoft. Microsoft, I know, are an
their new hardware around. The company has                        important and valued employer. But what it is
estimated that this decision has saved them                       about is better and more effective
$1bn a year. And they’re not the only ones to                     government.
have benefited from open source software.
Amazon, the online booksellers, have                                     A 2004 report by the Office for
estimated that it’s cut their technology                          Government Commerce in Whitehall
spending by a quarter. This explains, of course,                  concluded, and I quote “The adoption of
why 95% of the Forbes Global 2000 companies                       open source software can generate savings in


       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 8
hardware and software costs for infrastructure                    But it can be done and we’ve seen other
implementation.” Sadly, I can tell you today                      countries already doing it. It means
that those savings have not been realised. In                     introducing new best practice benchmarks,
recent months we put down parliamentary                           ensuring public sector managers have the
questions and they revealed that most central                     resources and the support to meet those
government departments make no use of open                        benchmark standards. Overhauling the Office
source software whatsoever. And what’s going                      of Government Commerce Procurement
wrong? I think the problem is that the cultural                   rules so they reflect the potential benefits of
change is not taking place in government.                         using open source software. I want us to be
There isn’t a level playing field for open source                 able to start implementing these changes
software. As it stands too many companies are                     from day one of the next Government, if the
frozen out of government IT contracts and                         present Government doesn’t do it. And that’s
that stifles competition and drives up costs.                     why today I’ve asked Mark Thompson of the
Not a single open source company is included                      Judge Business School at Cambridge
in (inaudible) which is the overnment’s list of                   University to advise us on how we can make
approved IT suppliers. And small companies                        Britain be open source leader in Europe.
often find it much too difficult to access                                Mark is an independent voice with no
overnment contracts.                                              political agenda but he’s a respected academic
       Of course there will be occasions when                     and practitioner in this field. And he’ll be
open source is not, and I stress not, the                         helping us to develop the detailed
optimal solution. But unless it’s being properly                  procurement strategy that’ll enable our
considered, the government will continue to                       government to harness open source
lose out.                                                         software. Just as companies and other
                                                                  governments are doing so all over the world.
        Another problem has been the lack of
open      standards     in   government       IT                          So empowering individuals, improving
procurement. All too often a government IT                        public services, strengthening our political
system is incompatible with other types of                        system, these are the potential benefits to
software which stifles competition and                            politics and government of harnessing open
hampers innovation. And looking at the litany                     source politics. They’re part of a new political
of IT projects that have collapsed or spiralled                   settlement for our age. But I am sensible
over budget, it’s clear too that this has meant                   enough to recognise that I don’t have all the
billions of pounds wasted, public service                         answers. The internet age is transforming
reform being hampered. The government’s                           politics and I think has the capacity to
entire approach I would argue needs to be                         transform government. So I'm looking
overhauled. Taking into account the                               forward to harnessing the wisdom of this
experience of companies and other public                          particular crowd and hearing your thoughts
sector bodies, it’s estimated that the                            on how you think politics and government
government could save at least 5% - that’s                        can change in the internet age. Let’s start
quite a conservative estimate with a small ‘c’ -                  being open source right now. Thank you very
can save 5% of its annual IT bill if a more open                  much.
source software was used as part of a more                               Peter Kellner: Thank you very much
effective procurement strategy. That adds up                      indeed George. And I suspect that pretty well
to £600m a year. And the open source savings                      everybody here would support that campaign
would come not just from reduced licence fee                      for open source politics. If any members of
costs but also from freeing government bodies                     Whitehall or the government are here and
from a long-term costs of being locked into                       wish to respond later, please let me know.
certain types of software.
                                                                         What we’re going to do, we’re going
        Now of course I understand that                           to have three quick responses from the
achieving these savings is not going to be easy.                  remaining three people on the platform.

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 9
Then we’re going to open this up. And I'm                          up as well as the audience. And the producer
going to ask them to speak for 5 to 8 minutes                      rang me the day before and said, “Look
each.                                                              we’ve got a great story. We think it’s going
                                                                   to pull in lots of people. Nobody’s having
         First, Mick Fealty, the editor of Slugger
                                                                   politicians come to their doorstep anymore.
O’Toole a Northern Ireland blog. He’s also
                                                                   Are our politicians not making an effort?”
visiting researcher at Queens University in
                                                                   And she said, “Could you put a poll up on the
Belfast. And I guess Mick, you’re here in that
                                                                   front of Slugger and see what happens.” Well,
little interval between the votes being cast in
                                                                   you know, we talk about open source,
yesterday’s Assembly elections and the results
                                                                   George. There are many many cheap polls
are coming through later today/tomorrow, and
                                                                   that you can just … You don’t even have to
the implications they have for the future of
                                                                   buy, you just put in your question and
Northern Ireland politics. I would love to
                                                                   whatever. And then you post it up on the
imagine Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams discussing
                                                                   side of the site. So I did that and I thought
open source politics.
                                                                   right okay, I know from my contacts with
         Secondly, Bryan Appleyard, many                           political parties, that one thing you cannot
people know is a feature writer on the Sunday                      accuse them of is slacking at election time. I
Times. For my money, one of the most                               mean our politicians really do slack in-
intelligent and rigorous journalists of that or                    between. We’ve had no legislation since
indeed any national newspaper. He also has his                     November 2003, so that’s pretty easy going.
own blog and has recently written a book on
How to achieve immortality or die trying.                                   Anyway, I was kind of determined
                                                                   that I wanted to get the kind straight ‘dope’
        Thirdly, Lee Bryant, the director of                       on this. So as the poll is clicking up numbers
Headshift and somebody who’s deeply involved                       and I’ve given them three options, “how
in the world of public interaction with the web                    many politicians have knocked at your door?”
and what the future holds. So Mick, Bryan and                      One, two, three, four and then offered to say
Lee in turn.                                                       if it’s more than four, then email me with the
       Mick Fealty: Well, you’re right, I have                     details.
the election very much on my mind. Yesterday                               And then I arranged to go out with
at about 6 o’clock I was walking around loyalist                   two political parties, one in North Belfast
South Belfast trying to work out where                             with the DUP, and the other one with the
everything was going. And by midnight last                         SDLP in West Belfast – that’s Gerry Adams
night I was trying to get a connection at                          kind of stronghold I think. It’s the fourth
Heathrow Airport to the internet so I could                        safest Westminster seat. So hostile territory
upload all these figures I’ve got in my head for                   for the SDLP. And it was pouring. I hadn’t
the most minutest wards in terms of what kind                      brought my coat. I was absolutely soaked
of turnout we’ve had.                                              through to the skin. Very small band of
        So I'm not going to bore you about                         dedicated SDLP supporters. Knocking on
Northern Ireland. We’re not going to talk                          doors. Most people not coming to the door
about potato famines or how terrible it is to                      themselves, ignoring it. And many people
grow up Catholic in Northern Ireland or what                       wanting to kind of talk. Clearly there are …
terrible bigots the Orange Order are, all the                      and they have gone round massive – I think
kinds of things that people love to talk about                     they had nine people out that night. The
on Slugger O’Toole.                                                most they were ever able to call out was 13.
                                                                   They’d been on every door for 29 nights
         I was on a phone in programme the                         without fail, Sundays included. So I’ve got the
other day with a guy called Stephen Nolan. I                       qualitative end of it. And with the DUP, Ian
think he broadcasts on Radio 5 as well. But on                     Paisley’s party in North Belfast, they’re
Radio Ulster he specialises in shock-jocking                       claiming for the whole of the election period,
first thing in the morning. I think it wakes him                   they’ve been out from 10 o’clock in the

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 10
morning to 10 o’clock at night. So the callers                             Recently we’ve been using a kind of a
ring in, and every single caller (I think there                    pod cast technology which means that
were about ten of them – this is on the radio                      completely technologically illiterate people
show) except one, claimed no one had come                          like me can quickly record an interview and
to their doorstep.                                                 get it up within 15/20 minutes. Now last
                                                                   Wednesday I recorded an interview with
        So I’ve got the printouts of the poll. I’ve
got all the stuff and I'm basically fielding a                     Mitchell McLachlan who’s one of Sinn Fein’s
                                                                   senior representatives. And I asked a series
bunch of questions from a lot of angry people
who claim they’ve not had politicians on their                     of questions and I let him respond
doorstep. And I can respond in detail and say,                     discursively. I didn’t come back to reference
                                                                   any of the things that he’d said. We got
well half of our respondents agree with you, so
roughly half the people in the poll, they’re not                   through to the end of it and 20/25 minutes
                                                                   later, because on the net, you can take all
getting that knock on the door.
                                                                   kinds of time, and on the BBC or any kind of
        But clearly in this phone in programme,                    commercial radio station or television, you
that is not entirely representative. It’s self-                    are very often as a journalist, constrained to
selecting. It’s kind of pushed on a motion etc.                    very tight timetables. You don’t have that
So I guess that’s kind of one way in which I                       problem on the net. You can be as long or as
think discussion on the internet and kind of                       brief as is appropriate.
pulling together lots of kind of quantitative and
                                                                            Anyway, we get through to the end of
qualitative data very quickly in a quick and dirty
sort of way, can kind of top the sort of                           it. Mitchell tells a colleague within his party
broadcast media in that sense.                                     that he thought it was a very light interview,
                                                                   that he kind of ‘got away with it’. Next day,
         Another thing from … I guess the thing                    press release, they have a new initiative
about blogs is that it has a fairly poor                           coming out and he repeats a line that he used
reputation      I    think,   amongst      political               in the interview with me. A kind of strange
establishments. And I think that’s partly to do                    line for a kind of a left wing socialist type
with both in America and here in Britain,                          party. In that, one of the great controversies
there’s a lot of anger. There’s a lot of bloggers                  in this election has been water tax. Now, we
who are pushing their own particular angle. I                      don’t pay water tax or have not paid water
think that is less of an option in Northern                        tax in Northern Ireland. It’s part of your local
Ireland. Less so in recent years but certainly                     regional writ. And he suggested that rather
more two or three years ago. You blog the                          than calling for non payment, which is what
wrong thing and somebody can pay for it with                       some of those smaller fringe parties and
their lives. So to a certain extent there was a                    indeed the trade union movement is calling
… From the beginning of Slugger O’Toole we’ve                      for in Northern Ireland, that actually trade
done things slightly differently in that respect.                  union members should refuse to process the
And one of the things we’ve tried to do is to                      bills within the civil service and people in the
create some confidence amongst our                                 post office should refuse to deliver these bills.
politicians, that they can actually do politics.                   Well, I didn’t question him on it. And he
         I’ve deliberately sort of taken a leaf out                clearly took some conference for it – he used
of, or tried to take a leaf out of John Lloyd’s                    the press conference. And the next three
book and suggested that actually politicians                       days, both himself and Gerry Adams, Alex
should be at the centre of a parliamentary                         Maskey and a whole series of senior
democracy. And tried to create some kind of                        politicians spent a lot of their time
an access towards a deliberative democracy.                        backtracking on it, trying to avoid the
But this actually is quite a challenge for the                     question etc. It kind of set light in the media.
politicians themselves.                                                    And I think the reason I tell that story
                                                                   is really going back to what George was
                                                                   mentioning about top down politics. Blogging

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 11
at is very best is about active citizens. It’s about               remember how. So I think what George
not simply equal access to knowledge. It’s                         Osborne was talking about was in fact a loss
about access to that knowledge. It’s about                         of control. Traditional forms of control
holding conversations that bypass the                              breaking down. And obviously I can’t dissent
politicians. It allows not simply ordinary                         from the basis of his analysis. It’s obviously
citizens but members of the media, having                          the case, all these things are happening and all
time, head space to think about some of the                        these things are happening in a way that we
deeper implications of these, often very                           don’t understand, in a way that we’ve lost
complex, social and political issues.                              control to some extent.
        It’s a real challenge. As somebody said,                            But I want to provide as it were, a
“My pitch to all the political parties in these                    slightly dissenting footnote to what seems to
interviews was, I'm not going to throw any                         me to be excessive technological optimism.
‘gurglies’, no fast balls, no (inaudible). And there               Technological optimism is not a coherent
was one guy in the DUP said to me, “Aye, but                       position as far as I'm concerned.
the slow ball very often is the one that catches                   Technologies can be good or bad, how we
the man out.”                                                      use them obviously matters. So merely to say
                                                                   that these are good things is not, it seems to
        So I think bloggers should make life
much tougher for our politicians. And we do                        me, necessarily helpful. And a lot of this is to
                                                                   do with politicians adapting to the new world
that not by aggressively going after the ‘silver
                                                                   order.
bullet’ that’s going to get the ministers sacked
or embarrass the front bench spokesman on                                   Now there’s a point, there’s a sort of
the opposition benches. We do that by getting                      prior point to make about that, which is that
serious attention on the detail, looking at what                   people are indeed turned off politics at the
they’re actually doing, listening to what they                     moment. But not purely because they’re out
say, when they begin and they say what their                       on the web, getting their information and
intention is, and looking at their outcomes and                    attitudes in other ways, but because politics
their outputs. And I think that constitutes a                      is incredibly dull. The reason for that is that
serious reengagement of a thinking citizen with                    politics in this country has become a kind of
its own democratic institutions. I'm sure I had                    Westminster soap opera. I'm not blaming
lots of other really interesting things to say but                 politicians solely, I'm blaming the media as
I think 5 or 7 minutes have probably gone. So                      well. I don’t cover politics and I certainly
thanks very much.                                                  don’t cover the Westminster soap opera. I
                                                                   write about it occasionally but not often. But
       Bryan Appleyard: Good morning. I
                                                                   to me what we’re seeing is a kind of
deliberately wore a tie today to distinguish
                                                                   personality-led drama with things centred on
myself from the politicians. But George
                                                                   Westminster. Nothing to do with what I
Osborne’s let me down.
                                                                   understand politics to be, which is real effects
        I’ve been a blogger for a year and                         in the real world on real people. And I think
become something of a geek in the process                          this is a catastrophe which is partly to do
much to my wife’s dismay. But it’s taught me                       with media collusion on with the New
basically what this subject is about. And I think                  Labour programme from the mid 90s. But
one of the themes is loss of control.                              also to do with the professionalisation of
       If I put a post on my blog and it gets a                    politics which I think is its catastrophe. I think
lot of responses, the striking thing about the                     the more politics becomes a career, sort of
responses is by about number 5 or 6, it’s                          pursued from student level onwards, the
nothing to do with what I posted about.                            more politicians will lack wisdom or insight
                                                                   into the real world. And I think that’s one of
        Yesterday I posted something about                         the important things of why people are
Naomi Campbell and it turned into a                                turned off.
discussion on Emmanuel Kent, I can’t even

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 12
         It has resulted into an astonishing                               Obviously we have the technology
virtualisation of politics. Probably many people                   now where everybody could vote on every
in this room were stunned as I was by the lead                     government issue. I once forecast this would
on BBC Breakfast News yesterday that John                          lead actually to the return of public
Reid was going to text people whose visas                          executions because people would start
were about to expire. The shout of laughter                        demanding a say on trials and things like that;
was quickly quenched by a wave of depression.                      the public as opposed to the politicians tend
This was so absurd. I mean it was partly                           to be pro capital punishment. So you’d get a
because they picked something out of a John                        sort of snowball effect of this thing.
Reid document, but of course this was pure                                This may sound absurd but I don’t
manipulation anyway. It was just to appear to                      think it is because things are moving so
do something.                                                      quickly and people are getting so active in
          And why the Tories haven’t already                       these areas that it’s going to put enormous
started a campaign simply listing all the Labour                   pressure on the political system.
initiatives since 1997 that have come to                                    But the big point I think is that it’s
nothing, I can only think is possibly because the                  dangerous to treat this new technology as
list is just too long.                                             somehow autonomous and separate from all
         Anyway, moving on from that, George                       other forms of discourse and knowledge. The
Osborne mentioned Ian Dale in ‘18 Doughty                          wave of information we’re all talking about,
Street’. He didn’t mention Guido Fawkes who                        there’s a vast catalogue of information we’re
was a right wing blogger but possibly not                          all talking about, is in itself meaningless. We
Conservative, extremely radical figure,                            hear about all the megabytes of information
extremely important figure – possibly the most                     being poured onto the web daily. But that
important political blogger at the moment                          actually doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s
because of his sheer traffic, because of the fan                   undifferentiated mush. We don’t have any
base he has. And that’s another point here                         clue what it means, what it’s for or what to
which is that it won’t always be neatly fitting in                 do with it.
to categories. Guido doesn’t fit into a category.                           Therefore to treat that as an
He’s a radical libertarian which is not, to me,
                                                                   autonomous force in itself is to destroy one’s
an entirely coherent attitude, but he’s a radical
                                                                   ability to make assessments about it. And I
libertarian. He’s undermining the possibility of                   think treating it as an autonomous force
politics. And his fundamental base is like me, he                  relates to the point about professionalisation
objects to the professionalisation of politics
                                                                   of politics because politicians are simply
and to the fact that too many politicians are
                                                                   riding a wave here because that’s the way up
reacting to events simply because they’re                          the greasy pole. And I'm very sceptical of that
climbing the greasy pole, not on what is good                      process.
for the country or the people.
                                                                            In a sense what I would argue for is
       Now the other point that strikes me                         politicians getting back to doing some very
about what George Osborne is saying is that                        boring things which most politicians are very
underlying that, is the danger of hyper                            reluctant to do. In particular (and I got in
democracy. Now obviously democracy is a                            trouble with Google the other week) I wrote
good thing – we all agree. But democracy has                       a piece about putting libraries on the web and
to be mediated somehow. Hyper democracy                            published books on the web and so on, and
where you get a sort of constant feedback on                       potentially breaching copyright. I simply
everything that’s done, is problematic. Because                    pointed out that this was fine, there’s nothing
people react. You turn everything into a sort                      wrong with that in itself, as long as you
of ‘pop idol’ thing where people react instantly.                  remember that people accessing this stuff
They come up with instant attitudes. It’s a kind                   have to know what they’re doing. They have
of handing over power to instant impulses.                         to have some principle about which to guide

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 13
themselves when looking at this stuff. Google                      people, providing people with the tools with
of course, probably as a PR move, wrote to                         which to assess this stuff. Otherwise we’ll get
the Sunday Times saying I was suggesting that                      a hyper democratic meltdown and it won’t be
Google was destroying civilisation. This is                        very nice. Thank you.
absurd. The Sunday Times didn’t publish the                                Lee Bryant: Hi. So I'm going to try
letter because plainly I haven’t said that. But                    and keep it quite brief and also return to the
the key point is that you need something prior                     speech because I thought the speech was
to the information with which to assess it. This                   extremely impressive and very encouraging
is not an abstract point – it’s a political point.                 and from a personal point of view, quite
It’s a crucial political point.                                    surprising to agree with it to such an extent.
        Hyper democracy doesn’t work                                       The three pillars that George talked
because you need somebody to decide what’s                         about, I think are very important starting
going on, somebody to have a degree of                             points for any discussion. In terms of the
wisdom and insight prior to the wave of                            quality of information access and a move
information, wave of reaction, wave of public                      from a government centric to a citizen
response, to decide how to assess it. I mean                       centric model, I think that’s absolutely
the obvious case recently was the road pricing                     fundamental to any notions of e-government
petition which got out of hand at whatever it                      or online supported citizenship and debate.
was – 1.6 million signatures. And produced the
rather comic response from Tony Blair of                                    Because fundamentally, if you bolt on
emailing them all, which is kind of simply                         consultative and open technologies on the
drowning the whole process. And of course,                         borders, on the edge of a system that hasn’t
you know, if you say road pricing, of course at                    changed, and if the heart of that system
least 1.6 million people are going to sign a                       continues to operate in a fairly dictatorial
petition against it. Of course they are.                           manner, then nothing will change. And in fact
                                                                   it will just feed into this consultation fatigue
        Somebody however has got to say
                                                                   that we’ve seen since 1997.
either it’s a good idea or it’s not from a
position which is not simply based on a brute                              I think a related aspect of this
force informational assessment.                                    problem is not just the use of open source
                                                                   technology but in particular open data.
         So the really boring thing that                           Because open source is freedom for
politicians have to do is educate people prior                     developers. And if you know what to do with
to the net, prior to this technological wave.                      code, you can make your own applications
And I would argue that placing people in front                     and tools. But most of us are not developers
of a screen and assuming they’re going to get                      and only by opening up data can be enable
educated is facile. It’s infantile. It’s not going to              citizenship and civil society to do the kind of
happen.                                                            groundbreaking work they’ve already started
       The only way I work on the net is by                        doing with projects like ‘They work for you’
being able to assess things. By being able to                      the ‘My Society’ projects and so on. And I
assess the relative authority, truth or                            think it’s indicative that the most impressive
otherwise, of things I'm looking at, by knowing                    citizenship / e-government initiatives have
the difference between a major university’s                        come from civil society. And they’ve come
website and some lunatic babbling about                            from the process of opening up data,
whatever.                                                          remixing that data and giving people access to
       It is all very well for politicians to go                   it in new and interesting forms. So I think
                                                                   open data, open services and what we talk
down this route meeting people halfway or
more than halfway, diving into the information                     about in the technology world is open APIs –
revolution, but I think it would be meaningless                    in other words, the ability for application to
unless they first of all focus on educating                        speak unto application, is a very important
                                                                   part of this challenge.

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 14
        The second pillar that George                              consulting and saying, what do you want, and
mentioned was social networks. And obviously                       then we probably won’t give it to you
we’re seeing an incredible explosion in the use                    anyway. But it’s actually about shared
of social networking and tools and techniques                      responsibility and responsible behaviour as
and so on. And it’s clearly very encouraging                       well as the ability to ask for what you want.
that young people are not so lazy that they                                This issue of deliberation, I think,
can’t participate in things. It’s just they’re not                 came up in the previous two remarks as well.
motivated to participate in the political                          Moving towards some kind of deliberative
process. Because obviously party politics is                       democracy is obviously very important.
basically dead. So that’s encouraging.                             Because unless we are equipped to consider
        But I think we need to make a clear                        the issues in some depth. There’s no point
distinction     between     consultation      and                  having a simple petition that says, I don’t
participation. You can consult me as much as                       want to pay money for something. Like you
you like but really what I want to do is not                       know, the road pricing petition. That’s not
participate in your system; I want to participate                  really taking forward democratic thinking in
in a shared system. So the ownership of                            any great way.
political process and deliberation should                                  And if we are to get to a more
probably sit outside of Westminster and most                       deliberative approach to these things, then I
certainly outside the scope of political parties.                  think as I said, firstly we need to have more
And it should be something that we share                           localised social networking. So these things
ownership of. So we can both invest in, and we                     can’t take place on a global or perhaps even a
can both derive some benefits from. That’s                         national level. But we might want to look to
quite important.                                                   models like the Swiss (inaudible) system or
       And I think the other side of social                        even dare I say, at least the theoretical basis
networks, and this is not to sound a negative                      of the Jamahiriya in Libya which is based on
note, but what we’ve seen so far is these mass                     individual groups and layers of groups that
global social networks; MySpace, Facebook,                         then feedback their ideas to the centre rather
blah blah blah. Wikipedia as well. And I think                     than a single wide-ranging debate.
the future probably lies in slightly more                                  We do lots of work with large
intimate localised vertical social networks                        companies and large organisations around the
where people have a greater degree of                              world in looking at these things. And actually
common purpose, common culture and                                 one of the most interesting things about
stronger social bonds that regulate behaviour.                     doing Wikipedias and MySpaces inside the
Because obviously you do see with Wikipedia                        firewall is that you don’t get much of the
and you do see with MySpace, the                                   abuse, the vandalism and so on, because
phenomenon of anonymous cowards. It’s very                         people walk into work with a degree of
easy to take an extreme position very quickly                      common purpose, with contracts that say
and argue that position without comeback.                          “We will sack you if you act in an untoward
         And I think whilst there are real                         manner” and so on. And I think there are
responsibilities that we need to look to from                      some lessons there, I think, to feedback into
politicians, also as citizens, we need to take on                  the public realm.
board some of this as well. In our modern                                  In the public realm we’ve seen some
society we have a slightly childish belief that we                 interesting experiments like ‘Comment is
can ask for things without taking note of the                      free’ which have set out with the best of
costs or the compromises or the sacrifices that                    intentions but have really proved that
need to be made to deliver public services for                     achieving meaningful and grownup debate
example. And so I think if we can move                             using the simplest form of online social
towards a grown up debate between politicians                      software, is actually very hard. The quality of
and citizenship, which is not just about                           debates in ‘Comment is free’ is on the whole

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 15
quite low, I find. And usually within about 30                     gaining the benefits of modern technology but
seconds of an article going up, there are so                       making sure you avoid the pitfalls?
many polarised opinions on the site, that if                                George Osborne: Well I mean the
you’re a regular Joe like me and you just want                     first thing I’d say is, it’s not as if unreflective
to put a more nuanced opinion forward, it’s                        decision-making doesn’t take place already
actually very hard to do so. Because it’s been                     and the bad judgements aren’t being made
taken over by the trolls or by the kind of the                     already within traditional political structures.
vociferous individuals who populate these sites.                   So it’s not as if we have this perfect world
        So I think we need to think a lot more                     that we are now descending into chaos. And
deeply about how we do this social networking                      of course there’s always been an argument
stuff, especially for politics. And it’s certainly                 ever since the 17th century that if you give
not a simple problem. The issue of hyper                           people more say in their Government, you’re
democracy and non-deliberative democracy is                        going to end up with mob rule and that was
certainly one that concerns me a great deal.                       always the argument against the extension of
        But I think if we can take a view of                       the franchise. And I suppose I’ll take issue a
starting from the centre and working                               little bit with Bryan’s kind of Athenian model
outwards, then it may take time but I think the                    of the kind of wise elders gathering in the
                                                                   marketplace to consult and so on. It’s the
results will be worth it. And George’s remarks
about government procurement I think were                          impression that you need this sort of body of
most welcome because the majority of                               very wise people who gather and make
government IT related projects fail and they                       decisions on behalf of everyone else. You
will continue to fail. Because philosophically                     know, I just don’t think that’s how life
they’re based on entirely false premises. and                      operates.
also a slightly parasitic network of companies                             I think engaging people in the
has built up around public sector projects who                     decisions that are made that affect their lives,
are very very clever at signing contracts with                     can only be a good thing. And I'm not
Government departments and milking them for                        suggesting you should have a referendum
all they’re worth without delivering a great                       everyday on every decision that government
deal of value.                                                     makes, but I think government can be better
                                                                   informed and politicians can be better
        So I think if we see open source
                                                                   informed of what’s going on in society. I’ll
software and open source thinking being used
                                                                   give you two examples. One, the road-pricing
inside government, that’s fantastic. I think that
                                                                   petition which was mentioned. There was no
would be a real breakthrough and that would
                                                                   great national debate about road pricing until
be certainly something to celebrate. So I would
                                                                   this petition happened. Now whether you
like to really commend George again for that
                                                                   agree with the petitioners or not, whether
speech because I found it very impressive.
                                                                   you think they took simplistic judgements or
Thank you.
                                                                   not, the fact was this quite significant
        Peter Kellner: George, can I just                          development in our society was going largely
quickly ask you to come back on what seems                         un-discussed. And now of course the petition
to be the central point being made there about                     has caused all sorts of discussion in other
hyper democracy. Plainly there are the                             fora and on mainstream media and so on.
advantages you mentioned in terms of open
                                                                           The second thing I’d give an example
source politics – more people having more
                                                                   of is, my brother is a doctor in the NHS. He’s
access to information, expertise, be able to
                                                                   been telling me for months about this chaos
discuss and so on. But the potential downside
                                                                   in terms of the rotations (which some of you
is the sort of electronic mob rules. And my
                                                                   may have read about recently in the
question to you is, how in practice do you see
                                                                   newspapers and was on the Today
the political process in a representative system
                                                                   programme earlier this week) and the entire


       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 16
doctor profession has known this has been                          said I said something which I hadn’t said.
going on for months, and yet there doesn’t                         Now if you published every letter that was
seem to have been any particular way of                            inaccurate to that extent, it would be
feeding this information up through the public                     pointless. Nothing to do with me. It’s just
service, through rather traditional models of                      pointless. So that’s all.
bureaucratic control. And you can have (I very                            And I’d also like to ask everybody in
much agree with what you were saying Lee)                          the audience to put their hands up who think
smaller networks within a profession, within                       I said anything about ‘Athenian elders’? Oh
the NHS, within other forms of public service,                     three!
not just the users of the public service. I gave
the example of users of hospital services being                           Peter Kellner: There are 20 minutes
able to comment on the treatment they had                          of points, questions to George. There are
received, positive and negative. But also of                       microphones around but there’s no
course the people who work in those services                       anonymous cowardice here. When you get a
(now very large services) having a way of                          microphone, please say who you are.
communicating, with top up management,                                     Richard Wilson (Involve): The
which I don’t think currently exists, or                           thing I'm really struck by in this conversation
certainly doesn’t exist in the way that it should.                 so far is, social networking, public
By the way, Facebook, although it’s a vast                         participation, to what ends? So if we are
company, operates through closed social                            trying to achieve public debate, e-petitioning
networks. So they’re not all like MySpace                          seems to have done that job. If we’re trying
anyway. You have to be at London University                        to achieve solutions, it clearly failed. Now
to operate in the London University Facebook                       there’s the point that was made before, the
site. So already social networks and the Wiki,                     ‘Athenian elder’ point, whether you made it
which seems to be the new word of the year,                        or not was suggesting that if you have public
that the RSA has set up for its Fellows, is a                      engagement, we won’t be able to get
closed social network. In other words, you                         solutions. Now actually on the issue of
have to be a Fellow of the RSA, presumably a                       hanging, even in the UK in 94, we’ve got now
rather august thing, before you can take part.                     loads and loads of robust researching, you
But it’s nevertheless providing I guess, a more                    have very good deliberations, over 70% of a
democratic and open way for people to                              representative sample of the population will
participate. And the final point I make to you                     be against hanging. So this notion that if you
is, the article you wrote in the Sunday Times                      bring in the masses, you’ll get mob rule is
and the letter that Google sent back – it was of                   false.
course a very traditional media decision about
whether to publish that letter or not, and to                              But George, just quickly, the final
make a judgment about whether they were                            point. I agree with your points here around
right in the critique that they had made of your                   what we’re going to achieve. But the thing I'm
article. Well with the greatest respect, that’s                    struggling with, and I’ve been working with
your view but why not post the letter and let                      government now for 10 years on trying to
other people make a judgment, read your                            make this stuff work, is, the government
article, read their response, and then you can                     always get in. I want to believe you’re going
have that discussion.                                              to come in and you’re going to support the
                                                                   cultural shifts which is what all this now
        Bryan Appleyard: There is a limited                        depends upon. But the thing is, you simply
number of space for letters. If they write a                       saying that the government are tinkering is
letter in … And it’s not my decision. I mean,                      not enough. I want you to come up with how
for 20 years, the Sunday Times never published                     you’re going to support the culture of shift
a favourable letter about me. So I think they                      within the public institutions which supports
then published one and it’s about … it’s still at                  this technology. Because without that, it’s just
the single figures. It was simply a case that they                 not going to work.

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 17
        George Osborne: Yes, listen I'm                            neighbour, next door neighbour, next door
more than aware that this is a huge challenge.                     neighbour.” And they’re creating a virtual
You’re dealing with something like the health                      world for themselves and not getting off their
service where there are 1.4 million people who                     arses and doing exercise. And it frightens me.
work in a rather bureaucratic top down                             Even though I am a complete technology
system and changing the culture of                                 evangelist and make good money from it.
organisations like that, even with the support                     That side of the social consequence.. I’d be
of the people who work in it, is very difficult.                   interested on your views.
And I'm not naïve about that at all.                                      Peter Kellner: Before we come
         In the end it’s about a loss of control.                  back to George and the other panel, are
It’s about understanding that you can’t run very                   there any people who’d like to specifically
large organisations like that particularly in the                  pick up other drawbacks, just to list together
modern age from a single office in Whitehall.                      what’s wrong, what are the dangers. Do you
So it’s partly about the structure of the public                   want to raise that?
services and where decision-making lies in the                             Chris         Holland          (Power
public services. It’s partly an acceptance from                    International): I'm from a small charity,
the politicians that they’re not going to try and                  Power International. I would like to follow on
manage everything from a single office in                          from what’s just been said. I think this idea
Whitehall. It’s partly a change in the traditional                 that’s been mentioned of social networking is
media culture that then doesn’t put the                            something of a misnomer. Can you socially
problem in the hospital in Bristol on the front                    network with unreal people who only exist in
page of the newspaper and says what’s the                          virtual space? I mean, I’ve come here today
Health Secretary going to do about that. That’s                    because for some mysterious reason, this
the third part of the process, because until                       event is not on the web. It’s being carried out
you’ve changed the structure and until the                         with real people present. I think that’s a good
politician has accepted the loss of control, then                  thing. In the voluntary sector it’s harder and
it’s legitimate for the newspaper to ask, what                     harder to find people to undertake voluntary
are you going to do about the person in the                        actions for all sorts of reasons. But one of
hospital in Bristol.                                               them is that a lot of the time people who
        Peter Kellner: I asked George to                           could do something are buried on the web in
move onto the second half because your first                       their emails or getting information, and don’t
half about should we make decisions through                        get out and engage with other people. So I
representative democracy, or should we use                         have that same concern as the previous
the new technologies developed ((?))                               speaker.
democracy, I think is absolutely fundamental.                             Peter Kellner: Another grumble or
What I’d like, just before you leave, I’d like                     another danger, and then I’ll come back to
you, perhaps in response to other people                           the panel.
raising/developing this point – I’d like to hear
very much your view on that. But perhaps we                                 Unidentified Speaker: Or there
can let the discussion roll a bit first.                           are a lot of people who aren’t on the web
                                                                   still. I run a social enterprise working with
        Stephen Parker: I work for and make                        various communities who aren’t on the web.
a reasonable living from new technology                            A couple of weeks ago I was in Wandsworth
software as a service business. So I'm                             with single mums who are fighting against gun
technology evangelist and I love it. But I'm also                  crime and knife crime, and these are the
a parent and I’d like the panel’s thoughts on my                   voices who want to hear. And I'm saying to
fears that we’re potentially heading towards a                     the woman who’s championing what they’re
future where children sit in a room, blogging                      doing, who’s fantastic, I’ve been saying,
or IM-ing with their friends. And when you say,                    “You’ve got to get yourself a computer.
“Who is it?” they go, “Oh it’s next door                           You’ve got to be online. You’ve got to be

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 18
getting your messages out in different ways.”                             Obviously there’s lots of people who
And they just don’t have the money to do it.                      are not online. But then what you’ll also find
And also I'm quite curious - you look at the                      is that communities around the world who
audience here and you look at the audience on                     have real needs to connect, often find a way
the stage, and you know, I want to be hearing                     to do so. So there are huge levels of activities
from people who are at a grassroots level                         in diaspora communities where people have
doing it and getting their voices out, and get                    suffered dislocation and so on. In Africa they
their communities voices out. And it’s not very                   use mobile technology. The $100 laptop is
proportionate really.                                             coming – various things that I think will show
                                                                  that the access issue is in a way, perhaps a
       Peter Kellner: Okay, a trio of
                                                                  touch over played, but I think we don’t need
dangers. A quick response.
                                                                  to lose sight of the fact that many people
         Lee Bryant: I want to pick up actually                   either don’t have the time, the economic
on all of those, very quickly. On the education                   circumstance or the inclination to use these
side, I’ve been involved in a kind of dialogue                    tools. So we don’t need to cut people out
with Becta about how we can change the way                        from that. But I think there is no reason,
that IT is delivered in schools. Because it’s                     fundamentally why more virtualisation, social
absolutely appalling. It’s partly a product                       networking and so on, needs to lead to fewer
procurement but it’s largely a product of the                     real world opportunities for interaction,
fact that the systems are too centralised in                      sport, play and learning.
their conception for schools to actually
                                                                          Bryan Appleyard: Just two quick
support and manage. Just flipping it around a
                                                                  points. The gentleman at the back made a
little bit, Bryan said that, “Can you put
                                                                  very important point about children. I'm very
someone in front of a screen and they learn?”
                                                                  pro this technology in case anybody thinks
Well, have a look at the Hole in the Wall
                                                                  I'm being a Luddite here. But there was some
project by Sugata Mitra who’s at Newcastle
                                                                  research came out in America last week of
University. Fantastic project. I won’t go into it
                                                                  psychologists which suggested that MySpace
but it shows, pretty much proves, that you can
                                                                  and so on were promoting excessive self
put people, even who don’t speak English in
                                                                  esteem among children. This is funny, but
front of an interface and over a period of time,
                                                                  excessive self-esteem is also associated with
if they’re kids, they will just learn. Because
                                                                  criminality.
that’s what they do. In terms of the
opportunities for real world interaction, well it                          The other point I would make is that
sounds counterintuitive. But the first thing that                 there’s a weasel word going around here
you learn through being involved in these kind                    which is ‘deliberative’. And I think that
of networks over a period of time is actually                     requires very very careful definition indeed
they increase your opportunities for social                       and relates to the charge of ‘Athenian elders’.
interaction, such as today. I’ve never met so                     We want people to be deliberative. Now if
many interesting people over lunch or at                          you think very carefully about that, that
conferences as I have since I started existing in                 opens up a whole area which has been
the virtual world as well. And obviously we                       slightly glossed over here. What do we mean
shouldn’t be encouraging kids to live only in                     by deliberative; how do people become
the virtual world. But at the moment education                    deliberative; how do we educate them to be
policy, education delivery the curriculum is                      deliberative. You suggested that people turn
improving but there are some real factors that                    against capital punishment when they
hold kids back. And allowing them to learn for                    deliberate.
themselves I think is absolutely key to the
                                                                         George Osborne: Under the right
future of education. So I think we need to go                     circumstances.
further in that and not be too frightened by
Daily Mail scare stories about paedophiles and                           Bryan Appleyard: Under the right
MySpace and so on.                                                circumstances, exactly.   There     are

      RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 19
circumstances. There is a context. They don’t                      was great, I thought it got to parts of
deliberate when they vote on Pop Idol. That’s                      George’s presentation that I couldn’t quite
the point.                                                         get to. But it’s this idea of infantilising the
                                                                   public and it kind of also slightly relates to
         Mike Fealty: I want to pick up the
                                                                   Bryan’s kind of ‘Athenian’ argument. You’ve
thing about kids. Now I don’t have the
                                                                   been tagged mate, you’ve been tagged!
statistics to bring to bear on this but I do
understand that one of the things we’ve seen in                          Bryan Appleyard: It’s going to be a
the last sort of 5 years is, the numbers of kids                   Wikipedia page.
spending numbers of hours in the evening                                   Mick Fealty: And it is! It is! But it
watching television has dropped like a stone.                      also relates, to Bryan’s defence, to George’s
         I’ve two older teenage kids and one                       accusation that The Times should have
small one who isn’t old enough to use the                          published that letter. The Times should not
internet yet. What I’ve seen in both cases is                      have published that letter. The Times cannot
that they use, as this gentleman has quite                         afford to give space to that kind of thing.
rightly suggested, they use things like internet                          George Osborne: Yeah, that was
Messenger or text messaging or any of these                        the point. It’s not that they should publish it,
new technologies to support relationships they                     but with the internet it could be available.
have with kids in their own town. They’re not
sitting there not talking to each other. They’re                           Mick Fealty: I'm just vociferously
sitting there rather than talking on the phone                     coming to his defence. Now what was my
like they would have done when I was a                             point? Infantilising the public. Last Friday I had
teenager and using IM instead.                                     on this blog talk radio pod cast thing, two
                                                                   senior economists in Northern Ireland, and
         The other thing that this lady said about                 at the end of a 40-minute discussion about all
activists, real world people. I have a friend in                   the economic challenges faced in Northern
the town I live in, in Dorset as it happens –                      Ireland, I said, “Give me three things you
best place to write about Irish politics from, I                   want to tell the new devolved ministers when
can tell you! You don’t get any knocks on the                      they go in.” And the first thing they said was,
door! At least not yet anyway. I have a friend                     “Explain to the Northern Irish public that
who runs a website and it’s on very old … It’s                     taxes are good.” Now I know there are a lot
not blog technology, it’s bulletin board                           of people with libertarian friends who believe
technology, which is quite good for facilitating                   we shouldn’t pay any taxes at all. And that’s a
conversations. And the name of her forum is                        fair enough point. But if you’re going to run
(sounds slightly dodgy) Four or More. What it                      public services, the first thing politicians need
means is it’s a network for people who have                        to be able to tell them is, okay, what are we
got four children or more than four children                       going to pay for. And I think that’s a really
and from what she tells me, one, it’s just very                    quite a fundamental piece of discourse.
good for swapping details, for telling each
other, “You want to go on holiday, go to this                              When they go on the television
place. This is cheap.” And cheapness is really                     nobody wants to tell the public that they’re
quite important when you’re on a limited                           going to put the taxes up or they’re going to
income and you’ve got four, five, six, seven,                      introduce taxes. And I think you can iterate
eight kids. And also they do get together from                     arguments, you can do all kinds of things
time to time. Not that often because when                          particularly if you’ve got a specialist public
you’re talking about a limited interest group                      online.
like that, you’re talking about a massive wide                             Paul Evans: Just to pick up the point
geographic spread.                                                 that Bryan made about deliberative. I think
        Now there was just one other thing                         you’re right, it is a can of worms. Perhaps a
that I kind of wanted to pull back on. And it                      better term is conversational. And I think the
was Lee’s point in his presentation. I thought it                  issue is the speed with which proposals,

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 20
policy discussions get into the public. And                        technologies. And perhaps the government
really perhaps what’s needed is some kind of                       could be behind technologies that make our
further period where things can be … where a                       lives better rather than just tax us more
conversational discussion rather than the kind                     efficiently.
that you have with web logs, the kind you get                              Peter Kellner: Okay. George I’d like
with phone in radio stations. You know, this                       you to pick up those points, but if I could
isn’t something that’s just started in the last                    invite you as part of your closing remarks, to
couple of years. It’s something that’s been                        answer this larger question which has been
around for a lot longer than web logs. But                         bubbling up for the last half hour. Do you see
something that can put a little bit of space                       over the coming years/decade, a fundamental
between proposals and the point at which they                      reordering of the balance between direct and
come in fully into the public domain. I think                      representative democracy?
perhaps that’s something, a stage between
deliberative and conversational that doesn’t                              George Osborne: Well first of all,
create a tension with representative                               let me deal with that point of using
democracy and isn’t an argument for direct                         Government to encourage early stage
democracy because I think, I do agree that                         technologies and so on, I think there is a big
direct democracy can tend towards                                  role for government in this. Government
demagoguery.                                                       tends to procure things from very large
                                                                   companies because Government is itself very
        Malcolm Forbes (RSA Advisory                               large and it’s easier to deal with very big
Council Member): I also run a web media                            companies. And I think Government could be
company. Just coming back to just two quick                        much more adventurous in using smaller
points. One coming back to what Matthew said
                                                                   companies whether in the technology sector
at the beginning about the impact on public
                                                                   or indeed elsewhere. And a lot of the
services. I do quite a lot of work with the                        innovation and productivity gains in our
interface between citizens and public services.
                                                                   economy come from smaller companies. By
And I think the elephant in the room is
                                                                   the way, the BBC should be part of this. The
something that Lee mentioned actually, which                       BBC is the biggest online presence in the UK.
is around responsibility, which is the other side                  We don’t have our private companies like
of that, which is about identity, particularly                     the Googles and the Yahoos and so on, that
citizen identity. I think that we’ve danced
                                                                   are British on that sort of scale. And I think
around it. government’s danced around it. I                        the BBC needs to be extremely careful about
think I have about half a dozen different
                                                                   its web presence, so that it doesn’t crowd
government identities if I want to interact with
                                                                   out other smaller providers on the web in
any of the public services. And there is an issue                  the UK.
there about civil liberties, the whole question
of how does that rebound on you.                                          Can I just comment on the social
                                                                   exclusion point and then the broader issue
        Lucy Saunders (press): I'm very                            you asked me about, Peter.
interested in what they’re doing in the US with
the SBIR and STTR legislation which dictates                               I very much take what the lady says
that certain amounts of public sector funding                      about the single mothers in south London.
should be spent with early stage technology                        And of course they are already excluded
companies and helping them develop. There                          from other forms of advocacy. They don’t
was a recent piece of research from                                feel their voice is heard by the traditional
Cambridge University on that describing it as                      political structures or indeed the political
‘the world’s great largest seed fund’. Using new                   media. At least the internet and new
technologies for political discourse is an                         technologies give them the opportunity that
excellent opportunity and I appreciate what                        is not currently existing, to make their case.
you’ve said about open source. But for our
economy we need to develop other

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 21
        I went to Uganda in January with                          allows more of a conversation to take place
Professor Geoff Sachs who I mentioned in my                       in society than perhaps did before. And that
talk, and I was present when he addressed the                     has got to be a good thing. So whether it’s on
four or five thousand people in an extremely                      issues like the death penalty or other issues
poor part of Uganda. These are people who                         like road pricing, it’s surely a good thing that
would live on less than a dollar a day. And he                    the citizenry can take part in a conversation
was trying to bring to them things like                           and that there’s a prospect of that
adequate food, clean water, nets to protect                       conversation being heard and absorbed by
against mosquitoes – all absolute basics for                      those in positions of authority in government.
survival. And every time he talks about these                     And it is part of a process. It’s not a
things, there was a cheer from the crowd. But                     completely new departure. It is a part of
the biggest cheer he got was not for food or                      historical development. And by the way,
clean water or disease prevention, but when                       those children would not be out playing
he said he was going to bring computers to the                    football sadly in the street – they’ll probably
school in this rural western Uganda. I mean,                      be sitting watching television if they weren’t
these people you might have guessed, perhaps                      interacting with people on MySpace. It is a
they’ve never even heard of a computer, but                       good thing that that deliberation, whether it’s
you would have been wrong, sure they’d heard                      through social        networks, open source
of computers. They knew they were somehow                         approaches or indeed through blogs and the
excluded from things going on in the rest of                      like, but that deliberation can take place, that
the world. And the thing they were most                           it’s much more accessible for people. And
excited about was the prospect of a single                        that those in positions of authority
laptop computer in the local village school.                      increasingly have to pay attention to it and
                                                                  indeed I would argue, if they want to be good
        And the point Lee made about the use
                                                                  at government – need to engage with it.
of mobile telephony which is connecting parts
of Africa to the rest of the world which simply                            Peter Kellner: George, thank you
aren’t connected at the moment.                                   very much indeed. George now has to leave.
                                                                  I’d like to bring this session to a close and
       So technology can be a way of including
                                                                  thank everybody both on the panel and in the
people whether in our own society or
                                                                  audience taking part. I think what George has
elsewhere in the world, who are currently
                                                                  demonstrated is that at least there’s one
excluded.
                                                                  politician (I hope there are many more) who
        Finally, the point about representative                   is prepared to take part in a serious way in a
and direct democracy. We’re not going to                          conversation on these issues. I didn’t expect
resolve it today because people have been                         it to resolve 2500 years of debate about
talking about it for 3000 years, and so on!                       representative democracy but I do think it’s
However I'm not going to go down the                              one of the important issues that will have to
Athenian route, sorry! Two and half thousand                      be explored over the next few years. And
years, by the way, I should say!                                  hopefully it will be one of the more
        But I’d say this. I very much agree                       productive conversations that will be had
actually with what Bryan was saying and a                         across the country. And I think if more
couple of people in the audience were saying                      people were like George and taking part in
about the importance of deliberation and                          these discussions, the better. George, thank
conversation. I'm not personally a fan of instant                 you very much indeed.
referendums on things. And I know that the                               Peter Kellner: Could I invite you to
internet provides the opportunity to do that                      take your seats again. I'm sorry to crack the
and that is one of the things – I don’t think you                 whip but I think it would be more useful if we
want government by instant referendum. But                        can have the maximum time for debate.
this new technology (it’s not the first time this
has ever happened but it makes it easier)

      RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 22
         What I propose to do is start this                        regulator at Ofcom in a sort of light way
second session as with the panel part of the                       since about September and it’s been a
last. I will make a brief introduction of all five                 fascinating process of learning. And because
speakers and then invite them, for about 5                         in that period it’s been a fairly quiet period
minutes each, to make their points on what                         for Ofcom. There’s been the banning of junk
they’ve heard so far and then with the final half                  food advertising to children, Celebrity Big
hour, we open it up. Unless any of the panel                       Brother, television telephone voting scandals.
have any strong objections, I'm going to invite                    You name it, all kinds of different things
them to speak in the order I happen to have in                     coming along in the day job at Ofcom quite a
front of me.                                                       lot.
        Anthony Lilley who is the managing                                 I’ve been involved with three, what
director of Magic Lantern, a digital content                       are called, fairness and privacy cases in the
company. Tom Loosemore of BBC New                                  broadcasting industry, all of which have been
Media, so maybe we’ll be able to pick up more                      about serial killers and how they’ve been
on the point that was being made at the end by                     unfairly treated by the media or not. And also
George Osborne about the BBC’s role,                               involved in some projects which are looking
possibly in danger of being an excessively                         at the future of regulation for media, and
dominant role. Mark O’Neill who’s the chief                        media literacy. So it’s quite big territory. And
information officer for DCMS, although there                       it brings out in a very real way the practical
again, we’ll get some feedback on what is going                    issues that we’re facing. I'm not a technical
on inside government. You’ve heard George’s                        utopian. I’ve been in the technology and
criticism, that the government departments are                     media business for about 15 years. I'm a
slow on open source, they’re slow on working                       pragmatist on the grounds that I do have a
with smaller companies. So maybe we’ll hear a                      mortgage. I own and run a company. And I’ve
response on that. Ewan McIntosh who’s                              got to pay the mortgage with what that
Britain’s      top      educational    blogger,                    company does. So in practice although I
edu.blogs.com. If you’ve got laptops with you,                     probably live slightly further in the future
perhaps wait till afterwards before looking it                     than many of clients, I don’t really live very
up. And Adriana Cronin-Lukas who’s a partner                       far in the future at all. I live somewhere
of TBBC but not that BBC – her BBC stands                          where the future is at least aware of how it’s
for The Big Blog Company and she comes                             going to pay its way.
wearing two hats. One is as the founder and                                And when you bring that into the
organiser of samizdata.net but also to pay the                     context of the regulator at Ofcom, it’s
mortgage, if she has a mortgage, advising                          absolutely amazing to see the issues that are
companies on how they can use the techniques                       very real right now that are coming up in
of blogging to improve their internal                              front of policy makers and regulators. Take
communications or communications with their                        the two specific examples around media
customers. So I think an interesting extension                     literacy and around the future of regulation.
of the world of blogging. So if you could each                     Broadly speaking, the regulation of media is
speak for about 5 minutes in that order,                           moving I think, in a trajectory from the use of
starting with Anthony.                                             the Lord Chamberlain’s blue pencil to
        Anthony Lilley: I'm actually going to                      censorship of anything which we (whoever
talk with slightly different hats on rather than                   we are) don’t like, towards a model which
my commercial production company hat. I'm                          has got to increasingly be about illiterate
also a member of the Content Board at Ofcom                        group of people out there called the
and on the board of Becta, both of which have                      population, who are presented with good
come up either directly or indirectly this                         high quality well tagged services which they
morning, looking at effectively the sort of                        are able to make informed choices about,
future media if you like implications for what                     within a set of contexts about basic minimum
those organisations are doing. And I’ve been a                     standards, most of which are applied by the

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 23
law. The criminal law, various parts of the civil                  model for society, it’s happening as we go
law. But we’re a long way from that position                       along. So we’ve been doing a piece of work at
which takes you quite quickly to Celebrity Big                     Ofcom on something called the Public Service
Brother. Because within moments of that                            Publisher which some of you may be aware
whole furore going on, we had politicians                          of that, and which I’ve been effectively
calling for Channel 4 to lose its licence over a                   leading, which is a set of questions about how
to be adjudicated issue about whether or not                       can you take valued public service ideas,
there was a real standards or privacy or                           about diversity and quality and supply, and
fairness problem, or whatever there was. But                       innovation and content production – but also
we had a knee-jerk reaction from the policy                        about the fact that the creative industries are
which is out of the 1950s, not a considered                        bigger by share of GDP now than the
reaction which is about the way that media                         financial services industry in the UK. They’re
actually works.                                                    an incredibly important part of the
                                                                   employment regime. One of the reasons for
          Ofcom performs a really interesting
                                                                   that is because we’ve invested a lot of
role there, I never realised. It acts like the ‘heat
                                                                   venture capital in the form of the BBC and
tiles’. It says yes, things will be done, yes, there
                                                                   Channel 4 and other funding in the creation
was a process. No, we’re not taking Channel
                                                                   of meaningful media context for a lot of these
4’s licence away tomorrow morning because
                                                                   decisions.
we have to have due process and a kind of
considered deliberative approach to this. And                              So one of the key questions we’ve
thank God somebody does that. The only way                         been asking about the Public Service
we’re going to have these informed people (us)                     Publisher idea is, do these ideas have life
is by actually taking issues about literacy                        beyond 2012, beyond 2014? Because actually
seriously. That doesn’t happen if we think                         at that point our public service television
literacy equals reading books. Literacy is also                    regime is going to be very different. After
about reading books - I love reading lots of                       digital television switchover, there’ll be the
books. But it’s about understanding, critiquing,                   BBC and a bit of Channel 4. It’ll be a rather
commenting on, contributing and creating                           different place. And I believe there are
media. It’s not about what most of our                             questions to be asked about how you bring
politicians think it’s about, which is the ability                 these notions, these valuable notions into the
to work out whether a newspaper headline is                        world of participatory media.
going to hurt them or not. It’s a fundamentally                            It means, I think, you need some kind
different set of skills. And without those two                     of consideration of whether you can have an
sets of understanding, we got a real set of                        inclusive bottom up open content approach
issues about the way in which our culture and                      rather than a top down broadcast or led
our society works.                                                 content approach. And it’s not anti the
        Takes me through to the final thing                        existing system. It goes alongside the existing
we’ve been doing a lot of at Ofcom which is                        system. But there are important questions
trying to understand how and if you can bring                      being asked there about the context and the
what I believe, are very very cherished and                        social context of what our media are doing.
positive notions of public service from media                      And the kinds of people, formally known as
but also from other parts of the public services                   the ‘audience’, the kind of people we want to
into this participatory age, so that what                          be and the kind of society we want to live in.
George was talking about this morning, which I                     And it’s not about technology. It’s about the
have to say I wasn’t expecting him to be that                      social use of technology. And that for me is
far down the line because I have to say I have                     much more significant than the latest fad. I’ve
worked with quite a lot of politicians over the                    been doing this 15 years now – I’ve seen the
last ten year, and not many of them are, we’ve                     fads come and go. What happens is our social
got to go from that rhetoric into pragmatic                        change catches up and it catches up more
reality now. This is not about a new business                      slowly than we think it does. Possibly more

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 24
quickly than it used to. And we need                               need to think about when you think of an
architectures to help that happen in our civic                     institution like the BBC. And nations need
societies.                                                         institutions. They’re really important to
                                                                   nations. And that’s that, whenever a large
         Regulators are right on the line of
                                                                   institution sees a disruptive and exciting
trying to work out how to do this, as are some
                                                                   opportunity such as the internet and the BBC
politicians. As crucially is the BBC – which is
                                                                   thinks it’s incredibly exciting, what it does
probably a decent handover to Tom actually!
                                                                   first, and it’s probably right, is the equivalent
         Tom Loosemore: Thank you                                  of putting your tax form up on the website
Anthony. First thing I want to say is, that was                    for the Inland Revenue. That’s probably right.
the most impressive and exciting speech from
                                                                           The first thing the BBC did was say,
a politician I’ve ever heard. And he slagged me
                                                                   “How do we take our existing broadcast
off.
                                                                   output, our existing one to many approach,
          I am in a different position from                        and use the opportunity of the internet to
Anthony. I also wear two hats as does Adriana.                     actually massively increase the value of that
In my day job, I'm responsible for re-imagining                    broadcast output. Putting our news on
the BBC’s presence on the web. In my night                         demand - not very participative, our news
job for the past 10/12/15 years, I’ve been                         website - incredibly valuable. I dare George
what’s called a civic hacker. Nothing to do with                   to turn it off. That’s a test for the BBC.
hacking into computer systems. It’s about how                      Would a politician dare turn off one of our
can you use the power of the internet, use all                     websites? That’s internally what I use as my
the open source software, all the open source                      subjective test.
ethic, to provide tools for empowerment,
                                                                           The next thing we’re going to do is
enlightenment and interpretation. And so I
                                                                   put our programmes online. Because
built in my spare time by using open source
                                                                   obviously if you make a programme for
software, a site called Fax Your MP in 1999.
                                                                   broadcast, it’s very ephemeral, much more
They let you very simply find out who your MP
                                                                   opportunity to drive value if you put it online
is. Three quarters of the people who use Fax
Your MP is now called Write to Them – lets                         and allow others to see it.
you contact all representatives for free. I’ve                             But if I'm really honest, that’s not why
never contacted a politician before in their                       I work at the BBC. The BBC is not about
lives. I’ll talk about that in a minute and a bunch                making programmes, never has been. It’s not
of other things I’ve done as well.                                 about television, it’s not about radio, it never
                                                                   has been. It’s about using media to deliver
        Day job, BBC. I'm in a different position
                                                                   those six core public purposes. And in the
from Anthony when I worked for the BBC
                                                                   latest charter, thankfully the DCMS and the
because I am an incredibly privileged person in
                                                                   government in their wisdom have added
that, the “history of Britain” has granted me
                                                                   unambiguously, the internet to one of the
the privilege of being paid by you to use media
                                                                   core platforms through which the BBC can
to drive civic purposes. The BBC has six
                                                                   deliver those purposes.
purposes and they used to have five. In the
new charter there’s six. They’re around                                   So we’re doing the obvious thing -
democracy, they’re around education. They’re                       making our existing stuff available on demand.
around       creativity.    They’re       around                   A much more exciting possibility is when you
communities. They’re around bringing the                           look at those purposes, how do you drive
world to the UK, and the UK to the world.                          democratic value? How do you drive citizen
Oh, and they’re about turning off analogue                         value - through the lens of a participatory
television as well.                                                media such as the internet. How do you
                                                                   allow people to educate each other? How do
      George mentioned something in his
                                                                   you allow people actually to interpret for
speech that I think is very pertinent and you
                                                                   themselves and interpret for each other. I

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 25
totally agree with Bryan Appleyard –                               schools are like, what your house prices are
interpretation is crucial. That’s what the BBC                     like, what your hospitals are like. Locality
does reasonably well sometimes. But                                matters enormously. And I think there’s
interpretations no longer sit in the hands of                      something in that … not quite sure about
the few. It can sit in the hands of the many. I                    Lee’s Libyan example – I’ve not studied Libya
fervently believe that.                                            but there’s something about new localisation
                                                                   that’s really really really important. Local
        And if I'm honest, and the BBC’s really
                                                                   representation driving up towards national
only begun to understand itself that (a) it can
                                                                   debate.
(b) it should use participatory media to drive
towards its public purposes. It’s tried a few                               The final thing I want to talk about is a
things out. It’s found it very difficult. I think we               little prod. My Society which is the
will continue to find that very difficult because                  organisation which I was, until about a year
as any institution that’s 80 years old, there’s a                  ago, a trustee and director of, which did
legacy of control which we do have; finds it                       many of these sites and did the petition site
very hard to gracefully cede control. Same as                      for Number 10. The organisation which is all
any government institution.                                        volunteer based apart from two or three
                                                                   people who get paid peanuts to do the thing
         I just want to talk about my nightlife. As
a parent, I don’t have any nightlife. But what I                   they love, which is to be civic citizens, had a
                                                                   fervent debate about whether to do the
do in the evenings, which are these websites
                                                                   Number 10 e-petition site for two reasons.
around democracy, representative democracy
                                                                   (1) We’ve always been very careful to be
by the way – got no with direct democracy at
                                                                   impartial in a new way and to not align
all. I think that I have always had great faith in
                                                                   ourselves with any political party. (2) A more
human nature and the intelligence of people,
                                                                   fundamental point, which is, we’ve not heard
particularly in Britain. And I’ve always had great
                                                                   enough today on this stage about the
faith that if you give people tools for
                                                                   institution that matters most and that’s
empowerment, they will empower themselves.
                                                                   Parliament. Not government, not political
And I get really bored if I'm honest, hearing
                                                                   parties, but Parliament. And the reason that I
about Guido Fawkes and Ian Dale and whoever
                                                                   was happy and am still happy that they did
they all are – that’s fine, that’s good. That’s the
                                                                   the petition site and they did it in the right
Westminster soap opera translated onto the
                                                                   way (could easily do it in the wrong way) was
internet. It’s reasonably large. If Guido Fawkes
                                                                   not because necessarily I thought it was going
gets 240,000 users a month, ‘They Work for
                                                                   to change the world, although it’s driven a big
You’ gets more than double that. And we’ve
                                                                   debate. It’s the fact that that should
never spent a penny in marketing. And what is
                                                                   embarrass parliament so badly because the
‘They Work for You’? ‘They Work for You’ is
                                                                   right place for that e-petition site was on
Hansard done proper. That’s all ‘They Work
                                                                   parliament.uk – not on Downing Street’s
for You’ is. ‘They Work for You’ is our
                                                                   website. So that’s my final point.
parliamentary democracy done in a way that
makes it accessible and allows people to                                   Mark O’Neill: I'm a civil servant and
participate with it, comment on, share it with                     as a civil servant, my role is to be an impartial
each other, aggregate it around the issues they                    professional resource to support the
care about, not the political parties that they                    democratically elected government of the day
don’t care about.                                                  in the development, implementation and
                                                                   delivery of their policies. I'm also a public
       I want to end with two final things. One
                                                                   servant and that means I have responsibility
of them is around the importance of local. The
                                                                   to everyone here to ensure that the quality,
website I'm actually most proud of is called
                                                                   robustness and efficiency of those services is
upmystreet.com. Which all it very simply did
                                                                   what people want. And the third thing I have
was nick a load of government data and
                                                                   as a CIO is, I provide a set of services to my
aggregate it around your postcode; what your
                                                                   internal customer base, to allow them to

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 26
develop policy, support ministers, work with                       confused with CTO which                   is   Career
parliament etc etc.                                                Terminating Opportunity.
       Now there’s been quite a lot of talk                                So we’re faced with the same sort of
about what we’re doing and what is the role of                     challenges as any large bureaucracy. Doesn’t
IT and the web in government. So a number of                       matter if it’s public sector bureaucracy or
people have done this, so I'm going to do it                       private sector bureaucracy. Believe you me,
now as well. I'm going to have a show of hands                     I’ve dealt with both. Private sector
in a second. And the question is, how many                         bureaucracy is much much worse than
people in the audience have read the                               anything we in the public sector can do.
transformational government paper? Okay,                           Largely because they’ve got more money to
we've beaten MySpace. I make that…                                 throw at it. You know, I'm not joking here. I
                                                                   was waiting to sign a contract with a major
      Peter Kellner: Really representative
                                                                   American software company. I won’t say who
democracy!
                                                                   they were – household name, you’d all know
       Mark O’Neill: So I'm very pleased to                        them. And literally I was sitting there with a
see, and we’ll be announcing that tomorrow                         pen and a bag of money. No discussion
that the transformational government paper is                      required, no conversation, nothing. Put a
more popular than MySpace.                                         piece of paper in front of me, I sign it, give
       But the key thing about having those                        you the bag of money.
free groups is challenge. Each of those groups                            A year later I finally signed that bit of
poses a challenge to us. We’ve heard George                        paper and every second of the delay was on
Osborne talking from the political side about                      their side because of their own internal
the challenges which he sees organisations like                    bureaucracies. So there’s a challenge there
public sector delivery organisations need to                       for us. I'm trying to support change and
face.                                                              development in what is an old school, largely
         From the public, we get views and                         bureaucratic establishment. And there are a
expressions, and the whole growth of social                        lot of good reasons for a lot of that
networking means that there are more and                           bureaucracy. Coming back to the point about
more active voices about what that world                           hyper democracy. There are times when you
should look like. And from my internal                             want that kind of inertia built into the system
customer base there’s also a debate, and so                        to allow for deliberations or allow for
the question is about how do we actually                           thought and rationalisation. But we also need
work? The government machine is something                          to think about how does the world work.
which has kind of evolved largely over 150 odd                     How do we want to move things forward.
years. Part of it being built, parts of just                               And this is the point at which I am
evolved, parts of it that crept in, parts of it just               going to embrace what is potentially a CLO,
being found. It’s there – it’s like why is                         maybe the CTO – which is to kind of throw
legislation written on velum. You know, there                      a challenge back at this august community.
is actually a flock of sheep somewhere in this                     Because this strikes me as a kind of group of
country especially reserved solely for the use                     people who can help me with this. And we’re
of Parliament. Let me rephrase that!                               talking about how the process works. I mean,
      Peter Kellner: It’s going out live on                        we do use open source software and we use
the web!                                                           all kinds of things but that’s just technology.
                                                                   What I'm concerned about, what I'm
       Mark O’Neill: It is going live on the                       interested in is how the process can work,
web! Yeah, well when Steve invited me to give                      how we can develop things for the future.
this talk, I thought there were so many
opportunities for what we in IT call ‘CLOs’.                              Later on this year we are going to be
That’s Career Limiting Opportunity. Not to be                      putting out a Green Paper on creative
                                                                   economy. And as you’ve just heard, the

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 27
creative economy is absolutely vast, and it is                     really feel valued at all. That’s fact. Kids don’t
absolutely critical to the economic wellbeing of                   feel that they are valued as much as they
this country.                                                      should be. Online however, on their Beebo,
                                                                   MySpace or MSN space, they have this
        That Green Paper has been developed
                                                                   opportunity to be who they want to be. They
using a whole series of task forces made up
                                                                   have the head space to think about the way
with representations from across industry.
                                                                   they want to present themselves. For them
Hopefully, tapping in to some of the social
                                                                   it’s incredibly real and that they’re linking up
networking world. We’re then going to put it
                                                                   to real people, people that they see in their
up on the web for debate and discussion. And
                                                                   classroom everyday. If you ever go into a
what I'm interested to hear from people is just
                                                                   primary 7 in Scotland (I guess there’s a
what are the kind of ideas, concepts and
                                                                   primary 7 in England as well) middle school
questions which people have around that
                                                                   kind of age, ever go in there, one class will be
process. Because we’ve got ideas and concepts
                                                                   entirely Beebo, and then the next class will
about it. This is a kind of meta question. I'm
                                                                   be entirely MSN spaces. And that’s because
not asking you for the comments on the
                                                                   it’s real face to face.
creative economy Green Paper or anything, I'm
asking you how would you like to be consulted                              There was a concern earlier on, that
about that kind of deliberation and                                this was all imaginary and didn’t really matter.
development. So if you’ve got any ideas, if                        This online identity is actually where our
you’ve got any questions, then let me have                         children are flourishing. The statistics that
them.       My       email     address       is                    you were looking for, Mick, was 200 minutes
mark@culture.gsi.gov.uk. Thank you very                            a night and rising, in front of the computer
much.                                                              interacting, instead of 200 minutes in front of
                                                                   the television being passive. I’d much rather
          Peter Kellner: Thank you very much
                                                                   see my kids spending 200 minutes in front of
indeed.
                                                                   their computer than 200 minutes in front of
        Ewan McIntosh: Thank you very                              ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Neighbours’. Nothing
much. I'm a teacher by trade and so I'm                            against wonderful programming!
unashamedly going to talk about children and
their importance in all this. Two things more                              And then you look at their schooling
important than anyone really knows because                         identity (this is the third point) and their
                                                                   need for an audience is not satisfied. Because
it’s the first year that the 16 year olds going
                                                                   again you go into their Beebo or their
into the workplace have been brought up
entirely in the internet age. And at the same                      MySpace, the one thing they’re all desperate
time governments and local authorities around                      for is to up their page count. If you speak to
                                                                   any blogger in this room, they will be
the country are putting together their 2020
                                                                   desperate to up their views and their unique
visions. And at the same time kids going into
                                                                   visitors. Speak to the BBC, I'm sure it’s
primary school have been brought up in the
                                                                   exactly the same. There’s a need for audience
era of one-click publishing of the blog. Which
                                                                   – we all have it. And in school, it’s not there.
means that with our 2020 vision, although it’s
                                                                   The success of self esteem that they have
incredibly well meant, we’re missing an entire
                                                                   online is probably making up for the lack of it
generation and missing all the possibilities that
                                                                   elsewhere. And when they come into school,
we’ve got with that. So I’ve got eight points in
7 minutes now to deliver.                                          they’re having to power down. They’re
                                                                   powering down technologically because they
        The first one is, these are all kind of                    leave their mobile phones and iPods at the
needs kids have. I think we all have them. A                       door. They’re powering down mentally
social identity. They need to feel valued and                      because we’re asking them to read and do
have their place. And I don’t know if any of you                   one thing at a time. One thing at a time
go into schools that often, but if you spend any                   which is a foreign concept to me. We tell
time in there, you’ll realise that kids don’t                      them to shut up and listen to one person at a

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 28
time when they’re perfectly capable. This is                       everything we’re talking about make each of
nothing new because when I was at school, I                        us an active citizen as possible.
used to write notes to my friends and pass                                  Second thing is that we still do old
them around, just to write little stories, love                    things in new ways. So this knowledge of stuff
letters I daresay. It’s a long time ago. And I was                 still seems important in schools, I’d love to
multitasking because maths at that time didn’t                     blow that out of the water by giving kids
interest me. But I was still taking it all in.                     handheld computers and tell them to go and
        What we teach in school in terms of                        look at Wikipedia.
technology is about the clicks and the buttons                             We’re doing things in new ways in
to press, how to turn the thing on. We don’t                       Scotland. We’ve just launched this week, Scot
really teach them the kind of three pillars idea                   Edupedia which is an opportunity for anyone
that was going on before. And parents certainly                    in education to rewrite our websites and put
aren’t teaching them. And it’s not, that I don’t                   what is actually going on in education onto
think young children are particularly disengaged                   the web. We’re framing user generated blogs,
with politics. I think they don’t know how. And                    YouTube and what have you, so that we try
yet when they go out into the streets and                          and make it matter a bit more than it does at
protest, they get Jack McConnell, the First                        the moment. We still have a lot of trouble
Minster, telling them to go back to school.                        with attitudes and the fact that if I send an
         So it’s the digital divides … for me it’s                 email complaining about our governmental
not the hardware, it’s really this understanding                   service, there’s a 48 hour turnaround that
of how to exploit everything that’s freely                         they have to meet. If I blog it and have a huge
available there on the web. And it brings me                       audience read that, they won’t leave a
onto the fourth most important point. The                          comment because if they do, there’ll be held
other four are really quick you’ll be glad to                      to actually doing something about it. That
know. Regardding work identity and 60 year                         was the reason I was given in a meeting
olds going into workplace. To be honest, I run                     earlier this week.
an online network for kids in one particular                               And the final point is that I think
local authority and we have 400 bloggers,                          we’re still catching up with technology. The
social software users in an authority, about a                     government        and   government     bodies
fifth of the teachers there have their own blog.                   concentrate on gadgets and software and
We take 80-85% of the Scottish public sector                       platforms and learning management systems
market for blogging. Quite a nice figure and                       and all this nonsense. When it takes time and
hopefully that’ll change. But there’s a lack of                    it takes money – perhaps we should just
value attached to it from outside. People don’t                    leapfrog all that nonsense and concentrate on
value what I put on my blog. They value the                        innovating in the next stage, which I think is
same material put on our government                                thinking.
sponsored, government paid for expensive
website. Why is that? The things we value are                              Adriana Cronin-Lukas: I would like
qualifications     when       qualifications  are                  to discuss some of the notions raised today
commodities. The thing that we don’t really                        such as the democratic nature of the web,
value is music, art, drama, dance. Why don’t                       individual authority and technology. And I
we have compulsory dance everyday at school                        shall do that in three levels of abstraction
instead of compulsory maths and English?                           perhaps to justify five years on blogging and
                                                                   having fun online. And also perhaps to give
         So we end up with this four things that                   you some sort of framework to see what it
have happened. First thing is we’ve got a                          all might mean.
vicious circle of unclear territory. Because as
long as we prepare kids believing that academic                           First of all, the democratic nature of
qualifications is a sign of intelligence, then we                  the web. I often have a disagreement with
miss out on the creativity that’s going to make                    that because democratic means two things.


       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 29
One is open access in which case, yes, open                        because there was no space for the kind of
access to information and publishing. Secondly,                    discussion they wanted to have. So I have
at the rule of the majority. And I don’t think                     absolutely no incentive to go back to
that is the case online. When I publish things                     somebody else’s context that they are agreed
on my blog nobody tells me what to do. It is                       to modify based on the kind of things people
MySpace in the literal sense of the word. So                       like me are doing. So it has to be something
yes, democratic in terms of open access and                        else. I'm interested in nature of authority.
that means to information and to publishing                                And the second level of abstraction is,
and dissemination of that information.                             what it does to institutions. And I think there
         What that means is that the authority                     is a redressing of the balance between the
that was based on asymmetry of information is                      individual and a system, and that’s happening
shifting. Now how it’s shifting and where it’s                     in politics as much as in companies. Any
shifting, that is yet to be determined, because I                  system – and that’s part of the reason I was
think it’s far too early to say.                                   able to translate what I see happening online
        What is interesting to me, that                            in the wild, into institutions – whether it’s
commentators often talk about how individuals                      corporations or public sector – doesn’t
online, bloggers, and others are very self                         matter, it all consists of individuals and
                                                                   processes.
obsessed – it’s an ‘echo chamber’. And on the
other hand, they talk about uneducated                                      It has started with technology but I
masses. There is a paradox where you can’t be                      think what the internet, our technology on
both – or maybe you can. And what that                             internet has shown, is that it is possible to
means is there is a learning process going on.                     line up resources behind an individual rather
Which means that what is in fact we are                            than just behind institutions. That’s what it is.
learning. And I think what we are learning is                      It’s the same technology that you can use
autonomy and self determination. And all the                       whether you are a collective entity or an
mistakes, all the rubbish on internet is part of                   individual. But it does different things if you
that learning process.                                             use it as an individual. So much so that
       Now if it’s autonomy and self                               institutions are taking notice. To me that is
determination, why does that matter? I think                       an unprecedented shift in history.
it’s a far more meaningful definition of                                   That also means things like the
freedom. Autonomy entails freedom. And                             internet and communication online makes
we’ve had plenty of discussions about freedom                      mockery of mass communication. And the
from freedom too. So that is a very much on                        entire notion of personalisation by entities,
the individual level. The first level of                           by     collective   entities,    you   cannot
abstraction as far as I'm concerned, is open                       communicate with individuals as a collective,
access and what I would call decentralised                         doesn’t make sense. You can’t have a
sovereignty.                                                       conversation with an institution. You can only
                                                                   have conversation and communication with
         I'm trying to relate it to politics in some
                                                                   individuals within that institution. And that
ways, which makes it a bit hard because I don’t
really care about politics. The authority based                    means a whole different way of changing
on information asymmetry is changing. It’s                         culture, changing structures. That’s why
                                                                   we’re not seeing many successful attempts of
evolving or shifting somewhere else. Now in
politics, if you look at party politics especially,                using the media and the tools, the techniques
that means there is no need to be there. If                        in public sector or companies, or commerce.
                                                                   They are seeing it but it is not homogeneous
information can be published and disseminated,
why do you need a platform provided by                             and thank God for that actually.
somebody else’s context? So as a political                                So that to me, on the second level, is
blogger, I bypass that. In fact that was the                       redressing the balance between the system
entire reason why political bloggers started

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 30
and the individual in all sorts of ways –                          simple rules that are still in it, to the point of
communications and authority, etc.                                 abstraction.
        The third level is really the most                                 So I could talk about it for a long time
interesting one for me because I don’t see                         but I just wanted to raise the issue of, I would
much of that happening yet. And that is to do                      love people to look at the systemic nature of
with new models of organisation. I see internet                    internet and see how it evolved the way it
as a Petrie dish where you look at the cultures                    got, and how it could be interpreted in
growing and you can see them without having                        systems as we know today. Because
to disturb them. You see how they evolve and                       ultimately democracy is the least bad system
how they mutate. And they have mutated in                          of government we have according to
the last five years. And I’m not only looking at                   Churchill, so perhaps the internet holds the
the last five years that sort of marks the                         key to an organisation that provides a better
beginning of blogging.                                             balance between the individual and a system.
                                                                   The one that respects the individual. Because
        And what we see in commercial terms,
we see emergence of new business models or                         for me, it’s about individual. That’s where
                                                                   knowledge, innovation and morality and
commercial models, whatever you want to call
                                                                   indeed any social system starts. So thank you.
it, open source is one of them. It’s just another
way of doing something, creating something
that can be sold and there is a demand for it.
                                                                            Peter Kellner: I’d like to thank all
        We see things in terms of media and                        our panel. We’ve got about 25 minutes.
information, things like advertising. I see the                    Firstly, we had a lot of different points here.
demand side is supplying itself. I don’t need the                  Is there anybody who’d like to take issue
adverts to learn about a project anymore. I can                    with, challenge something they’ve heard?
go and talk to other people. So that’s changing                    Something they want to bite back against?
demand and supply in economic terms. And                                   Member of the general public:
also things like the long tail – I'm sure you’ve
                                                                   Some said that the creative industries are a
heard about that. These are embryonic
                                                                   bigger fraction of GDP than financial services.
business models, new structures on one side.                       But given that the government is about 45%
On the other side, what I don’t see much is                        of GDP, and financial services are about 25%,
new organisational structures and people                           that’s completely implausible. So it must
looking towards the internet and the way it                        mean that people in the creative industries
organises      itself  for     alternatives    to                  either don’t understand mathematics or
organisational structures like network theory
                                                                   economics. I was just curious as to which one
or complexity theory. I mean I think this is
                                                                   it might be.
probably the best place to talk about it but the
pre internet age comes from (to me) the age of                             Unidentified speaker: Inspired by
engineering where complex problems require                         Tom Loosemore and others, I'm doing
complex solutions. So you create processes                         (inaudible) for New Zealand. I wanted to take
that simplify that complexity and you build                        issue with something I think Mark said that,
systems based on those processes.                                  “open source software is not about process.”
                                                                   I think it is about process and tying in with
       Now to me, the internet is about the
                                                                   what Adriana was saying, it really is a few
age of complexity … let’s call it the internet                     simple rules. You allow a sort of a free access
age, the age of complexity. In fact what it
                                                                   to the source and the (inaudible is able to self
means that a few simple rules and protocols
                                                                   select themselves and decide what they want
can create huge complexity. It changes that …                      to do, what they’re best at doing and they go
upside down. So now it’s the issue of
                                                                   to it. And if it doesn’t work out there’s no
understanding the few simple rules and how                         commercial incentive for them to stick
you can address complex issues with a few
                                                                   around. They just move onto the next thing.


       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 31
So it is a process and I think it’s a process that                         If there are barriers which are
captures the creativity of individuals and that’s                  stopping that from happening, then we need
why it’s been successful.                                          to know about it. Now the CIO Council, a
                                                                   mysterious group of which I'm part of, which
         Robert Shepherd (MD, Press
                                                                   is a group of all government CIOs, is looking
Dispensary): I'm a managing director of a
                                                                   at innovation as a particular area. And one of
small independent company called Press
                                                                   the key questions about innovation is, what
Dispensary which would love to service
                                                                   stops us from innovating? A whole ray of
government contracts and is quite capable of
                                                                   answers to that. But one of them is, are we
servicing government contracts were it is
                                                                   not letting the people who can deliver the
allowed to do so, but of course government
                                                                   kind of things we want, come to us with
isn’t capable of taking in small companies. And
                                                                   those solutions. Is there something which
I’ve just got a very simple question for Mark.
                                                                   stops them from doing that?
        Robert Shepherd (MD, Press
                                                                                  Now what I would say to you,
Dispensary): If you sat there for a whole year
                                                                   and I say to any suppliers at the moment is,
waiting for a large American company to sign a
                                                                   that you need to push back to us and tell us if
contract when you had a bag of money on
                                                                   there are things which are stopping you.
your desk, why didn’t you simply come to a
                                                                   Some of you might be aware there’s a thing
small independent British company who would
                                                                   called Capability Reviews. Capability Reviews
have probably built what you wanted and
                                                                   are basically a review of government
delivered it in that year?
                                                                   departments. Each department’s been
       Peter Kellner: Mark, the sense of the                       reviewed and what the questions are basically
meeting is I think they want an answer now.                        saying is, do you have the capacity, the
       Mark O’Neill: Yeah, I mean, it’s a very                     capability to deliver the things that you’re
very good question. And the answer to your                         supposed to deliver? And the first tranche of
question is, I had no choice.                                      those is coming towards the end.

          Peter Kellner: Why did you have no                               What’s now kicking off is another
choice?                                                            form of Capability Review which is a
                                                                   Procurement Capability Review which is
        Mark O’Neill: How can I phrase this?                       basically asking the same question, but is
Let’s just say that one of the key suppliers to                    saying, are you actually able to engage with
government changed their licensing model to a                      the market in a way to get the resources and
new model. If I say anymore I’ll be giving away                    supplies and things you need? And the first
who the company is. But in terms of your                           department (and this is also another career
point about the small companies, I mean that is                    limiting opportunity for me) involved in this is
an absolutely critical point for me, because we                    DfES. So I would strongly urge people to, if
do make a lot of use of SMEs in my                                 they feel that there are barriers, unnecessary
organisation and we’re very keen to do so for                      barriers, because let’s face it, there are
a variety of reasons. In terms of procurement,                     always going to be barriers. But if you feel
you’re right, I mean what we need to be clear                      there are unnecessary barriers, things which
about is, are there unnecessary barriers which                     are stopping you from suppliers actually
are stopping us from making use of the SME                         engaging with us as a customer, then let us
market. An awful lot of things I do, I have to                     know. I mean you can email me in the first
do very very quickly to an incredibly tight                        instance if there are real hard facts. And the
timescale. And when I want to do things,                           other thing I would say is, please get involved
usually to incredibly tight timescale, and to a                    in the responses to things like the Capability
high quality, I almost always turn to the SME                      Reviews, like the OGC’s work on the
market for that kind of resource because that’s                    procurement process. And again, the creative
where I know I can get it from.                                    economy programme which will be coming
                                                                   out hopefully in the middle of this year, has a

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 32
whole section in it about supplying and the role                  had a monolithic creative industry in the
of the SMEs in that. If there are issues about                    States, I wonder if Silicon Valley would be so
that, then let us know, because we need to                        vital.
know.                                                                   Peter Kellner: A quick one on the
        Stuart Nichol: I actually work for a                      BBC point Tom.
venture capital fund which has minority                                   Tom Loosemore: I’ll try and make
shareholding of the government. What we                           it quick. Glibly and sort of with my corporate
found with our SMEs is that we’d given them                       hat on, show me the evidence of crowding
the funding to get going. They’re all in Greater                  out. Seriously, show me the economics. Philip
London. The largest contractor if you like in                     (inaudible) couldn’t find any.
Greater London is the government. Very few
of them have been able to secure government                               Secondly, you know, we have sort of,
contracts simply because the risk of somebody                     whatever our share is in the television
taking on an SME isn’t put against a probable                     market – it’s 20% for BBC 1 and the amount
return that will happen, you know, if they work                   of time people spend –under 2% of the time
out, so people go for IBM or whoever.                             people spend on the internet in the UK, is
                                                                  spent on (inaudible). It doesn’t sound like
        So there’s a strong case as it happens,                   crowding out. It’s trying to (inaudible) more
in the US to have positive discrimination in                      constructive, corporate health. We can and
favour of SMEs in budgets –percentage of each                     should do tons more to be part of the
budget ought to go to an SME. And I’d be                          internet and not just a great big monolithic
interested to know if the panel thinks this is a                  site on the internet. And that means, you
good idea. And if not, why not?                                   know, if we have got a need editorially to do
        Peter Kellner: I’ll come back to the                      house prices which is a very big story in our
panel in a minute.                                                news sites, we don’t actually need to have
                                                                  the house prices listed on our website. We
       Paul Stone: I channel the Ghost of
                                                                  can just link to them.
Guido Fawkes online. But I'm able to do that
because I'm an investor in a few internet                                Culturally, that’s very challenging if
businesses. I'm looking at the panel and apart                    you’re a broadcaster. Give us a bit of time.
from Adriana, where’s the private sector?                                  Secondly, on the SME point, linking to
        Anthony Lilley: I have an SME. I had a                    that. I hope you are seeing the fruits of what
(inaudible) SME.                                                  is a necessary cultural shift in how to engage
                                                                  with the market in terms of engaging with
     Paul Stone: I thought you were an
                                                                  smaller businesses. Actually engaging with the
Ofcom…
                                                                  market at all in terms of procurement – we
       Anthony Lilley: No, that’s a job I do                      have a quota now. Quota is a blunt
in my spare time.                                                 instrument but actually in our case, I think
       Paul Stone: Okay.                                          they’ve been helpful. We had 25% quota of
                                                                  our spend we have to spend with the market.
      Anthony Lilley: I have a 50 (inaudible)                     We beat that, we will continue to beat that.
SME growing at 100% a year right now.
                                                                          More interestingly, we do a bunch of
       Paul Stone: Good. So that’s two of                         things now – probably don’t know about
you. And the other thing, from the BBC, I                         them. That’s probably our fault. We
wonder if the BBC isn’t a smothering force for                    (inaudible) backstage.bbc.co.uk which is that
innovation sometimes. I know Tom personally                       open source model. We make available our
has been very good, but it crowds out … I                         content with a licence that allows creative
think that George was saying that earlier, it                     reuse for a development community. It’s
does crowd out a lot of innovation. And if you                    more the kind of bedroom developers than
                                                                  the SMEs, but there’s a bunch of SMEs on

      RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 33
there. I know Lee’s done some stuff on it.                                Adriana Cronin-Lukas: Adam
Amazing creative ideas there. Just because we                     Smith (inaudible very much present online. I
create an environment where we encouraged                         mean the principles … it’s not about …
it and said, if we see a great idea, we will try                  Intellectual property is one way of monetising
and commission it from you. You own the idea,                     the way, what you create. It’s not the only
we’ll commission it from you.                                     way. So for open source, I call it the business
                                                                  model is ME, Monetise Elsewhere. You use
        Secondly, right now around the country
                                                                  the knowledge that you have, that you
there is a thing called the BBC’s Innovation
                                                                  demonstrate to get their potential … It
Labs going on which is for the slightly bigger
                                                                  becomes again, the individual model. It is
companies, the genuine SMEs where we invite
                                                                  based on the individual’s reputation.
submissions. We’ve got thousands of
submissions for particular editorial briefs, we                            Tom Loosemore: There’s four or
need to fulfil from the market particularly                       five thousand geeks – that’s what they are,
outside London, in fact almost exclusively                        they’re wonderful geeks who thrive in the
outside London – in Glasgow this week. And                        backstage community at backstage.bbc.co.uk,
we do a filtering process and I think about ten                   who do it in their spare time. They don’t do
businesses at a time spend a week with us. I go                   it because they’re purely altruistic, they do it
on them quite frequently, developing ideas,                       because they want to gain peer respect,
working together. And at the end of it, there’s                   because that will get them more money in
a pitching session to develop … and                               the future in different ways rather than a
commissioners come along and pick ideas at                        direct linear.
the right stage. We are genuinely trying to do                           Anthony Lilley:                We’re a
the right thing. Culturally though, I think the
                                                                  production company, we’re supposed to be
people who mentioned ‘culture’ today – so
                                                                  obsessed with intellectual property rights.
true, that’s the shift.                                           But we create something called (inaudible) for
        Rob Mikinon: Just a quick response to                     Channel 4, which is entirely based on creative
that. I mean, you can make the same argument                      commons licenses – I used to be on the
about Google stifling the market. They channel                    board of Creative Commons. It was
all that money from internet advertising into                     incredibly difficult to get it started. We made
numerous projects where they don’t have a                         more money from helping an Australian
commercial goal initially. So whilst having to                    broadcaster do the same thing than we ever
compete with the BBC, you’re also having to                       made out of the thing we did in the first
compete with Google and Yahoo. So whether                         place. And we didn’t hold intellectual
it’s commercial pools of money or public pools                    property, we knew how to do it quickly.
of money … Tom does agree…                                                Stephen Parker (Impac): Slightly
        Peter Kellner: It does seem to me an                      facetiously maybe, one of the titles of this
issue which crops up in different areas which                     event was I think, Public Sector 2.0 based on
is, if you do have very large organisations,                      the Web 2.0 story. So can I ask a question to
probably like the BBC or private like Google,                     the panel. Is a logical conclusion to all of the
who do potentially have the muscle to                             discussions, that what government should do
dominate a technology, and you have open                          is follow the private sector such as Microsoft
sourcing, then where is the financial rewards                     and Google, have a labs.gov.uk and put up a
for the independent innovator who wants to                        whole load of ideas with the word ‘beta’ next
use their intellectual property commercially?                     to all of them. And then basically randomly
You know, are we throwing away 200 years                          decide by the number of votes or interest,
since Adam Smith raised … We talked about                         which become policy. A ‘beta’ driven
the modern economy – it seems to be sort of                       government.
entering a different kind of world. Adriana,                             Peter Kellner: I'm going to invite in
you’re nodding your head.                                         a minute, each of the members of the panel

      RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 34
to make their concluding remarks. They may                         application I don’t like. I aggregate opinion on
or may not wish to respond to that. I think                        the website and then go to meetings. And
we’ll take three more quick comments. If you                       that’s the critical thing. That simple human
keep them fairly brief.                                            interface – get out from behind the screen,
                                                                   go to a meeting, engage with the political
       Mark         Lavelle,         Producer,
Newsnight: Just to pick up on Tom’s point to                       process that is actually there; and isn’t
                                                                   entirely broken – it does work reasonably
ask Mark, very quickly, why did we have to
                                                                   well. I do a reasonable amount of work with
wait for Number 10 to introduce e-petitions
                                                                   My Society. And I'm really disappointed we
before you guys? And is it going to happen now
                                                                   haven’t heard more about Adriana’s
on your site? And just not to let Tom off the
                                                                   intervention, which I thought was one of the
hook, you said that the BBC’s definitely never
                                                                   most intelligent things that I’ve heard here all
been about programme making. I'm told we
                                                                   day. But I would say that there are new forms
are everyday. And I think we had a recent kind
                                                                   of social organisation out there, but they’re
of idiom that went around on BBC1 going,
                                                                   not easy to find. We saw recently round the
“This is what we do” and it was about
programme making.                                                  Number 10 petitions, email is moving rather
                                                                   like shoals of fish – very very hard to define,
         There is a serious point here but there                   pinpoint and to control. But in America, two
were recent problems in Newsnight and                              years ahead of us at least, it’s that email list,
budgets are being cut in the BBC. I don’t want                     it’s that ability to generate communities of
to get too BBC on BBC, but the reason that                         email activists, driving quite substantial
this is all happening is because there is this big                 changes in the political process. And I
shift towards making all of the programming                        challenge you again actually. I think these new
available in completely different ways on the                      things are emerging, also on things like
web. But are you aware and are you worried                         Source Forge – that’s a very very new way of
about the fact that it is harder to make                           organising socially and delivering new quasi
programmes and there may be worse                                  economic outputs in the open source
programmes made as a result?                                       community. So I think that was a fascinating
       Peter Kellner: Hold your response.                          intervention but things are changing. They’re
                                                                   just rather hard to label.
        William Perrin: I'm a civil servant in
my day job but I'm not authorised to talk about                              Peter Kellner: Finally back to Lee.
that right now. I actually would like to make a                            Lee Bryant: Well, picking up from
point about the social impacts of the web in                       what William said about Adriana’s
my community, in Kings Cross, in North                             intervention, I think some of the things that
London, an area with very profound, very                           Adriana said about complexities, systems, and
challenging social problems where as a                             so on, are very useful. I think the radical
volunteer, I run a social website. And I was                       libertarianism, the complete focus on the
really disappointed, we’ve only heard from one                     individual is obviously no way to run a society
other person actually working at the                               unless the rich ones arm themselves against
grassroots – a person from south London over                       the poor, which presumably you agree with
here, talking earlier. Because at the grassroots,                  anyway.
the web has an enormous social impact using
                                                                            The interesting interface that I’d like
very simple tools. In my case, I use type pad
                                                                   to see more discussion on, and perhaps
and run a website as a blog. It’s very very
                                                                   responses, is this interface between
straightforward. But I take great care not to go
                                                                   institutions which are arguably necessary in
daydreaming about new political utopias,
                                                                   some form. And the networked individualism
where we all have a group hug and a giant Wiki
                                                                   model which I think is absolutely fundamental
and agree the world will be a better place. But
                                                                   to driving innovation on the web. They work
in really gritty way, there’s a lamppost broken
                                                                   for you really as the only meaningful example
outside my house. There’s a planning

       RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 35
of kind of e-government so far today. And                                  Anthony Lilley: (inaudible) So to put
given that came from individuals working                          my SME hat on, because I seem to have come
collectively and then that kind of bounced                        across as a regulator, which is only something
against some institutions, how do we manage                       I do for the sheer intellectual joy of it. My
that interface between the institutions and the                   company’s a social network. I have 50 odd
kind of individually sourced innovation for the                   people. We operate as a social network. We
future.                                                           have a group of people travelling in broadly
                                                                  the same direction most of the time. It does
        Peter Kellner: Okay, well I’d like 90
seconds each – can we manage that? I’ll take it                   not work very well without a bunch of
                                                                  architecture and without really clear channels
starting from this end, Adriana.
                                                                  and without as much information flowing
         Adriana Cronin-Lukas: To me, the                         around as possible. We absolutely
nature of institutions is changing and it’s                       experimented for a year with a bottom up,
changing so reluctantly. So to me, looking                        everything with self organised model. People
towards internet for finding alternatives is the                  don’t do that. They do it on massive scales.
crucial thing and you can only do it as                           They do it on crowd, swarm, beehive scales.
individuals, which is not to say … Okay,                          They don’t do it in groups of 50. They need
community is important but community is a                         really clear architecture. We, not they, we
network with a purpose. So if we stop listening                   need clear architecture because we need to
to lots of people who are talking about the                       know where we go, who we talk to, why,
‘fuzzy’ nature of community, and actually look                    who’s got expertise, who’s got skills and
at it sort of, I would say almost scientifically,                 where we’re trying to get to. It’s still very
logically, then the change will start to make                     radical to do that compared to the traditional
sense and we will have a little bit more, not                     models we’re used to which are to realign
control but understanding of it, and that’s a                     management and top down. And I'm just
type of control.                                                  going for a pragmatic approach, both in terms
        Ewan McIntosh: (inaudible) “Everyone                      of the company, and in terms of what we’re
and their dog wants to be a portal.” I think one                  trying to do with this (inaudible publisher of
of the biggest problems that the state sector,                    Ofcom, which is to say some organisations
and I think lots of private companies face is                     are travelling in this direction. We keep
that they all want to be a portal for other                       calling it ‘Judo policy’ go with the direction of
people’s views. They all want to aggregate.                       travel. Go with the attack. Don’t try and
They all want to have their ‘beta 2.0’ thing.                     stand against it. That’s pretty radical still for
And I work for Learning and Teaching in                           just about everybody. So pragmatically, having
Scotland which is an education agency in                          tried it and continuing to try it as a living
Scotland. And I spend most of my days advising                    (inaudible with the company, lots of it work,
them not to blog – please, don’t blog, please                     lots of bits of it are rather difficult to do. But
don’t do this, that and the other. Just listen to                 it does mean you have a fundamentally
what is going on. And find some way of                            different way of tackling questions. And it’s
aggregating. And you were talking about                           fascinating and exciting and you can make
personalisation and an education will make a                      profit at it. But it’s not a utopia. It’s really
difference between personalisation and                            crunchy, on the ground, to do it everyday.
individualisation. I think it’s quite a useful                            Mark O’Neill: If I said that open
distinction to make. It doesn’t mean going                        source wasn’t a process, then I misspoke and
round every citizen’s blog who’s got something                    I apologise for that. In terms of the petitions
to say. But that’s what some government                           kind of thing, we have done that kind of thing
departments think you’ve got to do. It’s about                    in the past. We haven’t called it e-petitions as
using it as a gauge of what’s going on. And it’s                  such, but we have done that kind of thing in
such a simple thing to do. We don’t do it very                    the past. And perhaps the best example,
well.


      RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 36
places at home for yourselves, would be the                       think the country will be less for it. Answer
BBC Charter Review.                                               to your question.
        In terms of SMEs, risk and that whole                             In terms of the wider debate, I think
kind of approach, that’s a really big issue. A                    the most interesting thing is about the nature
really big question. The whole question of risk                   … The crucial thing is about how do you lose
and how we manage risk and own risk in public                     control and still win? Or how do you cede
sector is a big big challenge for us. But the                     control and still win? By win, I mean as a
point for me is that often when I'm looking to                    society and individually. And I think if you’re
address risk, that’s why I turn to the SME                        an institution, I think institutions really
market, because that’s where I know I can get                     matter. Go to Somalia if you want to see
the best control over risk as opposed to                          where they haven’t got institutions. If you
perhaps dealing with some of the larger, more                     want to see how the nature of the institution
faceless organisations.                                           needs to change, I think it’s about its culture,
                                                                  its identity. It’s a shift from control to
        And the final point I’d just like to make
is that again, the great thing about these kinds                  catalyst. It’s a shift from linear to network.
                                                                  And I think we’ve only just begun to explore
of discussions is that we try and change so
                                                                  the true nature of how institutions need to
many things in one go. Both 3000 years of
                                                                  evolve. And the best way to make institutions
democracy, the whole notion of work and
                                                                  evolve? Problem. How? They do move
nature of work, the machinery which drives
                                                                  eventually.
work, by which we organise ourselves,
organise our time. And I have to say I think it’s                       Unidentified speaker: Right, okay.
a complete failure of this group not to have                      So much for your licence fee.
come up with answers to the solution. So I'm
                                                                          Peter Kellner: May I thank on your
disappointed.
                                                                  behalf, Tom, Mark, Anthony, Ewan, Adriana.
        Tom Loosemore: Okay, I’ll answer                          We’re more or less on time.
the gentleman from Newsnight’s point about,                               I have a couple of very very quick
isn’t the BBC about making programmes, isn’t                      concluding points. Questions are left in my
that our purpose? No, it’s not. The word                          mind. The first is this, is the pace of change
‘programme’ does not appear in the BBC’s                          now so fast compared with the introduction
Charter once. That is not what the BBC’s for.                     of previous technologies that there’s a real
ITV is not about making programmes either.                        issue in terms of the wider public of
ITV is about aggregating audiences to sell to                     absorption, of handling it and adjusting to it?
advertisers. And the way it does that or did                      Is there a giddiness and is that a problem?
that was by making programmes. And the way
the BBC delivered its core purposes was by                               And the second is this. That one thing
making programmes, is by making programmes                        we’ve seen, whether it’s Microsoft … It
– still incredibly important. But there’s an                      won’t be IBM because they didn’t believe in
increasing number of people who don’t really                      personal computers 20 years ago and took
engage with programmes in the way they used                       the fundamentally wrong decision. Whether
to. Because when we had an area of control                        it’s Google, whether it’s YouTube, the
(inaudible) they didn’t have much choice. Well                    assumption, underlying parts of the last two
they do have billions of choices now on the                       or three hours, has been, there’s a tiger out
web. And unless we shift the BBC’s attention                      there we can tame. Now there’s certainly a
to the opportunities of delivering purposes on                    tiger out there – my question is, can it be
the web, we’ll have a poll tax situation where                    tamed? Or is the future something which is
10, 15, 20% of the country don’t want to pay                      going to take us in directions which we might
the licence fee because they don’t watch any of                   not individually or collectively have chosen,
our programmes. And we’re all dead and I                          but which in reality we can do nothing? I
                                                                  don’t know what the answers to those


      RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 37
questions are. But I would like to suggest is
this, that we talked about conversations
through the web. Maybe we need a big
conversation about the web. A conversation
about where these conversations are heading.
And in that context, perhaps today has been a
good start. And I hope that we can have many
more conversations in real time, with real
people, in real rooms, but also virtually.
       Well, thank you very much to our panel
and to all of you for coming. Thank you very
much.




      RSA | | Part 1 The social impact of the web: society, government and the internet | 8th March 2007   Page 38

								
To top