Reboot Britain-Innovation requires more than tweeting

7 07 2009

twitter-bird-money-eyesThe Reboot Britain Conference yesterday organised by NESTA had promise, focussed as it was on the need to transform the future of the UK, a project I am very keen on. In particular it was looking at the power of the web to shape better public services. Did it deliver on its promise? I was struck by several things.

Firstly, what people now consider ‘innovation‘ is mainly the ability through social media to communicate with each other more. Social media are now becoming the focus of hope for the future in every area of life. The capacity of social media to really change things is overestimated while the lack of any substantive polices for change is underestimated.

Secondly I heard almost no discussion or even mention of the recession. The tone was relentlessly upbeat and the emphasis was on ‘optimism’. The whole event felt like some kind of strange religious sect which attempts to operate outside of normal reality. There was a strong sense that if only we could convince ourselves that the recession was over then it will be.

Thirdly, politics and politicians are not only held in contempt, but hold themselves in contempt. The Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt, who opened the proceedings, spent a lot of his speech making jokes about corrupt MPS and lauding social media as a way of keeping MPs under control through greater transparency. Any discussion of the content of politics was entirely absent from the day.

Fourthly, even clever economists like Gillian Tett view the causes of the recession in non economic terms. In her case she interprets the behaviour of bankers in organisational terms as being about lack of effective structures.

Lastly, the CEO of NESTA, Jonathan Kestenbaum, has decided that the Tories are going to win the next election. His introduction to Jeremy Hunt was the most effulgent suck-up I have heard for some time.



One response

7 07 2009
Johny Morris

I think there’s a lot more to the new uses of the internet (call it Web 2.0, Cloud Computing, Software as a Service (SaaS) or what have you) than you are giving credit for. Just like any other transforming technology – whether the printing press or the railways – its impact is social/political as well as economic. The railways inadvertently invented mass tourism as well as supporting the second phase of industrialisation. The web is spawning social networking plus cloud computing both of which makes innovation easier and more tenable as it increases the intellectual capital available, increases the speed of the dissemination of knowledge and decreases the capital required for getting ideas to market. It provides both the route to market and the back office support infrastructure at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. It should be celebrated and embraced.

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