When IT Meets Politics

Feb 1 2010   8:11PM GMT

Miss Marple monitoring the St Mary Mead CCTV

Philip Virgo Profile: Philip Virgo

Video on Demand

What are the applications that would get the silver surfers on-line? Last week I attended the All Party Group on Rural Services broadband breakfast and have just taken a look at my doodles. I compared these with the points made in an e-mail asking me to comment on a submission to the BIS consultation on uses for the new Broadband fund. I was struck by the paucity of imagination of those discussing the bandwidth their customers might want.  

I remembered a discussion during a PITCOM visit to California in 2000 on the “killer applications” that would drive the world towards a “sweet spot” of 10 megs symmetric – where are whole series of technologies would come together in about 2002. We’d heard much about what these might be. None of it was very convincing – save that during an earlier presentation on video-on-demand we had learned that one of the most popular channels was the CCTV channels covering the main commuter routes: so that wives could see how good or bad the flows were -and therefore how late their husbands were likely to be.

Then came our only break from a week of wall-to-wall meetings: a visit to Alcatraz – one of the first wired communities: the prisoners were not allowed radios and had a monitored entertainment channel piped to speakers in their cells.

Suddenly it dawned on me. The obvious “killer application” for broadband in the US was to be able monitor the CCTV cameras in your home while you were away and train and fire the guns to mow down any intruders.

If all government information were to be put on-line what would be the most popular items?

Of course it would vary but the most popular for many, after social networking, would be would be looking up their friends and neighbours and watching the local CCTV cameras, so as to better inform the gossip (friendly or malicious) over their social network. 

I suspect the time has come to stop worrying about 1984 and Big Brother and start worrying about the voyeur next door.

Or should that mean looking forward to a new on-line “community spirit”? 


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