As the Labour Party conference puts away it’s bucket and spade and departs Brighton and the south coast it was the ebb and flow of opinions about the perceived North/South divide which struck me most about this year’s seaside gathering.
Ed Balls began the week questioning whether funds for the HS2 rail link could be better spent elsewhere on housing and Harriet Harmon harped on about the need for a cost benefit analysis on the super-fast, super-costly project. Meanwhile, Maria Eagle reinforced Labour’s commitment to the scheme. But they have all got it wrong? Narrowing the wealth gap and closing the North/South divide is not a really a physical or geographical challenge. It is technology which will make the difference and close these so-called economic gaps – not billions of pounds on rolling stock. The way to connect the country rests in the cloud – and I don’t mean more internal flights.
Various technologies have come and gone in the past decade. Many arrived all shiny and new and full of promise only to run out of steam and be overtaken by other more effective technologies. Big players such as Apple, Microsoft and IBM have famously turned their tanker around in mid-ocean to meet the future. In the end the technology which wins through is the one we can live WITH and not have to think too hard about why or how it works or how it does what it does until it becomes a technology we cannot live WITHOUT. This is why the cloud has prevailed. It is the future we are all inventing it for our businesses. Its power and the benefits it brings are changing the way we all do business.
First there was the Internet. It opened the floodgates and the deluge of data descended. Now the cloud has given us all a place to store and file that data – a place to manage our information and run our businesses from almost anywhere on the planet. The cloud is the most important super-fast link which politicians and decision makers should be backing.
Of course, the real benefit of the cloud is the savings it brings to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Which brings us back to Labour’s internal tussle over where to spend money. We no longer need to live and work in our offices. More and more we can work almost anywhere and at different times. So, if we remove the need for geography we remove the need to worry about huge parts of the perceived North/South divide.
In Internet and the cloud have had as similar and seismic affect on the way we all live and work as the railways did for the Victorians. HS2 – a railway – is a notion which belongs to Victorian England. I am not suggesting it does not have its benefits or that it may create a valuable psychological glue between the two halves but perhaps it is time we we moved on – virtually rather than physically. Technology allows someone in the wild and windswept wastes of north Yorkshire of Sunderland (both rather wonderful places to live) to work just as effectively for a business in Kent or Surrey of even scary London. Data storage and data sharing is blind to geography. And who wants to be forced to unsticks and move north or south if you can do the job and stay put.
Transputec has made some big decisions in the past few weeks. We are practicing what we preach. We have taken a long hard look at what we should be providing our customers. It’s ironic that so many technology companies can be conservative with a small ‘c’. Not Transputec. We are determined to stay ahead of the future and – as our company logo says – invent it.