There’s a touch of ‘Angela and Dave through the looking glass’ hanging over the proceedings at CeBIT, Germany today. In the run-up to the huge show, German chancellor Angela Merkel, called for a nice, secure European Communications Network that we could run for ourselves - under our own European jurisdiction - and which could be rendered free of US security agency snooping and privacy-busting.
Meanwhile Neelie Kroes, the information commissioner over at the European Commission, has been commending her telecoms policy to the European Parliament. This amounts to a huge endorsement of an ‘open’ Internet as mood music to accompany a great burst of consolidation (if only the competition commissioner would step aside and allow it) and neutrality-busting , and perhaps involving the very US giant corporations who appear to have been complicit in the NSA snooping that Chancellor Merkel so despises.
At first sight there’s a huge problem here. Unless there’s a cunning and hugely complex (and probably unworkable) technical plan in the works, you can’t have both a defensible physical European infrastructure separated from an ‘open’ Internet. An Internet is either ‘open’ or it isn’t.
The same with government cheque-books. The ink Mark Zuckerberg expended writing out the US$19 billion cheque for WhatsApp is barely dry and our Dave (Cameron, the UK prime minister) is making a big thing out of finding some small change skimmed off some other spending committment (no doubt) and offering it up as a contribution to the still-forming ‘Internet of things’ (IoT). That’ll be alright then. White heat of technology, here we come.
According to the hoopla the UK government’s new £45 million in funding will double the investment available to £73 million as UK companies as they forge ahead to research the IoT. No it won’t. That’s just government research funding. In fact there appears to be plenty of funding available for the right people with the right ideas at the right time to develop the IoT and it’s about time the press started differentiating between publicity stunts and real policy change. Clue: the number of noughts on the cheque IS the important thing.
So what are Dave and Angela on about?
The idea is that Britain and Germany could get together with their complementary strengths to carve a better share of the global IT and content industry. Take British software, services, design and (the big one) language and add German engineering and manufacturing smarts and you’re onto a winner.
Perhaps there’s a European election looming?