Industry and govt must converge on convergence

Process needs kick-start, says report

The UK must do more if it is to become a world leader in technology convergence, according to report published today.

Intellect, the UK's technology industry trade association, is calling on government and industry to get together to create the right environment, in terms of regulation, policy and infrastructure, to support convergence, its term for the increasingly interconnected worlds of content, networks and devices.

The trade body surveyed the members of its Digital Convergence Council (IDCC), a group of around 50 tech and comms suppliers, asking how ready the UK is to make the transition to a truly digital economy.

Left untended, Intellect predicts the UK will be able to provide consumers with any content on any device, anywhere, by 2012. The problem is that by then, plenty of other countries will be able to do similar things, so it reckons that the process needs a bit of a kick start.

It identified six areas that indicate of how ready the UK is for this digital world: government and regulatory; commercial; infrastructure; content; devices and consumers. Each was scored on a scale of one to ten to reflect how ready that area is now.

Commerce, infrastructure and content all scored over five, but devices ranked bottom of the heap, scoring just 3.7 out of ten. An Intellect spokeswoman explained: "For devices, there is still a lot to do in terms of security, ease of use and interoperability. But we have strong building blocks already in place - especially in content. Even before any official switch-over, 65 per cent of the population has digital TV and two-thirds of radio stations are digital."

The report makes three key recommendations:

  • Industry in general needs to increase the dialogue between companies.
  • The government needs to work with industry to create the right kind of regulatory and legislative environment.
  • Finally, it says regulators must work with each other, particularly to avoid regulatory conflict. The report highlights the creation of Ofcom, "a converged regulator", but adds that so far, it is the only example of this kind of thinking from government.

In a debate following the launch of the report, the recommendations from Intellect were broadly welcomed by industry representatives.

However, Chris Francis from IBM sounded a note of caution: "We need to be careful that we don't regard convergence as just a consumer issue. The edge of the network might be moving with the introduction of RFID tags, for example, but the first thing the consumer wants is not to notice." ®

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