The recent BBC series on Tolstoy's War and Peace was an interesting adaption. It explored the various undercurrents still in play today. It also provided a subliminal backdrop to the PR man's achievement of his preferred date, in the middle of the European Championships and prior to the pivotal NATO Summit, in Warsaw, in July. But we are in a game of two halves, so, is Cameron approaching his Borodino moment?  

 

Can the John Milton Brigade be decisively defeated and consigned to the pit or shall it take the democratically elected European Parliament to see them off finally by 2017 with a war of political attrition? Consequently, it was no surprise that on the vary day Donald Tusk circulated the "New Settlement" proposal, the US Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter announced, before his official Defence budget submission was presented to Congress, the Quadrupling of US defence expenditure in Europe from 2017: the signal sent is unmistakable: "if the Brits desert you - America won't".

Clearly the JMB are still in denial over the lesson of Suez and Grenada as NATO seeks to address and bolster the military concord comprising the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Dmitry Medvedev warns of the dangers of a "New Cold War". Only a rampant Russia not migration or ISIL represents the true potential existential threat to UK National Security - we all know this. The PR man claims to be a late convert to National Security but given the US economic security outlook is based on Shale Oil and Electric Vehicles, and Russia appears to be seeking preference shares in Saudi Aramco - what is Cameron's response?

Tragically, the nation shall divide on generational lines and business on small verses medium and large scale enterprises.

However, it also came as no surprise that Margret Thatcher's former political secretary, John Whittingdale, now our leader at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which recently acquired the Government Data Protection Portfolio in order to implement the agreed December EU Data Protection reforms came out for leaving Europe.  A necessary tragedy? Perhaps, for John, who is definitely no political maverick shall fulfill his Cabinet Duty regarding Data Protection legislation. He shall also be needed for the healing process in the reconciliation phase. Having studied the reports he has mainly authored from the Select Committee, he like Ed Richards, Sharon Whites predecessor at OFCOM, is a fair man but infiltration is a dangerous political game. What of Ed Vaizey's position though? Leadership and who does the actual leading does matter!

The same sense of fair play cannot be said of Colette Bowe (the former OFCOM Chair, now in banking oversight), given last week's release of further cabinet papers from the National Archives (which incidentally should have been released at the New Year) that highlight Bowe's role in leaking the Solicitor General's letter (on her own initiative?) when she was Trade Department Press Officer, to bring down her boss Leon Britten and Michael Heseltine. Bowe then had to be protected by the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord Armstrong [who has a starring role in the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill] to hold the government together. So, what expos‚ material shall be leaked in the run up to decision day? Indeed, what is deemed so damaging that it could not be released according to tradition at the New Year?  Anyhow, Bowe, putting it politely, is now a marked political target having just been burned by someone, somewhere.  And here I was of the opinion that Bowe was merely, to use a Cold War phrase: an instrument of the imperial hypocrisy!

In January various further 5G Road Maps from such as AT&T and R&S were proposed. 

But observe the further undercurrents as we approached Barcelona week that emanated from Tim Cook, who echoing Tim Wu's "The Master Switch" language launched a front and centre attack on the political establishment in the US regarding the iPhone and Net Neutrality. Shall it go all the way to the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution or can a legal accommodation be reached between the NSA and FBI?  Readers should reacquaint themselves with my "IPv6 - and the Communications Capability Gap Program" blog for the relevant issues. (It appears that the FBI have botched it legally now that it transpires that they had 12 previous goes at getting Apple to access other iPhones). This episode comes on the back of India stuffing Facebook over allegedly neo-colonialist doctrines concerning Net Neutrality but can Facebook push back? 

Sadly, the JMB and the Authoritarian State politicians in then the UK and OFCOM just don't get the concept of the distinction between an Open Internet and Net Neutrality nor the distinction between "freedom from" and "freedom to". The all pervasiveness of the Internet and the Dilemmas it accrues is universally acknowledged but Net Neutrality and the political and technological forces and market forces (investment, skills, competition, innovation, entrepreneurship and regulation (standards))  it has unleashed shall for sure put an end to many a vision of a sovereign state. We have seen nothing as of yet to what it is going to beget for future generations. 


 

Inevitably, we shall be deluged by much empty rhetoric from politicians about the future in the forthcoming months, though we as scientists and engineers know that it is technology and people which truly shapes the future not politicians. Therefore I suspect that it is with regard to the Chancellors Eight Great Technologies that we need to look to address and determine the future prospects of the UK. Thankfully in this respect the HoC Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee, Chaired by Nicola Blackwood, intends to critique the merits of each.  

The S&T SC began first with the UK Science Budget report published in November (their Figure 4 on Academia/ industry links cited from the Dowling Report is a masterpiece in exposition). This report begins by stating that "The United Kingdom is a science superpower. In terms of both quality and productivity, our research base "punches above its weight", setting a worldwide benchmark for excellence. Numerous witnesses in our inquiry provided evidence of this, including Innovate UK: The strength of our globally respected research base is an unparalleled strategic asset for the UK and we must continue to invest in it. With 0.9% of the world's population, and 3.2% of its R&D spend, we produce 15.9% of its most important research output. The UK is home to 4 of the top 6 universities in the world. The output of this engine of new knowledge discovery is a constant source of potential commercial advantage.

Which needs to be reconciled with its main conclusion which states?

"The UK has fallen behind its competitors in terms of total R&D investment and this will put UK competitiveness, productivity and high-value jobs at risk if it is not reversed. We recommend that the Government produce a long term 'roadmap' for increasing public and private R&D investment in the UK to 3% of GDP. This would not only provide focus and accountability for public sector R&D investment but also send an important signal about the long term stability and sustainability of our science and innovation ecosystem, supercharging private sector R&D investment from UK industry, charities and overseas investors alike. Defence being of course 2% and Overseas Aid 0.7% or 20p and 7p for every œ10 of GDP.

The S&T SC published its third report on the merits of its purview over the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill on the 1st February. Underpinning their critique therein of the Draft IP Bill Report is their forth report on the Big Data Dilemma which has clearly weighted heavily on their deliberations published on the 12th February. Interesting sequencing given that Lord Murphy's Joint Select committee as also just published its Report on the Draft IP Bill on 11th February. As Lord Murphy's remit extends to cover a Report consisting of 198 Pages, Oral Evidence 830 pages and Written Evidence 1532 pages, readers shall please bear with me as I mine this data for genuine nuggets but shall it be needed to be enacted before the Referendum or by the end of the year when the sunset clause kicks in?

Instead, I would prefer to begin next with an in-depth look at the Big Data Dilemma Report and Data Protection first in a separate Blog. To gauge the flavour of this subject consider the following: 

"Big data is a UK success story; the Science and Technology Committee publish report and note that 58,000 jobs could be created and œ216bn contributed to our economy (2.3% of GDP) over a five-year period. But the Committee warns that existing data is nowhere near fully exploited - companies are analysing just 12% of their data, and if 'data-phobe' businesses made good use of their data they could increase UK productivity by 3%. The Government can also do more to make its databases 'open' and to share them with businesses, and across Government departments to improve and develop new public services. A big data revolution will need action, the Committee warns, on digital skills and infrastructure, and also on people being able to give their informed consent for how their personal data is used."  I agree they go onto state: the failure of the 'care.data' initiative, for sharing patients' health data, shows that patients' consent cannot be taken for granted. The Government cannot afford a second failure from a re-launched scheme, the Committee warn.

Nicola Blackwood MP, Chair of the Committee, goes on to state:"The UK is a world leader in big data research across many disciplines and in our Tech sector. But urgent action on the digital skills crisis is needed if the country is to take full advantage of our well-placed position in this sector." 


 

The main recommendation by the Committee is that "the Government should establish a 'Council of Data Ethics' within the Alan Turing Institute as a means of addressing the growing legal and ethical challenges associated with balancing privacy, anonymisation, security and public benefit. Establishing such a Council, with appropriate terms of reference, will provide the clarity, stability and direction which has so far been lacking from the European debate on data protection issues"  Quite!

The Committee urges the Government to introduce a criminal penalty for serious data protection breaches and roll out the Kitemark developed by the Information Commissioner identifying good data practice. 

Further developments still to be pursued fall into Ed's lap. 

Unlike in the communications field I am in firm agreement with Nicola and the rest of the committee that in the Big Data services field the UK is indeed a leading player but the consequences for Leaving the EU come the TTIP are? They are currently conducting their next Inquiry into UK Satellite Technology.

Predictable there is nothing stated in all these reports regarding our place subject to the outcome of the Referendum. 

Similarly, the OFCOM Communications Review, pulled its punches on BT. True to form Sharon has produced a holding position with issues still open to debate and importantly there is no mention of the Referendum or its consequences either way in all the released OFCOM documents. 

Instead of seeking comfort in a UK consultancy report to hide behind they have opted to hide behind  the German WIK Consult, who provide the International Case Studies on, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden in there document entitled Approaches to risky bottleneck assets.  

Predictably  the US does not rate a mention in any of the documents searched. As does the RSPG.  BEREC get a mention though. As for Spectrum Monitoring or Spectrum Sharing? White Space - yes but?

I really should have a further bone to pick with OFCOM over the WRC-15 documents release, but I shall let this go as all the reader needs to focus on is the RSPG webcast from 3rd February on "EU High Level Dialogue on Spectrum Related Issues". [ For the record OFCOM released overheads of their in-house WRC-15 meeting on of the 18th December together with their WRC-15 Final Positions document from 29th October after 27th January blog posting - possible for the RSPG meeting?] I shall return to the OFCOMs dissent from the European Common Proposals [ECPs] later as these do matter.

In the final analysis, come referendum day, as in the seventies people shall be fed propaganda by both sides of the argument, but to me it comes down to a simple choice, which is not to remain, or to leave or indeed the road to Ever Closer Union of the Peoples it is binary decision between: war or peace. 

Barry McKeown

26rd February 2016