The motorcycle outriders held the traffic up at Thinford roundabout. Their blue lights cut through the dank morning air. Helicopters hovered above as the threat level was set at high. The limousines with their blacked out windows sped through the empty roads before screeching to a halt outside the Educational Development Centre. The delegates hurried through the open doors flanked by their security people in mirrored glasses and bulging suits. They were making their way to the Digital Durham Summit.
None of this happened except for the summit.
It was my idea to give what could have been an ordinary meeting a sense of gravitas. We needed to meet but not to address every day operational issues. We’d come together to look at the future of the programme. We didn’t need a meeting, we needed a whole day event where all the great and good could come together to talk about the future. We needed a summit.
Tony arranged it. The Digtial Durham Team was there as were the key players from our contractor. Broadband Delivery UK was also represented.
The programme is approaching a hiatus. Our plans are laid out for phases one and two. Coverage in Durham, in terms of properties passed will be in the high ninety per cents. This is great. Take up is growing at an encouraging rate, we are breaking eggs with sticks, all of our ducts are in a row yet we mustn’t forget our original objective: to get superfast broadband to every business, home and community in the County.
However good we may be, or think we may be, we mustn’t lose sight of those properties that have been left behind, potentially. The digital divide may be getting smaller but it still exists. We needed to think about a phase three.
We gathered lots of data. We printed out a lot of maps. We projected information on the walls and poured over the charts to navigate our way across the diminishing divide. We used dots to identify the individual properties within our scopes, colour coded to identify the differing issues that each are facing. Some are getting very little while with others we’re not too sure. Our information only goes down to postcode level. We lack the granularity to get right to the bottom of the issues we face.
Most of what is left was outside the realm of the obvious. New ideas were needed. New solutions needed to be found. Dave, from our contractor, took us through the different technologies that they are working on. There were derivatives of their standard offering and there were other new and exciting ideas, things that there boffins had been working on back in the laboratories. They stretched our minds and teased us with thought of pushing back the bounds of possibility.
We talked about the money, what was still to be invested, what was to be returned and how we would get the best return for the public and their purse and then the summit drew to a close. We left with plans in place to take us ever nearer to our original aim. We just need to put it all into action.