Kent’s digital progression over the next 15 years: MY VISION
In 15 years I would like to see Kent at the forefront of digital communications in the UK, but what does this look like? Based in Tunbridge Wells I’m lucky to have access to fast broadband services, the likes of BT Infinity 2 and Virgin Cable promising speeds of up to 100mbs. But there are still remote villages and in some cases towns, where faster internet connections are desperately needed.
As the digital economy continues to grow, we need faster connection speeds not just for business, but also for recreation and pleasure. With more businesses working remotely and using technology for things such as video conferencing, file sharing and collaborative working, reliable high speed connections are essential. In the creative sector it’s no longer essential to all work in the same serviced offices, hence the downturn in the demand for offices and swathes of town centre properties being converted back to residential, but this means we are even more reliant on digital connectivity.
We’ve made huge advances over the last 15 years, progressing from the painful sound of the 56k dial-up modem in the 2000’s. Generation Z won’t have lived in a time without the internet and all resultant connected devices – sadly I am old enough to remember such a time.
In 2007 I left the BBC to help setup Kent TV on behalf of Kent County Council. Working with a small team of Video Journalists we produced short films about Kent, and our medium to share content was online TV. We launched six weeks before BBC iPlayer, but the phenomenon of watching online content was slow to take-off and in 2010 the pilot came to an end.
Seven years later and the introduction of local TV licenses will enable the KM Group to deliver local video content online – but with the growth of online services such as YouView, combing iPlayer, 4OD, ITV Hub, My5 and more, and the new boys on the scene Amazon, Netflix, consumers are demanding more bandwidth for the ones and zeros being pumped into their homes.
Forward planning with new housing developments, new business infrastructure and the replacement of existing copper ADSL lines with fatter pipes is essential, or perhaps a faster, more efficient means of transmitting and receiving data can be developed?
TRAINING & BUSINESS SUPPORT
As a county we need to continue to develop a strong talent base of digital creators; websites, apps, video, animation, virtual reality. Education is key to this as universities and colleges continue to develop young minds, and crucially to work with businesses in Kent to nurture this young talent, create jobs and grow the local economy.
While training is crucial so is nurturing digital businesses. I know of two centres helping small businesses to do this, in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. The Business Terrace in Maidstone opened just over a year ago and is facilitated by Maidstone Borough Council. With small serviced offices to rent and hot desks to hire by the day, it’s already attracted a wealth of digital businesses to the entrerprise. And in West Kent in Tunbridge Wells The House opened at the end of last year, facilitated by a co-operative of private enterprise and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
The digital revolution across the public sector is helping to make council services more efficient. With falling revenue in the public purse, making every penny count is key. If there’s an online service that means a member of the public can report a problem – a pothole or broken street light for example – it reduces the cost of staff manning phone lines. Such a service does exist for Kent County Council and it’s great for the public to engage and help tackle problems efficiently.
About the Author -Tom Chown
Founder of Digitom
Tom is passionate about the use of digital video across Kent. Former Deputy Editor of the pioneering Kent TV service for Kent County Council he founded Digitom Ltd, an award winning video and animation production company in Royal Tunbridge Wells, producing digital content for a broad range of public sector and private clients in the UK and further afield.