What I’d like to see under the Christmas Tree from the European ICT industry
Perhaps it’s a function of age but I have noticed that ‘want’ very rarely has any correlation with ‘gets’, most especially when we come to the receiving of Christmas gifts. 2020 has been an especially challenging year, but also a year where the ICT industry has shown both its importance to society at large and one where by and large, actors in the ICT industry have been very successful economically. ICT has been at the forefront of keeping us working, providing some of the infrastructure to support controlling the spread of Covid-19 and shine a light toward the next stage of an everything connected industrialisation, Industry 4.0(1). The people of Europe, through our various governments have also reiterated the strategic importance of ICT, not least by reinforcing vendor choices. This gives our industry, rightly, clout and credibility.
With such great power of course comes a responsibility, which leads to some humble requests on the Christmas front:
The end of designed obsolescence: It’s a shame that my trusty iPhone7 is purposely being made obsolete by Apple who prefer to ‘up sell’ me rather than sell me fair and by an industry that’s become entrapped in selling the newest version of mobile phones. Ultimately Apple are seen as a business who’s design philosophy is not compatible with it’s articulated environmental credo (2) and we in the industry are complicit. The consumer has every right to expect a phone that costs more than £1000 to last at least a decade and have a battery that’s easy to replace. For Christmas the ICT industry can lobby European Legislators toward equipment longevity policies and opt for marketing campaigns focused at ‘your investment and your environment is safe with us’. This would be heard by the consumer. I will give a short shout out of support to Virgin in the UK (and Sky with a colleague), who on replacing a router this month committed to reuse the equipment and gave the consumers (us!) a small discount. Bravo! A step in the right direction.
Terms & Conditions to be no more than 2 pages of A4 (in 12-point font): We all know when we’re being scammed. And if we’re the recipient of 40 pages of closely packed legal gobbledegook(3) I’m certain Facebook, Google, Linked In, Apple and Microsoft to name just a few are actively nudging their customers towards abstaining from reading terms and conditions. Given the credit that our industry has garnered in 2020 it seems sad that we waste a little of that valuable trust purposely obscuring our customers. Since 1979, The Campaign For Plain English (4) has worked to provide easy to read documents and for Christmas it would be great for the European ICT industry to commit all its own and its 3rd party contracts to meeting this standard of plain English. While this could be achieved through legislation, I think it would be positively embraced by customers and have a great positive influence inside the corporation. Atul Gawande’s ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ (5), gives a brilliant example of focusing on the details of minor accidents in the nuclear industry to transform a whole business. When we stop obscuring to our custome’s, I wonder how much power that transparency gives our corporation?
Great at Integration, Verification & Acceptance, be really good at what we need to be really good at: With 5G, Layered Architecture and IOT upon us and our governments mandating a move away from monolithic Chinese technology solutions as an industry we have a renewed duty to be really good at a number of our core industrial activities; most especially integration, verification and acceptance, which allows us to drive and control the speed of new services roll out. For Christmas a review of the competences that are essential to be excellent core in-house functions would be a great start to 2021. Ultimately the winners in 5G will be those operators that can provide novel new services fast to the market and that requires a renewed enthusiasm for the operational and engineering side of the business.
I reiterate, the European ICT industry finishes 2020 with a considerable boost in its social standing. Sure, we’re not doctor’s or nurses but to be effective our health workers and our society needs the ICT industry to succeed. With that credit and our unique place in society (after all we’re here licenced by governments to use a common good for the benefit of the citizens) we have great power and an equivalent dollop of responsibility.
In 2021 we have the potential to leverage our stature to a better place for our customers and all the participants in what is truly a circular economy (6). If now is not the time to act – then when?
If any of the points in this article are interesting, we’re here to listen and help feel free to contact us. Have a great Christmas.