Saturday, June 27, 2009

£20 million down same old drain

Hope you caught the announcement this week on boosting e-learning. My worst fears about Digital Britain are coming true. Hot on the heels of the retro Digital Britain day and visionless report, we have the first major act and it’s the same old establishment rot.

The Open Learning Innovation fund will team up established laggards with large US corporations to fritter away yet more of your money. Have they learnt nothing from BBC Jam, UKUniversities, NHSU etc etc. Having already poured well over £100 million into these disasters, the powers that be are determined to burn even more of our money.

And it gets worse. It will be chaired by Dame Lynne Brindley, the CEO of the British Library. So the future of innovation in e-learning will be in the hands of a librarian! Don’t worry though, Microsoft are also on the board (yikes!)....and the British Council (why?). Then there’s the good old BBC in as advisors. So BBC Jam has been quietly buried. The very people who frittered away tens of millions in a failed attempt to produce content (while destroying the market) are seen as the best of breed advisors. You couldn’t have gathered a more useless, backward looking bunch of laggards if you tried.


Rob said...

"You couldn’t have gathered a more useless, backward looking bunch of laggards if you tried." You should get off the fence, and say what you really think, Donald...
I was intrigued by your dismissal of the CEO of the British Library as being useless because she's a librarian. I've not come across "librarian" as a term of abuse before. The BL is currently doing a lot in the field of digitization, opening up access to a much broader public etc. Digital Britain might be a white elephant, but there are worse people to have on board, I'd say.

Donald Clark said...

Hi Rob
We're talking about key decision making in the future of Digital Britain. This useless bunch have already squandered millions, why hand them more.

Lynee Brindley is not qualified for this job as she is openly hostile towards 'popular culture'. Her experience is wholly in the field of books and journals online. This is not the area where the future is being forged. It's the passive, world of web 1.0, whereas the action is in web 2.0 and 3.0.

It's a clique of establishment figures who have done little in the way of innovation and don't really understand many of the leading-edge technologies or social issues.

As for 'librarians' see my previous posts - just search for 'library'!

Rob said...

You know far more about this than I do, so I defer to your knowledge. I didn't know anything about Lynne Brindley, so I ferreted around, and discovered that in the (possibly very conservative) world of the librarian, she seems to be considered something of an iconoclast. This article seems to suggest she is at least aware of the need to change the outlook of the library. I'm sure the general tenor of your comments about Digital Britain is right, and I too can't see why Ms Lane-Fox gets to be on the team, but Lynne Brindley might just turn out to be an ally.

Donald Clark said...

The problem, I think, is one of leadership. The Digital Future needs to be shaped by people who understand commerce. People like Lynne simply get huge budgets and spend them.

The British Library is hardly at the leading edge of the digital world. It's a minor player archiving the analogue past. The internet is moving fast and opening up wonderful opportunities in learning. There are plenty of experts in this field who have experience and knowledge way beyond Lynne's 100% librarian background. Initiatives like this make us look foolish in the larger world, while Microsoft, Apple, Sun etc simply mop up the funds.

Lynne is also openly hostile to consumerism, the private sector and newer media such as games etc.

Harold Jarche said...

This reminds of the Canadian Council on Learning. A budget of $85M, several years of useless reports, and then shutting down next week due to lack of funding. They couldn't even figure out a business model beyond 100%government subsidies.

Rob said...

That's told me then... Fair enough- as I say, I defer to your superior knowledge. Not sure about the reference to consumerism - that's automatically a good thing is it?

Anonymous said...

If the digital future is going to be shaped by commerce (just like the web itself, email, instant messaging, peer-to-peer file distribution all were?) then surely funding commercial companies to meet the needs of the public sector is precisely what the Government should be doing?