If you combine Staffordshire’s recent commitment to provide ” Superfast Broadband ” with it’s prowess in the use of social media then I think the seeds of achieving the label of ” Silicon Staffordshire ” are there.
What is most important is that at the highest level within Staffordshire County Council there is the belief that this CAN be achieved.
Staffordshire IS putting it’s money where it’s mouth is; walking the walk not just talking the talk – both in broadband and in social media.
Staffordshire Police’s ACTUAL use of social media to communicate with people is a great example:
Twitter ( particularly ), Facebook, YouTube and eBay ( to sell seized stolen goods !! ) are all being used to great effect.
When I visited Staffordshire County Council’s office’s recently I noticed the Cisco phones on the desks of the ( very smart looking ) receptionists.
As I happen to have spent much of my life working with Cisco I immediately realised that here was a Council that put the correct Information Technology Strategy above short term, price driven solutions.
A Google search revealed this article:
on ” sharing networks ” – something I believe in passionately. CIO Sander Kristel said:
” Staffordshire county council is making good progress towards integration with health partners within a shared network infrastructure. Chief Information Officer Sander Kristel expects its emerging Public Service Network ( PSN ) to save the council £10m.
He believes true shared services may only be achieved through sharing a network infrastructure. “To provide better services to the public it is necessary for us to work much more closely with others,” he says. “To do that it is best to share network infrastructure where it is much easier to share data securely.”
Kristel describes the move to a shared network infrastructure as partly opportunistic. “Our current network contracts were up for renewal, our telephony systems needed replacing and some of the other partners in Staffordshire had similar timelines,” he says.
“We have taken a very pragmatic approach, as the requirements of the PSN were not available when we went ahead with it. However, our supplier Kcom is part of the national PSN group.” The contract is valued at £23m.
Working across multiple public sector agencies, the network has to comply with multiple standards including those for N3 and GCSx, but Kristel is confident that the PSN will be closely aligned to those standards.
Staffordshire is bundling the shared network core into BT exchanges at the moment. “Traditionally local authorities have put comms hubs into their own building, but for partners to trust the PSN we found it necessary to put it in BT exchanges.” At the network edge it is rolling out fibre and also quite a lot of copper, in a pragmatic attempt to create a flexible infrastructure.
The council is also putting in Cisco telephony and contact centre technology, which it plans to share. “The idea is the customer should not really need to understand who does what and where,” Kristel says.
He already has an agreement with South Staffordshire Health that it will join the network, and says: “I understand from the Cabinet Office that we will be one of the first in England who will share with health partners We’re also having conversations with Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.”
He describes the process of setting up the shared network infrastructure as less complex than first expected: “We share the costs equally and the county council charges a very minimal administration fee to manage the contract.”
I have not met Sander but there are a number of key views expressed in the above article and in this one
that let me know that Staffordshire is on the right course. Just a few quotes from the above article:
” Integration is a term Kristel uses a great deal and it clearly describes the vision he and the authority have of how to ensure residents get the quality of service they deserve in return for being taxpayers.”
” Staffordshire is almost a pioneer of the public sector network model now being demanded by the Cabinet Office in Whitehall. “
“We have taken a pragmatic approach, opting for copper not fibre optic. Copper is easier to deploy at smaller sites and we will rationalise our estate again soon; why dig a trench into these buildings?” he asks.
“The network is step one. We can provide services almost like a cloud so that organisations can run their email or document management over it,” he says.
” The network is just one of a range of cost-saving projects Kristel has led at Staffordshire.
A move to Citrix thin client desktop applications on HP hardware gives the authority’s new HQ a desk-to-staff ratio of 7:10, making the building seem like a bank rather than a council office.
Voice over IP has been added and videoconferencing is on the way.
The authority is proud of its new HQ and screens at reception tell you it is saving the council £250,000 a year. Virtualisation has reduced Staffordshire’s datacentre fleet to two and each datacentre has just three racks in it.
Using the new PSN disaster recovery facilities via a reciprocal deal with a neighbouring authority is also being considered.”
” Influence of IT
While Kristel does not have a direct line to the CEO — “I report to the CFO. I used to report to the previous chief executive, but this very much depends on your chief executive” — he is on the wider leadership team and says IT is very much part of the big picture in Staffordshire.
“You have a lot more influence and early warning of what is going to change in the authority,” he says.
Early warning is the most important thing as the European procurement process can take up to a year. ”
I have italicised some of the key words and phrases that I believe should be taken forward into the next phase of broadband and social media development.
Becoming a ” Silicon Valley ” in the U.K. is not a simple process. This video
titled ” The Secret History of Silicon Valley ” explains some of the historical factors ( beginning in World War 2 ) that led to Silicon Valley becoming the start-up powerhouse that it is today.
That is not to say that it cannot be done though. It WILL require a number of challenging pieces of a jigsaw to be put in place.
At the end of this video interview with Marc Andreesson ( founder of Netscape and now a Silicon Valley VC ) he explains what he thinks needs to be put in place to recreate another Silicon Valley:
There are other articles that I have read that further help to understand the components required.