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Bold broadband moves

Read time 2min 40sec

One of the reasons I`m so optimistic for the future of the Welsh economy is the approach which the National Assembly for Wales is taking to encourage telcos to invest in the country`s communications infrastructure.

A key figure in this scene is Andrew Davies, minister for Economic Development and ICT in the Welsh Assembly government cabinet. He has been charged with co-ordinating the Assembly IT strategy, and also sits on the UK government`s joint ministerial committee on the knowledge economy.

Of special interest to me, of course, is the work Davies is doing to promote e-business in all its manifestations in Wales, and to drive up the reach and depth of access to broadband Internet connections.

The Welsh Assembly government is now spearheading numerous initiatives under Davies` direction, with the aim of improving the country`s communications infrastructure in general, and to ramp up the level of IT skills in both business and civil sectors, while also doing what it can to see that broadband access increases apace.

Right now, it seems playing it safe may be just as bad, if not the same as playing it stupid.

Basheera Khan, editor, ITWales.com

Davies has become something of a poster boy for these initiatives, which is hardly surprising. With his background in industry, the private sector, and education and training, he seems well suited to a job whose portfolio overlaps considerably into all these areas.

His approach to driving uptake of high speed Internet access, and indeed, the availability of these services, is in my opinion, a great display of nerve and a commitment to doing what`s needed, even if it is not the cheaper alternative.

So, instead of waiting for telcos to decide that Wales is worth the effort of rolling out and upgrading lines and exchanges, Davies is pushing the public sector`s usage of broadband services. The idea is to force a lucrative market for telcos, ensuring their presence in the country, and springboarding off that first step to get the rest of the country online, and to improve access speeds as well.

He`s also spearheaded a scheme which subsidises the installation and/or running of satellite broadband by businesses in rural areas where ADSL is a far-off dream.

All in all, it`s an admirable series of steps in the right direction, even if the average Welsh businessman feels that things are moving too slowly. Davies has come under criticism from some corners for painting too positive a picture of broadband in Wales - but let`s get real and accept that change to a communications infrastructure is rather like the shifting of tectonic plates... it happens so slowly as to be unnoticeable, and then one day, wham! Continental drift.

All in all, it seems that where telecommunications is concerned, it`s the bold decisions which make the most difference; just look at South Korea if you need any further convincing. Right now, it seems playing it safe may be just as bad, if not the same as playing it stupid.

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