The Appliance of Social Media Science

Stop Press:Mobile phone coverage breakthrough in Shropshire

#shropcamp

Having attended and now reflected on the recent Shropcamp I’m left pondering the issue of not-spots and thin-band. The lack of 3G coverage, wi-fi access and broadband in a rural county the size of Shropshire is a pressing issue and one that needs to be addressed. A national grid for mobile phone coverage would be the ideal solution but it ‘aint happening any time soon. 3G in particular is going to be a concern for projects like Discover Shropshire but there’s enough coverage in key places to allow us to demonstrate proof of concept. And actually I’m increasingly of the mind that hurdles like these will never be broken down until we achieve critical mass behind a consensus to fix them. And that can only be achieved by more and more people demonstrating that new working practices are beneficial and practical rather than left-field or kooky. We’ve all met people who ‘just don’t get it’ but if we wait for them to be converted before we progress we’ll be gathering dust in the starting blocks. There’s probably a strong religious or idealogical analogy to be made there but excuse me if I steer well clear. It’s grass roots activism that will move us forward. social media surgeries and business networking like JellyUK are as vital in sparsely populated counties like Shropshire as they are in the metropolis, perhaps even more so.

If we are to keep up the momentum of Shropcamp the next stage is surely to persuade the policy makers and senior directors of the public sector to attend and see the potential. Hot on our heels is Generation Digital. Digital is their first language and social media their lifeblood. They will demand that we speak to them in terms they understand and on forums of their choosing. If the democratic process is to thrive and survive it needs buy-in from them, so we better start preparing like, right now. I know I’m preaching to the choir here but it’s helpful to not lose sight of what we’ve learned so far. It’s not the tools or the shiny things it’s the outcomes. We have to concentrate on showing positive outcomes. The only way to win converts is to demonstrate the appliance of social media science. One slightly used soap box, anyone?

#shropcamp was organised by Ben Proctor with a little help from his friends and sponsors

Forward Motion

The Devil's Chair

Motion is relative. I was reminded of this on a recent guided walk across the Shropshire Hills in the company of officers from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust . As we stood atop the Stiperstones close to the Devil’s Chair we were regailed by the epic 600 million year + story of Shropshire’s geological journey from what is now the Antarctic region. On that rocky road we’ve accumulated fossilised coral reefs, desert landscapes and tropical sea beds. But standing on the windswept ridge, the only thing that appears to be moving is the rustling grass and the showboating skylarks. But the journey that began all those years ago hasn’t ended. Shropshire is still on the move, albeit imperceptibly. Allow me one more natural analogy before I get to the point. A woodland is alive at this time of the year. Wild garlic covers the ground and trees burst into leaf. But even in winter, a woodland is still on the move. It is a cycle of germination, growth, decay, death and recycling. So, what are we to learn from this? Well, in terms of the woodland, if it aint growin, it’s dying. With respect to geological time, even if you can’t see movement, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. In both respects, nothing is stationary. I reflected on the nature of change in organisations in an earlier blog. Here, I’d like to put forward the case for pre-empting change. Unilateral innovation, if you like. In my new role, I’ve often been challenged by non-techies with the cry “Yes, but how many people actually own a smart phone?”. It’s a fair comment but often masks a resistance to, or fear of new technology. I’m sure you’ve done your research and understand the emerging trends but the analogy I use in this scenario is;

“Imagine someone came to you and said that in 5 years time they would invent the motor car and you responded by saying ‘give me a call in 4 years time and I’ll explore building some roads.’ Would that make sound business sense?” 

I’m keen to explore the use of QR Codes and Microsoft Tags as a suppliment to traditional forms of information delivery. View it as ‘digital’ alongside ‘analogue’. Both forms are free to generate and the apps are free to download. So, why shouldn’t we begin to add codes as a matter of course?  

Local authorities can and should be innovators or at least early adopters. The world has changed but then it always does, doesn’t it?