Blog Type, IPT Blog, Industry Sector, Digital, Fellowship Type, Industry Visits | February 2016
Getting Connected – The Last Mile and Beyond
Digital, radio and satellite communications are long espoused into everyday life in developed economies; internet use barely prompts any thought from users in the UK today. The importance of internet access is reflected by the Prime Minster David Cameron MP’s comment that “Access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be a right: absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain.” Long passed are the difficult days of using switchboards to make telephone calls, or trying to access the internet through a dial-up modem. Smart phones have superseded technology that 15 years ago seemed ground breaking – today anything less than an instant connection seems antiquated.
Given the readiness in which we can connect to the internet or get a telephone connection, it might be counterintuitive to think that the UK’s communications industry is still growing. However, there is still immense work to be done where the UK can act as a world leader in connecting cultures, getting people online and creating digital solutions. We’re talking about the last 5% in the UK, 57% of people worldwide and 90% of less economic developed countries: people who have an internet or telephone connection or still can’t get online.
In the UK, the “last-mile” problem of getting broadband to remote rural areas represents a significant challenge to both government and industry, but more broadly with 57% of the world’s population disconnected, there is a significant opportunity for organisations to help developing nations unlock the next generations of digital entrepreneurs.
The Industry Visit on 22 March 2016 gave parliamentarians the opportunity to see how Inmarsat and Caribou Digital are seeking, in different ways, to help connect people wherever they may be.
Whether in remote Africa or a war torn nation, ground breaking technologies are making it easier to get online, allowing local business people to make online transactions and helping regional journalists to submit their final copy.
Examples demonstrated include the innovative BRCK from Kenya, a handheld digital “hot-spot.” A rugged and dust-proof device that is becoming more widely used in Africa, it allows users to simply “plug-in” and make payments, access information or broadcast from some of the most remote locations across Africa.
Additionally, Inmarsat’s BGAN deployable satellite terminals developed in the UK enable people to access a secure internet connection via satellite from war-torn regions or disasters zones. Whether deliberate or owed to a natural disaster, a region’s communications infrastructure is not immune to stress, for example following an earthquake. Locals, diplomats and reporters all need secure internet connections following incidents like these. Transportable antennae with “point-and-go” technology allow people to connect when existing infrastructure is down, this is of great use to journalists present in conflict zones for example.
With 12 satellites currently in geostationary orbit around the world, Inmarsat is positioned to cover every corner of the globe should one of these devices wish to make a connection.
The importance and efficiency of digital services are widely recognised, with a new digital economy worth billions across the world. Connectivity as an enabler for businesses and everyday life is growing, and will continue to grow as these technologies begin to aid the lives in developing nations and those currently unreachable in the “last-mile” of developed economies. Additionally, technology and innovation in this regard is fostering new prosperity while also securing the future of regions that have historically been barren and desolate. It is therefore vital that the UK remains at the forefront of research and innovation in connecting the world.
This blog was written following an Industry Visit for parliamentarians and business people to Inmarsat HQ, London on 22 March 2016. Industry visits organised by the IPT allow for delegations of parliamentarians to experience and familiarise themselves with businesses first-hand, often providing hands-on opportunities to see the functions, managements and operations of a host of British businesses. To find out more about Industry Visits, please contact: