I've just had arguably one of the highlights of my career this week when I had the honor of representing both my country and company keynoting the Westminster eForum in London. My trip was sponsored by the High Commission of Canada in the UK as well as Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Yup @ruv, Goodwill Ambassador for Cloud Computing, strange I know.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Westminster Forum Projects in the UK, it is the predominant governmental public discussion Forum in Great Britain. It enjoys substantial support and involvement from key stakeholders within UK Parliament, government, regulatory bodies, industry, consumer's organisations and other interested groups. The forums organize senior level seminars on public policy in these sectors. Each Westminster Forum Projects forum is structured to facilitate the formulation of 'best' public policy by providing policy makers and implementers, and those with an interest in the issues, with a sense of the way different stakeholder perspectives interrelate. Usually this is through impartially-framed, inclusive discussion conducted either in public or under the Chatham House Rule. Forum events are frequently the platform for major policy statements from senior Ministers and regulators, opposition spokesmen and leading opinion formers in industry and interest groups. Events regularly receive prominent coverage in the national media and trade press.
During both my keynote and the ensuing Q&A session it became quite clear that the future of Cloud Computing is clearly found within the rise of regionalized cloud providers both from an economic standpoint as well as from a policy, compliance and regulatory one. A reoccurring theme had to do with the impact of geopolitical data governance and privacy as relating to remote cloud based environments. It is also clear that the UK government is fully committed to embracing all aspects of cloud computing with the recent launch of data.gov.uk as a great example. But major issues still remain.
One issue is that of the so called digital divide, something I liken more towards a "information divide" where the urban populations have much greater access to information via better Internet connections than the more rural populations. Like many established economies, the UK suffers from a legacy communications infrastructure which makes modernizing IP networks problematic at best. In direct contrast other areas of the world like South Korea where a significant portion of the population has fibre to their homes are at a distinct advantage when it comes to equipping their populations with latest and greatest cloud based infrastructure, and more importantly applications.
Another one of the points I raised during my keynote is "Information is Power" and faster you can collect, organize, analyze and utilize it -- the more competitive you will be as both an individual and collectively as a country. In my usual fashion I was blunt, the fact is currently many Western Countries are losing this new data centric arms race to places like China. To remain competitive in the 21st century the West will need to embrace this new data/cloud centric world with policies and laws that make working in the places like the UK and beyond less restrictive -- again assuming a certain level of oversight.
Another point I raised was around information technology as the great democratizer . What I mean is we can't always agree on the politics of the various governments around the globe (i.e. The Socialized Capitalism of China), but what we can agree on is that access to information, even information this heavily restricted provides a level of empowerment never seen before and at the end of the day, information wants to be free.