Cloud computing and blue sky thinking in Birmingham

Our future in a digital world was considered by eighty experts who gathered at the Digital World Meeting on 19 October.

Three drivers will dominate our lives and businesses: the democratisation of knowledge, restructuring of the energy landscape, and the need for increased security, according to Michael Overduin, CEO of Science Capital.

Everyone can now be an author with a global audience, thanks to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This is changing human behaviour, even brain structure, with devices enforcing greater personal responsibility and rewarding those with a clear vision. To succeed businesses now need to focus on brand and customer engagement more than ever.

Institutional resistance to change remains a barrier, with Nick Booth, director of Podnosh, inspiring over eighty social media surgeries to form across the world to help companies, public sector and community organisations turn the corner into the brave new world.

Having a unique global identity is key, with Birmingham becoming a leader in social media and entrepreneurial activity. The UK’s investment in digital cities is creating focal points for growing new companies, including around Birmingham Science Park Aston according to CEO David Hardman.

These hubs are stimulating development of creative technologies and financial support, with eight early stage businesses including Pengower and YEP Media lining up for advice from Science Capital’s panel of experts at Squire Sanders.

With Internet access becoming pervasive and the increasing power and ability of low-cost mobile devices, the costs and complexities of transforming an idea into reality is becoming more accessible than ever.

High speed fibre optic broadband is being laid across large swaths of Africa creating an explosive growth of reliable and affordable access to the Internet and the opportunity to provide continuous untethered computing to anyone, anywhere, anytime, according to chief technologist Anton Christodoulou.

The affordability of energy is becoming an issue. Over £2 trillion will be invested on upgrading electric networks globally over the next 30 years. Linking this to computing and communications networks will simplify the offerings to consumers, business and industry, allowing them to save money and gain reliability according to Stephen Goodman, solutions architect at Cisco UK.

Security is the least well developed part of the equation, with individual “militant optimists” creating new ways to share information before “defence organisations” know how to respond. The question was asked, "Who would you rather know everything about you, Google or the Government?"