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Westlake Legal Group > Technology

WATCH: Raab outlines plans for Huawei’s role in UK’s 5G network

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Margot James: The evidence available does not support a total ban on Huawei

Margot James is a former BEIS and DCMS Minister, and was MP for Stourbridge from 2010-2019.

I have visited a number of sites piloting different applications using 5G technology. At the University of Surrey, the use of 5G to enable people with dementia to be cared for at home is showing great potential. The researchers gave me quite an impactful demonstration when they produced a robot powered by 5G performing a few impressive tasks. They asked me if I wanted to see what would happen if they switched the robot back to 4G; when they did so, the robot keeled over and was capable of next to nothing.

The next release of the 5G standard is due in June of this year. The new standard will enable the performance of wired ethernet with the flexibility of wireless communication. Although consumers will benefit from vastly superior connection speeds (5G reacts in a thousandth of a second delivering speeds of hundreds of Mbps per second), the potential for 5G to dramatically improve productivity, and UK competitiveness, is the real prize.

The UK is a leader in the deployment of 5G in a wide variety of applications. The Urban Connected Communities project which links 5G infrastructure between Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Coventry will deploy up to £50 million in public funds to test the potential of 5G in many settings, from the integration of patient care between the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and GPs in Birmingham to the application of 5G to research in to electrification and other aspects of advanced manufacturing at the University of Warwick.

The UK is one of only five countries in the world to allow private networks to deploy 5G. Ocado already has a private network in which many warehousing and distribution functions have been automated and are now staffed by robots, connected to each other by 5G.

5G is a base technology that will enable many applications such as biometric authentication, machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), big data, automation and robotics. Robot-enabled remote surgery and driverless vehicles will become a reality only when 5G is widely deployed. This is why 5G is so fundamental to an effective industrial policy; one that can truly deliver greater regional prosperity and the dramatic improvements to UK productivity and competitiveness that need to underpin our post-Brexit economy. 5G will be essential to the automation of parts of the economy, like agriculture, that have been overly dependent on unskilled labour from abroad.

The security of our telecoms infrastructure is vitally important, and the difficult decision over the role of Huawei in the supply chain is about to be made. Given the intensity of US lobbying and the action taken to exclude Huawei by Australia and New Zealand, it would be very difficult for us to do nothing. If doing nothing is not an option, the decision comes down to whether the risk can be managed, or whether the risk justifies an outright ban on Huawei from the deployment of 5G. Of course this would then beg the question what, if anything, to do about the scale of Huawei kit in the existing 4G and fixed networks?

According to Enders Analysis, Huawei has the largest market share in the supply of existing telecoms equipment (28 per cent vs Nokia at 17 per cent and Ericsson at 13 per cent). When it comes to 5G, Huawei has invested more and are between six and twelve months ahead of their rivals as a result. Furthermore, there is a fundamental difference between the nature of the spectrum bands the US market are using to introduce 5G compared with Europe. Ericsson have invested more to meet the spectrum needs of the US market, and Huawei have invested more in the different spectrum bands 5G will be using in the European market.

Anything more than a partial ban – i.e. restricting Huawei equipment to the periphery of the 5G network, as it has been in the current fixed and mobile infrastructure – would have serious negative consequences for our ability to keep up with other countries and maintain our 5G advantage where we have one. A total ban on Huawei can only be justified if there is unequivocal evidence that the risk to our national security is real; and cannot be managed effectively.

For the last ten years the risk has been managed by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC). This centre has enabled close scrutiny of Huawei products and standards with regard to reliability, resilience and security by our National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). Deficiencies have been found recently in the quality of certain Huawei products and engineering processes. The problems identified have been comparable to the sorts of issues that might arise from this level of scrutiny of any companies’ products, and are not consistent with a serious threat to our national security.

From a reading of the public statements put out by different arms of the security services it seems that there is not a clear consensus on the level of risk. Importantly, MI5 do not think that allowing some involvement by Huawei in our telecoms supply chain would jeopardise the sharing of intelligence between Britain and the US.

Close examination of exactly what the US are doing in respect of their clampdown on Huawei is instructive. For a start, the US is not paying a significant price in banning Huawei from the roll out of 5G, as the company has nothing like as significant a share of the US telecoms infrastructure market as it has in the UK. Huawei has been placed on the US Entity list – meaning that US companies must apply for a license in order to sell technology to the company.

The US Government has been subject to intense lobbying efforts from such companies as Intel and Qualcomm, which are trying to get the Department of Commerce to ease the restrictions. These companies have had some success, in that the department has stated that it will continue to issue licences for the sale of technology to Huawei where there is no specific threat to national security.

There would seem to be a difference between the rhetoric coming out of the US and the implementation of policy. There is a degree of risk management going on in practice in the States and we should do likewise in the UK. To effect a total ban on Huawei products in our telecoms supply chain would put our plans to accelerate the pace of full fibre coverage and 5G deployment back by an unacceptable length of time, three to five years. Such a decision could only be justified if the threat to our security were more substantial than would appear to be the case.

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Alan Mak: We had a technological revolution in the 1980s, delivered by a strong leader. We have the same chance now.

Alan Mak is MP for Havant and Founder of the APPG on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To secure the Blue Wall, Conservatives must invest in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Our new voters will judge us on whether we deliver new jobs, rising wages and better infrastructure by making the most of new technologies.

Winning former Labour-held seats in the North, the Midlands and Wales was key to our success in last month’s general election, creating a new “Blue Wall” from Wrexham to Wakefield, Bolsover to Bishop Auckland, and beyond. “Get Brexit Done” and “stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister” were two messages devised by Boris Johnson that cut through with voters, enabling the Conservatives to win seats we had either not held for decades, or never held before at all.

At the next general election (and in local, county and Mayoral elections before then) Corbyn and Brexit will not be the dominant doorstep issues. Instead, we Conservatives have to deliver rising wages, new jobs, better living standards and economic renewal if we are to hold on to our Blue Wall seats.

This will only happen if the economy is growing, new businesses are starting or expanding, and new industries are replacing those that have left or are in decline. The only policy that delivers all these outcomes is investment in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – the new, advanced technologies that are already changing our economy from clean energy and advanced manufacturing to driverless vehicles and precision medicines. Our future electoral success across the Blue Wall will be inextricably linked to driving up productivity, creating new high-wage jobs and bringing dignified work back to communities that feel disaffected by globalisation.

A pro-Leave electorate that has backed another party for so long will need to be reassured that we Conservatives are on their side for the long term, not just whilst Brexit is being delivered. They will be looking to the Conservatives to ensure they are not left behind by the next big technological revolution. As I said in a previous article, this commitment must be a central tenant of Conservatism 4.0 – Conservative ideology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The last time our country went through a technological revolution we had another strong leader with a large electoral mandate. The computing revolution of the 1980s powered Britain to economic success – and political success for Thatcherism. The City of London prospered from the Big Bang, and our economy was transformed into a services-based powerhouse. In the North, Nissan was incentivised to open its first UK factory in Sunderland in 1986 whilst other international car makers would establish bases in Britain – another example of a Conservative government securing the jobs of the future.

Today’s Conservative Government has a similar opportunity – and responsibility – to harness the 4IR for the benefit of communities across the Blue Wall as artificial intelligence, big data and automation transform our economy and society beyond recognition. To keep our majority at future elections, we cannot allow the positive impact of the 4IR to be absent from any region or for its benefits to be inaccessible to any social group.

The 4IR will radically change how we work, regardless of sector or industry. Instead of dockers and miners being at risk of automation, in the near future it will be call centre operators, shop assistants, lorry drivers and factory workers. With a path to electoral victory that increasingly runs through industrial towns, every factory closure or job lost to robots without alternatives emerging, will make a majority harder to retain. As the 4IR accelerates, today’s Conservative Government already recognises that it must act quickly, working through the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to re-industrialise those regions, creating new jobs and more prosperity.

The policy interventions needed to make a success of the 4IR across the Blue Wall will be diverse, ranging from the installation of full-fibre broadband to every home and business to the local retention of business rates. However, three areas of focus should include:

  • Better transport within – and between – Blue Wall towns and cities. Local economies are more productive when people can get to work efficiently within their own town or city, and when travelling around their region, especially using public transport. However, our biggest cities outside London such as Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham are less productive than almost all similar-sized cities in Europe, and less productive than much smaller cities such as Edinburgh, Oxford, and Bristol. Poor transport links are an important factor in dragging down productivity in our regions outside London, and European cities and large towns are often more productive than our own in large part because they have better infrastructure. Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without a light rail or metro system. Manchester and Lyon (France’s second largest city conurbation) have similar-sized tram systems with about 100 stations each, but Marseille (three tram lines) and Lille (two tram lines) have substantially more than Birmingham (one line) and Leeds (no lines). Likewise, trade between Northern towns is hampered by poor inter-city connectivity. One study showed that services from London travel at average speeds of 65-93mph, compared with 20-60mph elsewhere. That includes routes such as Liverpool Central to Chester, which takes 41 minutes to make a 14-mile journey. Meanwhile, passengers travelling from London Paddington to Reading cover a distance more than two-and-a-half times longer in 17 minutes less, at 93mph. Blue Wall towns and cities – and areas around them – need funding to upgrade their bus, tram and train services to make them as good as London’s, with more electrification and smart ticketing. If people cannot move around easily, we will be unable to match skilled workers to new businesses which is key to creating jobs and prosperity in the 4IR.
  • Local 4IR technology adoption funds. Local Enterprise Partnerships need to help Blue Wall businesses adapt to the 4IR. Only by rapidly adopting 4IR technologies and embedding them into everyday business life across every community and region can we ensure that these areas will not fall behind. Every LEP should come up with a regional Industrial Strategy that sets out how that region will embrace the 4IR. The Liverpool City Region 4.0 programme operated by the Liverpool LEP is an example for others to follow. The LCR 4.0 project provides assistance to manufacturing SMEs wishing to adopt new and emerging technologies to improve their productivity and develop new products and services using 4IR technologies. By helping traditional manufacturers upgrade their technology, they enable firms to stay in business and keep their workers employed by becoming more productive.
  • Local political leaders taking responsibility for the 4IR. Councils play a key role in making a success of their communities, from attracting inward investment and funding regeneration to granting planning permission for businesses to expand. The impact of the 4IR needs to be handled strategically, with local government taking a long-term view of local employment patterns as machines replace workers, new businesses spring up in new industries such as 3D printing, and patterns of work change as remote-working enabled by technology increases. Every local council should task one of its Cabinet members with specific responsibility for the 4IR, and create a taskforce of local councillors and officers to devise a pro-active strategy to help their local economy benefit from the 4IR, rather than reacting to changes brought on by technology.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already happening, and it is the defining political and economic issue of the next ten years, just as the financial crisis shaped the last decade. Not only is the 4IR the field on which we must fight the next great battle over the value of free markets at a conceptual level, but it is also the real-world driver of growth which we must harness to deliver rising wages and good jobs.

The 4IR is the latest phase of globalisation, and our task in Government is to manage it better, harness its economic benefits, and avoid some communities behind left behind as it transforms our way of life.


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26 free events coming to the Smithsonian this February

Westlake Legal Group national-mall-with-smithsonians 26 free events coming to the Smithsonian this February Things to Do Features Things to Do the district Technology special events Smithsonian Museums paintings Paint Museums lecture family friendly events Events DC curators Celebration artists Art air and space
© Liberty Photo Art / stock.adobe.com

While Smithsonian museums are known for their exhibitions, featuring work of all kinds by internationally known artists and historical figures, they also tend to offer unique, entertaining events throughout the year for museum-goers who want to go even deeper. And the best part? They are free!

From cooking demonstrations at the National Museum of American History to a film festival celebrating language at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, it’s time to embrace the tourism of your hometown this February with these special events.

National Museum of African American History & Culture

Historically Speaking: Thurgood Marshall—A Conversation Between Spencer Crew and Juan Williams
Monday, Feb. 10, 7-9 p.m.
Acclaimed historian and interim director of NMAAHC Dr. Spencer R. Crew recently released a biography about America’s first supreme court justice, titled Thurgood Marshall: A Life in American History. At this evening event, local news anchor Juan Williams will interview Dr. Crew about his process of chronicling Marshall’s legacy. Plus, Dr. Crew will sell and sign copies of his biography following the lecture.  

District Treasures
Wednesday, Feb. 12, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
In early February, preservation specialists of the museum will gather on the first floor to meet with families one-on-one and provide professional reviews of well-kept treasures and heirlooms. Items available for review include anything from photographs to textiles to larger objects too. Registration is required for this event, as space is limited. 

Engineering STEM Day
Saturday, Feb. 22, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
In honor of National Engineering Week, the museum staff will gather together to highlight the lineage of African American engineers. Guests will discover how African Americans have been influencing the world of engineering for centuries through presentations by NASA engineer and educator Dr. Aprille Ericcson, a book corner and hands-on STEM activities hosted by local organizations. Registration is required for this event, as space is limited. // 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC    

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Workshop Wednesdays
Wednesday of Feb. 5 & Feb. 19, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
The month of February’s two workshop Wednesdays consist of creativity and exploration. On Feb. 5, guests will use viewfinders in Looking for Contours as inspiration for a luminous painting. The second event, It’s Just Hair, will focus on challenging social norms of beauty and acceptance through a discussion on hair as an accessory, not a necessity. Plus, you’ll have the chance to create an accessory of your choice using the provided material. Both events are first come, first serve. 

Film + Discussion: The Reunion of Flags
Saturday, Feb. 29, 6-9:30 p.m.
Come out to the museum to explore the connection between two countries, Eritrea and Ethiopia, in the acclaimed documentary The Reunion of Flags. The documentary explores the nations’ two-decades-long conflict and its resolution from the lens of a younger generation. Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion. // 950 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Chinese New Year Celebration
Saturday, Feb. 1, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Lunar New Year is here! Come celebrate the Year of the Rat with several performances and activities taking place in the courtyard of the American Art Museum. Children of all ages will have fun at this festive affair thanks to an interactive magic show, a traditional lion awakening ceremony and dance, calligraphy demonstrations and more. 

Panel Discussion—A Closer Look at African American Artists in SAAM’s Collection
Saturday, Feb. 8, 6 p.m.
Dive deep into one of the largest collections of work made by African American artists in the world, found only at this museum, with a panel discussion. Throughout the night, artist Allan deSouza, art advised Schwanda Rountree and DC-based art collectors Mel and Juanita Hardy will lead a discussion surrounding some of the most important works in the collection.  

Valentine’s Day Handi-hour Pop-up
Friday, Feb. 14, 5-7 p.m.
Get crafty this Valentine’s Day in the Kogod Courtyard. Adults and children of all ages are welcome to come together for an afternoon of card making, with supplies provided by the museum. Plus, drink specials and snacks will be available for purchase. Registration is recommended, as this event tends to fill up fast. 

Mother Tongue Film Festival
Saturday, Feb. 22, 3 p.m.
This year, SAAM is hosting the annual Mother Tongue Film Festival, which celebrates linguistic and cultural diversity through film. In its fifth year, the festival will showcase films created by directors, producers and writers from across the globe. As screenings continue throughout the day-long event, filmmakers will be available for question and answer sessions. // F Street and Eighth Street NW, Washington, DC


The Renwick Gallery

Curator Gallery Talk: Hearts of our People
Friday, Feb. 21, noon
This February, curators of two esteemed art institutes in Minneapolis and Oklahoma will explore the gallery’s latest exhibition, Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists. The artwork on display, which vary in design and theme, is created by several talented female artists from across the country. // 1661 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC

National Museum of American History 

The Axelrod String Quartet 2019-2020 Saturday Concert Series
Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.
Talented musicians Antonia Stradivari and Nicolo Amati will perform with the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society for two more nights this year. All are welcome to take in the sounds of string instruments in this popular concert series. 

Innovative Lives: Adaptive Skateboarding, WCMX, and Inventing Your Own Path
Wednesday, Feb. 5, 6-8 p.m.
Join Smithsonian staff for the kickoff of its Innovative Lives series, which will dive deep into the lives of change-makers across the globe. This month’s event will feature adaptive skaters Oscar Loreto Jr. and Dan Mancina, as well as WMCX icon Aaron Fotheringham. The three men will share personal stories of how diversity, adaptability and inclusion are necessary in skate and wheelchair motocross culture.  

Cooking Up History: Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking
Friday, Feb. 21, 1-2 p.m.
In 2020, the museum’s resident food historian Dr. Ashley Rose Young is hosting a series of cooking demonstrations that feature a celebrity chef. This February, culinary journalist and activist Toni Tipton-Martin will share recipes from her cookbook Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, and also teach tips for trying them out on your own. // 1300 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

African American Pioneers in Aviation and Space
Saturday, Feb. 8, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Celebrate African American History month by learning about past pioneers in the fields of aviation and space. Throughout the day, guest speakers will share personal tales of triumph, museum staff will lead family-friendly activities and featured tours of the museum will take place. // Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly

The Sun in a New Light
Tuesday, Feb. 11, 8 p.m.
The sun is one of the most fascinating objects in our solar system, and new discoveries surrounding the blazing hot star are constantly being made by experts. This February, physicist Mark Cheung will lead a lecture and discussion surrounding NASA’s most recent discoveries and what they mean for Earth’s future. // National Air and Space Museum: 655 Jefferson Drive, SW, Washington, DC 

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Guatemalan National Day of Marimba
Sunday, Feb. 23, 2-3 p.m.
This February, the Consulate of Guatemala is collaborating with the National Museum of the American Indian to celebrate the marimba—a percussion instrument utilized in the majority of music in Guatemala. The festivities will include several musical performances by marimba groups. // Fourth Street and Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC

Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum

The Beloved Community: MLK Jr. and Activism in Washington, DC

Saturday, Feb. 15, 2-4 p.m.
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for the rights of millions of Americans in our nation’s capital, he used the concept of the “beloved community.” This month, in honor of his memory, Derek Gray of the DC Public Library will give a presentation on Dr. King’s concept, as well as his activism, particularly surrounding his organizing efforts and speeches. 

A Right to the City Author Talk Series: Stephen Danley
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2-4 p.m.
At this author talk lecture, you’ll have the chance to hear from esteemed writer and author Stephen Danley, as he discusses his book, A Neighborhood Politics of Last Resort: Post-Katrina New Orleans. The story follows activists of New Orleans and their efforts to rebuild local communities after a devastating flood took them by surprise. // 1901 Fort Place SE, Washington, DC 

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Maker Morning
Saturday, Feb. 1 & Feb. 29, 10 a.m.
Once a month, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden invites kids of all ages to explore artwork on display in an interactive series. On Feb. 1, join Color of Love, a special Valentine’s Day celebration where children will write a love letter inspired by artist Marcel Duchamp’s soulful paintings. As 2020 is a leap year, the Hirshhorn is hosting Leap Year! Pop-Up!, to celebrate. Kids will explore unique art and games with a museum curator. 

On the Origin of Images: Artist Talk with Clement Cogitore
Wednesday, Feb. 5, 6:30-7:30 p.m. & Saturday, Feb. 8, 2 p.m.
Internationally known French filmmaker Clement Cogitore is making his way to the Hirshhorn to discuss his complex work, combining cinema and contemporary art through feature-length films, videos, installations and photographs. Following the discussion, Cogitore will screen his celebrated short film Les Indes Galantes, which has since been translated to a live production. Later in the same week on Feb. 8, the museum will screen another one of Cogitore’s films, Braguino, which follows the tale of two feuding families living deep in Siberia’s boreal forest. Registration is strongly recommended for both events. // Independence Avenue and Seventh Avenue Street SW, Washington, DC

Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art: The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Gallery Talk: My Iran: Six Women Photographers
Sunday, Feb. 9, noon
How have social and political changes in Iran altered the lives of artist? That question will be answered when several museum curators discuss the Sackler’s exhibit, My Iran, in detail. Plus, there will be a film screening later in the afternoon as part of the Iranian Film Festival. 

Sacred Dedication: A Korean Buddhist Masterpiece
Saturday, Feb. 22, noon
Curator Keith Wilson will gather the community together for an exploration of a 13th-century Buddhist sculpture currently on view at the Sackler. Wilson will discuss what the design—displayed with texts and symbolic objects—symbolizes in the realm of worship. // 1050 Independence Ave. NW, Washington, DC  

National Museum of Natural History

Disease Detectives in a Connected World
Tuesday, Feb. 4, 6:15-8:30 p.m.
At this special event, experts from the DMV area will come together to discuss how diseases can emerge in unexpected places. The three “disease detectives” will dive deep into how the movement of humans, animals and cargo transports pathogens to unique locations, putting populations at risk. // 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC

National Postal Museum

Valentine’s Day Workshop
Saturday, Feb. 8 & Sunday, Feb. 9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Individuals of all ages are invited to the National Postal Museum for a special card-making event. Whether you choose to send a card to your crush or to a loved one, the choice is yours this Valentine’s Day. // Two Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, DC

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WATCH: Johnson 3) “The British public deserve the best possible technology,” declares the PM, regarding Huawei

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

WATCH: Johnson 3) “The British public deserve the best possible technology,” declares the PM, regarding Huawei

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ryan Bourne: The limits of weirdos and misfits

Ryan Bourne holds the R Evan Scharf Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

It is fast becoming one of the most discussed employment advertisements ever. Dominic Cummings’ call for No. 10 job applications from data scientists and software developers, quirky economists and policy experts, and other assorted “weirdos and misfits” has drawn reaction from global public intellectuals, former civil servants, and experience-weary ex-government digital experts.

Now, civil service employment practices, SpAds’ competences, and government project management, are outside my “circle of competence,” as Cummings might say. Without in-house experience, I’ll avoid passing judgment on whether better physics and maths skills or expertise in the economics of auctions might improve Downing Street’s performance. Others who I respect seem positive about his proposals, particularly as it pertains to quantitative skills and institutionalising analysis of uncertainty.

Likewise, some of Cummings’ broad proposals for Civil Service reform seem sensible as an outsider: “red teams” to push back on conventional wisdom; rewards for officials actually seeing through on delivering government projects; redundancy for poorly performing officials; more specialism, less generalism. All have clear rationales, though are easier said than delivered. And some tensions clearly exist between them. Greater longevity for brilliantly specialist civil servants, for example, surely creates an institutional impediment to radically adaptive change.

Given all the ink spilt debating these ideas, however, an obvious point has been missed. Cummings’ ideas here are for personnel and structural changes to a technocracy. For “better” management and people to deliver systems for a large enterprise (the state). They do not tell us anything, per se, about what he perceives to be the correct role of government – of when it should act, what it should do, and why. Yet without knowing what recruits and the civil service will be working on, it’s impossible to assess claims of the supposed “trillions of dollars lying on the sidewalk” from the “low-hanging fruit” of improved government performance.

Yes, yes, we have breadcrumbs signalling towards certain “ends.” This site’s editor thinks Cummings seeks a world of politics as “enterprise association,” harnessing AI, science, big data, cutting-edge communications in pursuit of regional rebalancing, science-led industrial strategies, and value-for-money procurement. Brexit, as Cummings acknowledges, brings necessary major policy change in other areas too, not least the promised immigration system.

But reading Cummings’ blog suggests a more romantic and expansive view of what an effective technocracy can achieve. He places central importance on “people,” reading as if tons of government failures would dissipate, and other projects become viable, if only more brilliant physicists, data scientists, or mathematicians, armed with cutting-edges models of uncertainty and understanding of non-linearities, were in government. Policy failure and other challenges, in other words, are downstream. “Bad management” or “the wrong skills” or “incompetent people” are held up as the root cause of bad government; better rational planners could be transformative.

My central gripe is that I doubt this is true. Government action ultimately reflects a decision to deliver collective action through the political process. And politics causes a range of structural problems that explain government failure, particularly on economics, irrespective of the brilliance of officials and project managers:

  • Political incentives and short-termism: civil servants ultimately work for politicians, and politicians can be myopic and ignorant, while wanting results conducive to re-election or pleasing interest groups. How else to explain prestige projects such as HS2 when other transport projects clearly could deliver better bang for the buck? Or moving from hugging huskies to denouncing “green crap” to meeting Greta within a decade? Or police spending levels with inflexion points at elections? If civil servants come and go, so do Ministers. There have been five transport secretaries alone since 2010. It’s all very well lamenting a lack of error correction in the civil service, but what about politicians continually demanding things with little record of success in their role as local champions (see current debates about high streets and activist government regeneration).
  • Knowledge problem: Data can help inform better policy, of course. But some significant economic problems are complex and intractable, even to the smartest brains or the newest methods. Politicians and planners seek “a solution,” often creating huge unintended consequences. Markets, by being open forums to fulfil individual wants and needs, instead find tailored solutions for different people. Economies are not predictable systems – if they were, then machine learning could make socialism a reality. Even “the best people” or “the best models” can’t forecast the macroeconomy with decent accuracy because “the British economy” is really 66.4 million people and 6 million businesses, each acting relatively freely.
  • Centralisation: Cummings might want to replicate successful private sector innovation. But market-based activity tends to start small and expand when signals like profits or consumer surveys suggest success. The public sector usually doesn’t have these signals. They could be mimicked by experimentation at local level, or hospital level, or school, with best practice spreading organically. That though, means decentralising power and accepting “post-code lotteries,” which governments are reluctant to do. Instead, project failure is met with new money and large-scale solutions. Without profit and loss, and the threat of financial failure, finding the correct “efficient scale” for much government activity is difficult, no matter what modeling or expertise you have.
  • Scope: Government engages in an extraordinarily diverse range of activities. Yes, individual-focused projects, such as the Apollo programme Cummings highlights, can be successful; but healthcare is more complex. Different policy areas often have conflicting objectives too (see the lower VAT rate on domestic fuel vs. policies to make fossil fuels less attractive). Reformers constantly run into Chesterton Fences – not least because no man can account for all of what the state does. Having a framework of what constitutes core activities and why (whether it’s delivering public goods, solving other market failures, redistributing or more) is, therefore, an important prerequisite for the type of management, resources and approach required.
  • Crowd out: government projects or the hiring of more “brilliant people” would suck individuals and resources out of the private sector, where they could benefit society more. It also disincentives individuals and businesses from finding their own solutions to problems, often creating de-facto monopolies less responsive to users/consumers and technological change.

Now, if Cummings is just laser-focused on improving delivery of core functions or projects, necessary Brexit-related change, or solving market failures, then this critique is neutered somewhat. His ideas could well generate improvements to delivery of activities government would be undertaking anyway.
But my fear, reading between the lines, is that these hires reflect an ambition for projects encompassing greater government economic activism. In that case, it’s worth revisiting why governments fail where markets succeed. There are limits to what talented weirdos and misfits can achieve.

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Ben Brittain: Get Brexit Done and innovate like Israel

Ben Brittain is a Policy and Data Analyst for a regional economic institute. 

The Conservatives were gifted their ‘stonking majority’ by deprived constituencies that are far removed from the growth and economic power of London. The UK is a tale of two economic nations – a wealthy and highly productive London and South-East, and everywhere else, where gross value added more resembles former communist states. It was in these former mining and industrial heartlands of the Midlands and the North where working-class people lent their vote to the Conservatives to ‘get Brexit done’.

The challenge for this new government is to make the economy one whole, bridging the productivity and wage gap between London and the periphery towns of city-regions. The government will want to reward the North and Midlands for their support at the polls. But getting Brexit done is only one step. The next is to embark on a long process of economic revival in these regions, drive agglomeration within cities through transport infrastructure and skills investment.

The Government has the opportunity to level-up productivity right across the whole UK. For that, we must not look not to Silicon Valley and seek to replicate it on the Tyne – but instead look to Israel.

Today, Israel is considered an innovation superpower, with more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any other country except the United States. The Israeli success in innovative industries, such as ICT, is based on an R&D-intensive, novel-product-based, export-oriented business model. One that the UK should adopt to create a post-Brexit, R&D-heavy, exporting economy.

Israel is a hot-bed of ground-breaking technology companies such as Waze and the autonomous driving company, Mobileye, which has been snapped up by Intel for $15.3 billion. These large dominant companies are an exporting successes, but large innovative companies have to start somewhere.

Israel’s success is driven by its impressive start-up culture, and this start-up friendly ecosystem is actively fuelling an innovation economy. Israel started more than 10,000 companies between 1999 and 2014, with 2.6 per cent of these start-ups creating revenues of more than $100 million. Their success is down to reform-oriented policy makers driving change in the public sector, embedding innovation, unafraid of the role of the state as a friend to free-markets and individuals that want to start an enterprise.

The UK needs to embed five elements within its future growth framework to drive innovation. These are: support for start-ups; a substantial growth in the training of scientists and engineers; empower research-oriented civic universities and drive commercialisation within universities, expand access to venture capital, and utilise the strength of government and big-data in regional industrial strategies. All of these interact with each other to drive the process from invention to innovation.

The UK has an unrivalled higher education system that is ready to plug-in to regional economies and drive sector specialisations. To achieve this, BEIS should restart the work of the Smart Specialisation Hub and bring it in-house, to further understand how productivity is evolving in regional firms. Businesses are best placed to lead in the identification of new opportunities for growth, and many regions are already developing highly-productive sector clusters, which should not be hindered by central government imposing their own industry preferences. Instead, local industrial strategies should identify current productivity strengths and seek to implement necessary supportive interventions and create the correct ecosystem for their growth.

A culture of people, business and universities fully attuned to research and development is required, as is leveraging long-term private sector commitment. Regions should focus on what they are good at – such as the automotive industry in the West Midlands – prioritise research and innovation investment in a competitive environment, and implement policies that are strategic, based on a shared vision for regional innovation and development (such as the development of UK’s first Tesla-style battery gigafactory in the West Midlands which will build on current agglomeration).

Creating dynamic and innovative clusters in regions previously neglected and cut-off from London’s success will ensure the success of Brexit is the success of Wales, the North and the Midlands. If there are greater opportunities for high-skilled, well-paying work in innovative companies, focused on exporting, catalysed and fuelled by free-ports across the region, in industries such as space, AI, life-sciences, health and clean energy, then London will no longer suck the life out of those regions. More local residents will have better paid jobs, with more disposable income to spend in local high-streets, meaning the physicality of neglected towns in places such as Darlington and Walsall can be overcome.

The nation could be one economic success story; a real One Nation Toryism. To do that the Government will need to get Brexit done and Innovate like Israel.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A look back at 2019, the year of Amazon’s HQ2

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Crystal City is now known as the new home of Amazon HQ2. (Photo by Aaron Spicer)

Right before the start of 2019, tech giant Amazon announced it would add a second headquarters in Northern Virginia, causing both excitement and concern about what the move will do to the region’s economy. 

Now, as we enter into 2020, we take a look back at the progress Amazon has made in the project, the changes Arlington County has implemented and what exactly is going to happen next. 

November 2018

  • Amazon announces the addition of HQ2 in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, bringing with it 25,000 jobs (on top of the more than 8,500 employees already in Virginia) at average salaries of $150,000.
  • Virginia Tech University announces it will build a $1 billion Innovation Campus for grad students on the same day Amazon announced the location of HQ2. 
  • The contractor of the tech mogul’s project is JBG Smith Properties. 

Winter 2019

  • Home sales in Northern Virginia rose 5.4% in December, compared to the same time period in 2017, boosted by a 28% increase year-over-year in Arlington and Alexandria, per the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. The impending arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 is believed to be a big driver of those numbers.

Spring 2019

  • Various public transportation improvement projects come into fruition as a result of the expected influx of people on the roads and transportation system. Projects include adding two-way traffic to Route 1 and the addition of a new east entrance to the Crystal City Metro station, which is now in the concept design phase.
  • Amazon submits its first plans for HQ2 to the Arlington County board for approval in March, 2019. The plans reveal a pair of 22-story buildings at Metropolitan Park that will take up about 2.1 million square feet. Below the buildings, there will be a parking garage, according to the plans. 
  • Arlington County Board approves $23 million in grant money to Amazon, spread across 15 years. 
  • Amazon officially signs the leases of three Crystal City sites: 241 18th Street South, 1800 South Bell Street and 1770 Crystal Drive. 

Summer 2019

  • Virginia Tech decides on Alexandra’s Potomac Yard, which is about 2 miles south of the new headquarters in Crystal City, for the location of its Innovation Campus. The campus is currently in its planning phase. 

Fall 2019

  • The Seattle-based company hosted the first of its Amazon Career Days on Sept. 17, in an attempt to fill the first round of jobs before even breaking ground on HQ2. 

December 2019

  • On Dec. 14, the Arlington County board approved Amazon’s first new construction plan, paving the way for the start of work on two towers in Pentagon City, according to the Washington Business Journal
  • Amazon contributes $20 million to Arlington’s affordable housing loan fund. 
  • Amazon plans to invest close to $14 million in expanding Metropolitan Park, adding 36,000 square feet of open space. 
  • About 400 jobs with HQ2 have been filled. 
  • Here’s a look at the latest developments coming to Arlington as a direct result of the much-anticipated HQ2.

Looking Ahead

  • Construction for the Metropolitan Park portion of the HQ2 project will begin in the middle of 2020, with eventual completion in early 2023. 
  • Eastern entrance to the Crystal City Metro station is in the concept design phase, set to be complete at some point this year. 
  • Traffic patterns will be reconfigured throughout the area, in an effort to improve connectivity between Crystal City and Pentagon City. 
  • Amazon’s 10-acre second phase of new development in Pentagon City at Pen Place is not expected to open until 2025 at the earliest. 

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Roderick Crawford: Corbyn’s ‘free’ broadband would soon became a weapon against freedom of expression online

Roderick Crawford was founder and editor of Parliamentary Brief 1992-2012 and of Telecom Brief/Telecom International in 1995-1998. He currently works on peacemaking in Iraq, Yemen and South Sudan.

The Labour Party’s manifesto commitment to provide free high-speed broadband across the UK has come under sustained criticism. The critique has been focused in the area of economic policy as well as the potential impact on choice for the public.

What has not been recognised is the threat to civil society and liberal democracy from government control of the main conduit of digital communications — control by a would-be government whose leading politicians are ardent supporters of states and a political philosophy hostile to both free media and free speech. There is little doubt that their media policy is intended to change the balance of media coverage from one in which the far-left is on the fringe to one where it is brought centre-stage.

Under Labour’s proposals, its new provider of services, British Broadband Services, would be accountable to a regulator that is run by the owner and controller of that same service. That is far from best practice. It offers no specific guarantees to providers other than public broadcasters, and will review the ‘fitness’ of independent providers — a subjective test if ever there was one.

Corbyn and McDonnell are both, by any standard based on historical UK politics, ideologically shaped and driven by the far-left; both have a long history of support for regimes that stifle or throttle free media and clamp down on free speech and free association. Marxist-Leninist governments do not support a free media once in power; they support the re-education of the public through their meta-narrative and seek to control media as a first priority. As with the Bolsheviks – the offices of government and the telegraph are both to be taken and held.

Would a free media be safe with a single broadband provider run by people whose every political instinct is to control information and use it to influence the public and reshape its consciousness? The Marxist-Leninist belief system is opposed by the free media, when it remembers it, so why would a Marxist-led government seek to secure such a free media — a media that contributes to the ‘false consciousness’ of the public? Would anyone opposing their political aims be fit to provide media services?

There are plenty of reasons and excuses in the current climate for the state to intervene in respect of content provision and providers, from extremism, online grooming, fake news, breaches of data protection, as well as low-tax takes from the tech giants. At the same time, Labour’s media policy is intended to break up the dominance of independent media groups and restrict providers to those who pass a ‘fitness’ test, potentially driving out or taking over many current providers with the purpose of creating a new range of media content that is supportive of the far-left perspective and agenda in order to reshape society and its worldview. Using these opportunities for intervention would put independent providers on the defensive, and together with government control of the broadband network and its electoral mandate for reform, a Labour government would be able to bring radical change to the free media and through it to society.

Control of the gateway to the internet and the main channel for broadcast media’s output puts a major asset into the hands of a government determined on reshaping UK society into one far less free, far less democratic, and far removed from the norms of our current culture. Controlling broadband would allow these policy aims to be achieved through management decisions made outside of Whitehall and away from parliamentary scrutiny; there would potentially be more limited redress through the courts too.

Even if there was no intention to use this control to shape what we see and hear as a society, it puts into the hands of government a means of control that is best left in the hands of the market, subject to regulation by an independent OFCOM. The balance of power between government, regulator, public service providers, and independent media companies would be shifted to one of state dominance.

In consequence, the potential for abuse by government of its market and regulatory dominance would be immense. The temptation to use the additional power this would give government in order to deliver other policies beyond free broadband provision as a 21st Century industrial policy or equaliser of access would be very strong, including that of delivering Labour’s media policy. Of course, it would not be a temptation for a Marxist-Leninist – it is central to their modus operandi to dominate information and public conversation as far as possible.

In political crises in states where the government can control broadband, it is switched on and off to control public access to information, to social media and to hamper the organisation of opposition to the government; would a Corbyn government refrain from such use of this control in a crisis they faced? And if broadband was free, what complaint can people really have: government provides and government takes away.

The centrality of this policy for Labour is clear from Corbyn’s presentation of the policy as the 21st Century equivalent of the introduction of the NHS. Strange that he should connect the apparently gimmicky free-broadband policy with Attlee’s greatest legacy. Politically the NHS pulls politics in the UK to the left; it is this political effect that the Left is looking to replicate through free broadband, but this time to directly rather than indirectly influence political culture in the UK. The policy is not about investment in infrastructure and equalising access, but about a revolution in content to shape minds and our collective political culture. It is an intentional policy of taking control of information and news and shifting UK public opinion to the left through that control. Far from being free, the price would be a free media and a free society.

This policy represents the most significant threat to freedom of speech and freedom of the media, and thus to civil society as it is understood in the West, since the end of the Cold War; it says more about the true intentions of a would-be Corbyn-McDonnell government than anything else.

Given the Marxist leanings of the Labour Party’s current leadership and of its key advisers and supporters, it would be a fundamental mistake to allow this bid for control of a central pillar of our free society to go unchallenged. Now is the time to do so — after the election it may be too late.

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