FISP – The background

Numerous organisations have, over the past three decades, contributed to viewpoints on the development of ICT-related topics.  Valuable though these inputs may have been it can be recognised that various short-term agendas have sometimes been evident in partisan positions.

The significant realisation that, in a fully digitalised economy, these topics have become central to future life, work, wealth creation and societal development of all kinds, has led to an urgent need to rethink policy planning and regulation in an altogether more fundamental way.

This [Digital] Economy demands higher levels of connectedness that have never before been available across the entire country.  Failure to attend to citizen and business needs would be catastrophic for the UK and, if not urgently addressed, will lead to decades of under-performing domestic economic activity, a lack of global competitiveness, failures to engender and exploit innovation and a primary cause of significant citizen disaffection.

That may sound alarmist but FISP has resolved to bring together a powerful group of the UK’s finest forward thinkers (its “Advisors”) with acknowledged insights into global digital developments to focus attention on issues which, in our Information Society, are at the heart of economic recovery and societal development.

The formation of FISP was initiated by the UK’s Communications Management Association (CMA) and first announced at the annual CMA conference on 30th May 2012.  FISP has been set up as a company limited by guarantee.

FISP – Principles and Practice

The FISP mission may seem daunting but we have set down some basic principles that will govern the way that we prioritise our work and deliver our outputs.

  1. The Foundation is independent, and free of commercial sponsorship or public grant.
  2. The Foundation is open and transparent in all its dealings.  Advisors are expected to declare any actual or potential conflicts of interest and to refrain from input on those topics.
  3. Apart from publications and open event presentations the work of the Foundation is confidential and internal discussion is subject to ‘Chatham House’ rules.
  4. The Foundation is a “not for profit” organisation. It does attempt to recover its expenses.
  5. The Advisors’ pool is designed to represent wide and diverse expertise across many sectors – technological, economic and societal.  The upper limit of the pool is limited to fifty plus the capacity to recruit up to 10 additional members where knowledge gaps appear during specific research projects or enquiries.  A small, unremunerated secretariat will, with the agreement of the entire membership (qv), provide the Foundation’s direction and govern its central programmes.
  6. The Foundation is technologically and politically neutral.

Disclosure:  Unless otherwise clearly stated, FISP Ltd does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from the views expressed.

FISP – Structure and Funding

FISP consists of three groups: its body of Advisors; a number of “Non-participating Members”; and a small secretariat consisting of two permanent directors and four non-executive directors who, together, are classed as “Participating Members”.  Non-participating Members are expected to contribute to the operations of FISP in terms of providing input to and comment on FISP’s work programme and its policy output.  In return, Non-participating Members are invited to contribute to the running costs of FISP.   Between four and six Non-participating Members are being recruited.  Participating Members – FISP directors – manage the operation, administration and governance of FISP.

FISP – Projects

The Foundation will, in effect, operate as a continuously running select committee with research, consultation, report production, presentations, inputs to governmental consultancy processes and a media focus to achieve appropriate and selective dissemination of policy viewpoints.

Advisors may elect to remain anonymous when contributing to any piece of research or to specific reports.  However, the Foundation will, by default, encourage open and transparent reporting, with Advisors taking responsibility for their views.

The purview of our Information Society Policy work will reach into regulatory matters across any sector that is relevant to the development of a mature digitalised economy.  The work and outputs will not be constrained by current commercial practice or partisan agendas.

Every project will be identified and developed under the leadership of an Advisor selected for expertise and insight into relevant strands.  It is expected that open consultations will enable wider viewpoints to be considered but the resulting outputs will be the responsibility of the Advisors alone.  On extremely contentious topics ‘minority reports’ will be allowed but in general the Foundation will strive for consensus wherever this can be achieved without diluting the force, energy and urgency of the output messages.

FISP – Outreach programmes.

Success will derive from the authority and respect generated by the quality of FISP outputs.  To this end some of the Advisors will be selected for their ability to articulate these viewpoints and messages across various media – including, of course, social (digital) media and blog sites.

The Foundation will develop linkages with other supportive bodies and facilitate knowledge sharing between UK, European and global specialist groups.  Initial examples might include the Federation for Small Business (FSB), International Telecoms User group (INTUG), FTTH Council Europe and the Country Land and Business Association.

Information Society

In choosing to set its mission in the context of the ‘Information Society’ the Foundation intends to signal that its work does not have an exclusively technological focus.

Without diminishing or constraining its remit or outputs the Foundation should not be seen as yet another ‘supply-side’ campaign group but is expected to deliver evidence-informed outcome-based viewpoints from businesses and consumers.

FISP rejects the view that, in this developing [digital] economy, future projections are impossible to substantiate.  FISP’s view is informed by developments in many other societies and cultures.  Whilst these may require translation and adaptation to various UK contexts it is clear that we are not alone.  FISP will, therefore look with a keen eye across the European and global scene to inform the UK economy and identify ways in which demands and outcome expectations can be articulated.

FISP’s wide remit embraces therefore all aspects, benefits and perceived threats of digitilisation and is not constrained by any tag/label associated with fixed or mobile infrastructures.

As this is true of the nation’s ‘plumbing’, so will the same open-mindedness apply to its ‘poetry’ – the services, content, and usages of the underlying infrastructures.  This deep-rooted and vital distinction between Connectivity and Content is a fundamental key to developing a digitally mature economy.

In defining content we will, for example, take the view that it must reflect the significance of user-generation (everything from personal health sensor outputs, social media and everyday video outputs) not looking exclusively to ‘the creative content industry (film, radio, advertising, TV production etc.) but considering how all of these are facilitated to exploit the rapidly growing capabilities of digital ‘apps’, design/manufacturing tools and contributions to environmental sustainability.

FISP will also wish to support those working on initiatives [e.g. GO ON, Assisted Digital and the Tinder Foundation] for the greater take-up up and use of digital facilities and the growth of digital competencies across all sectors of the economy and wider society.  FISP will maintain views that take due regard of the needs of Small, Medium and Micro enterprises (98% of all firms), job-generators and entrepreneurs whilst balancing them with the impacts of larger (often global) organisations.

In terms of developmental thinking FISP will not be constrained by the current structures of markets or their regulation.  Indeed we may find that we may need to address several regulatory bodies where overlaps and conflicting viewpoints need resolution and further development.