Openreach cuts costs by 75% to attract builders to fibre diet

Openreach will be slashing the cost of installing fibre wires in new residential developments of less than 30 plots, as it looks to tempt housing developers onto a fibre diet.

Although it might seem remarkable, house builders are not currently mandated by law to install fibre broadband infrastructure on new premises. Considering the aggressive rhetoric being spouted by the UK Government when it comes to laying future-proofed foundations for the digital economy, it does beggar belief the opportunity to cut corners and ignore fibre is still available to these developers.

The ‘Housing Crisis’ in the UK is one which does attract headlines. The severity of this ‘crisis’ does of course depend on who you are talking to, though in certain regions it is undeniable there is a shortage of properties. All you have to look at the price of a two-bedroom flat in London to understand the pickle some youngsters might be in.

This does present an opportunity for the housing developers to make a profit. During the last quarter, the Office for National Statistics estimated 42,870 new homes were completed, though not all took fibre as default. Around 88% of plots on new builds contracting with Openreach elect fibre, though this number increases to almost 100% for plots of over 30 premises.

However, there are still numerous developers which are not taking fibre as a default position. Openreach suggests 124,000 of the new homes constructed in the UK in 2018 still lack access to ‘superfast’ broadband speeds of 30 Mbps or more. The situation is gradually improving, though there still much work to do.

With this in mind, Openreach is looking to increase the attractiveness of installing fibre connectivity through cutting costs by up-to 75% for multi-dwelling housing developments up to 29 properties.

“Our existing offer already provides huge benefits to both buyers and builders alike, but we wanted to go further and make sure everybody moving into a new build property can enjoy the advantages of Fibre-to-the-Premises broadband,” said Kim Mears, MD of Strategic Infrastructure Development.

“Our new offer provides a low-cost option to housebuilders and we hope it will help encourage the adoption of this future-proof technology across smaller developments so that no-one’s left behind.”

Although internet speeds might seem like an after-thought to some, research from LSE and Imperial College Business School suggests home-owners in London are willing to pay up to 8% above the market value properties in areas offering very fast internet speeds. The benefits of fibre connectivity for housing developers is key, though there are still some who are demonstrating a preference for copper, presenting a problem to the likes of Openreach and Virgin Media; it would be far simpler to connect properties while they are in the construction stages.

The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) concluded connectivity in new builds was not anywhere near the standard it should be, while the FTTH Council Europe estimates also paint a dreary picture. Fibre penetration is as low as 1.5% across the UK, woefully short of other nations such as Latvia (46.9% penetration), Sweden (43.6%) or Spain (43.6%). Even the lethargic Germany manages to beat the UK with 2.3%.

Moving forward, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is set to publish its opinion from a recent consultation into the matter, with the intention of making it mandatory for developers to install gigabit-capable connections to all new build developments in the future. This is a step in the right direction, though it does surprise us it has taken until 2019 for such rules to be considered.

The consultation should result in a change to the rules, though whether this goes as far as some would want remains to be seen. It would also be a fair assumption that these new rules would not be implemented immediately.

Openreach might have to use the financial carrot for a bit longer while the slow-moving cogs of government click into place.

The fourth-round bell has rung and Huawei is still standing in the UK, just

In the UK Supply Chain Review, Huawei is battered and bruised entering the fifth round, but the UK Government still isn’t telling us whether Huawei is going down in the fifth or not.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four this morning, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nicky Morgan said a decision could be made in the autumn, painting a picture with about as much colour as a 1930s TV set.

“I would hope that we could do something by the autumn, but we want to make the right decision and we’ve got to make sure that this is going to be a decision for the long term, making sure we keep all our networks secure,” Morgan said.

In short, Morgan is pretty much in the same position as her predecessor Jeremy Wright; the only thing to report is a further stall to a decision.

It is becoming a bit tedious to constantly be discussing delaying tactics and indecision from the UK Government, but you also have to feel for the telcos. These are companies which are being asked to spend billions on network infrastructure to lead the UK into the digital economy and a secure future, but they are not being helped by the Government.

It is of course important to get this decision right, but sooner or later someone will have to make one. Like everyone else involved with the Huawei saga, Morgan is kicking the can down the road, seemingly hoping someone else will step in and decide, shielding the politician from the court of public opinion. That said, Huawei still remains chipper.

“We welcome the Secretary of State Nicky Morgan’s commitment to the development of world-class digital infrastructure that will help the UK continue to ‘compete and grow in the global economy’,” a Huawei spokesperson said.

“Over the last 18 years, we have helped build the UK’s broadband, 3G and 4G networks and, as independent analysts agree, Huawei can help British operators develop 5G networks that are more secure, more affordable and completed more quickly – helping to keep bills down for consumers and connect rural areas.

“Huawei continues to work with network operators to rollout 5G across Britain and many other countries globally to help improve their economies and we look forward to the UK Government’s decision in the autumn on our future involvement here.”

There are of course numerous distractions for politicians. Brexit is still grabbing headlines, everyone wants to keep BoJo, the new boss, happy, Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn is causing chaos once again and egos need to be stroked on the other side of the Atlantic to ensure a profitable relationship can continue.

The status quo is one of indecision and it is not working. The UK has created a leadership position heading towards the glory lands of the 5G era, but this can only be maintained if work is allowed to progress. And for work to progress, the UK telcos need a firm and absolute decision.

Zed’s dead, but we still don’t know about Huawei.

DCMS calls out Facebook for stretching the truth

Facebook might have thought the worst of the Cambridge Analytica affair was behind it, but the UK Government is questioning whether it was entirely truthful with evidence presented to a parliamentary committee.

In a letter written to Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications, Facebook is being asked to clarify discrepancies between testimonies it gave to the UK’s investigation into the scandal and evidence which was presented to the Security and Exchange Committee’s own investigation. The letter very politely and appropriately asks for clarification on statements made which seem to contradict.

“Further to our letter dated 17 July 2019, we would also like to raise several concerns considering recent charges made against Facebook by the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday 24 July,” the letter reads.

“The SEC Complaint seemingly directly contradicts written and oral evidence we received from Facebook representatives over the course of our enquiry into ‘Disinformation and fake news’ on several points raised below, and we request clarity on these issues.”

The letter itself was penned by Damien Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe and Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. The evidence in question refers to testimonies given to the Committee by CTO Mike Schroepfer, Head of UK Public Policy Rebecca Stimson and VP of Privacy Solutions Lord Richard Allan, during DCMS investigations in 2018.

As Facebook is repairing its reputation across the world, attempting to regain trust and credibility in the eyes of the consumer, the last thing it needs is to be accused of lying to the UK Government.

The letter itself asks for clarity on three areas. Firstly, when Facebook executives were made aware of the abuse from Cambridge Analytica. Secondly, how the misuse of data was handled internally. And finally, communication between senior executives.

On the first point, Schroepfer and Lord Allan insisted the team was only made aware to the abuses through the article which exposed Cambridge Analytica published in the Guardian. That said, evidence presented to the SEC suggests internal concerns and complaints were raised in 2015, months before the article exposed the abuses.

On the continued abuse, Facebook executives suggested Cambridge Analytica had confirmed the deletion of the data in 2016, though it wasn’t until 2018 that executives were made aware the data was still be utilised. Evidence presented to the SEC contradicts these testimonies given to Collins and the other members of the DCMS Committee, as employees had on-going concerns through the intervening years thanks to Cambridge Analytica marketing materials.

Finally, evidence submitted to the Committee by Lord Allan and Stimson suggest CEO Mark Zuckerberg was not made aware of the continued abuse until 2018. However, Schroepfer has stated Zuckerberg was the primary decision maker for any privacy issues. If both statements are to be believed, there has been a systematic failure in dealing with privacy issues and policies. Collins questions why Zuckerberg and senior management were not made aware of these issues until the reports emerged in the press.

Although many assumed Facebook executives were not being entirely truthful when giving evidence, perhaps choosing to hold-back certain snippets of information, it might appear the social media giant has been caught trying to be too clever for its own good.

This is not a good headline for Facebook. It has shown little respect to the UK Government during the Cambridge Analytica saga, and these revelations just rub salt into the wounds. At a time where it is attempting to justify its existence and prove it can be a trustworthy guardian of user’s personal information, this letter shakes the foundations of credibility once again.

This announcement is about further delay – UK Gov on Huawei

The UK Government has made it clear the Supply Chain Review is about more than one company or one country, but the Huawei dilemma is the most important question; and there still is no answer.

Speaking in the House of Commons late Tuesday (22 July), Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright updated the world on the progress of the Supply Chain Review. This Review has seemingly faltered progress towards the digital euphoria, and it appears this statement is nothing more than a delay with some vague promises on security updates.

“This announcement is about further delay,” Wright stated to the House of Commons.

DCMS has not made a decision on Huawei. There is still potential the firm might be banned, Wright stated this during the grilling from MPs.

Huawei’s fate is still far from certain and now the can has been kicked down the road, where even more unknowns are going to be presented. Who will be the new Prime Minister? What will his attitude be towards China? How cosy will he be with President Trump and the US? Who will be the senior politicians running each of the Departments next week?

Unfortunately for DCMS, this Review might well be bigger than one company or country, but it is unavoidable to think about anything else at the moment. Wright has made several other minor announcements on new security frameworks and requirements, policy and legislation updates and efforts to diversify the supply chain. These were all supposed to offer the telcos confidence, but realistically, nothing has changed.

Wright has announced the conclusions which have been drawn from the Supply Chain Review. Firstly, existing networks have been built with commercial attractiveness in mind not cybersecurity. Secondly, policies and legislation are woefully out-of-date. And finally, supply chains are too focused on single suppliers.

To right these wrongs, new security requirements will be placed on any vendor who wishes to contribute to UK communications infrastructure. Ofcom will be granted new powers to enforce new frameworks. There will be more oversight on procurement and Government will be given more opportunity to intervene if necessary. These requirements will be voluntary to start with but will be legislated for as soon as possible.

The message from Wright is that telcos can carry on working with any company it wants to, but without a concrete decision on the fate of Huawei, does this actually mean anything? No, it doesn’t.

Telcos want certainty to invest the billions required to make the 5G era a reality and this is anything but certainty. Scaling up network deployment aggressively still might turn out to be an expensive mistake. There are so few vendors in this segment of the telco ecosystem, the importance of this decision cannot be under-played.

However, there certainly were some welcomed points made during the announcement.

“Risk can transfer from place to place,” Wright commented with regard to enhanced security requirements being applied universally.

The new security framework and on-going assurance testing for equipment, systems and software will be applied to every supplier that wants to be incorporated into the UKs communications infrastructure. This is a refreshing approach, understanding the global nature of supply chains. There is a risk when working with any supplier as their own complex supply chains are vulnerable for intrusion.

Additional requirements will be placed on ‘high risk vendors’, though in escalating the security requirements across the entire ecosystem, the task of managing risk is much more comprehensive. This should, in theory, create a landscape which is much more resilient and secure.

However, you cannot escape the fact this announcement was little more than politely informing the community of another delay. The sense of purgatory will continue for months and the void of investment will be maintained. There have been some minor steps forward, but without a decision on Huawei, uncertainty remains. And uncertainty is one of the biggest enemies of the telco industry.

The UK created a fast-follower position in the 5G era but the inability of politicians to make a decision is simply dragging the UK bag to the chasing peloton of mediocrity.

‘No technical grounds’ to ban Huawei says UK Parliament committee

Chair of the Science and Technology Committee in the UK, Norman Lamb, has stated there is not enough technical evidence to ban Huawei and is demanding a final decision by the end of August.

In a letter written to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Lamb has demanded a conclusion to the Supply Chain Review which has staggered the progress of 5G networks in the UK. Many in the industry have become increasingly frustrated with the state of purgatory which has loomed over the UK telecoms industry, and now the influential Science and Technology Committee has had enough.

“Following my Committee’s recent evidence session, we have concluded that there are no technical grounds for excluding Huawei entirely from the UK’s 5G or other telecommunications networks,” said Lamb.

“The benefits of 5G are clear and the removal of Huawei from the current or future networks could cause significant delays. However, as outlined in the letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, we feel there may well be geopolitical or ethical considerations that the Government need to take into account when deciding whether they should use Huawei’s equipment.”

This is the interesting aspect of the letter to Wright. Lamb is effectively telling DCMS and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to hurry up and make a decision, but not to come to a conclusion too quickly as there are ethical and political considerations to account for. It’s a bit of a mixed message, but a deadline is perhaps overdue for this saga.

The message from Lamb is relatively simple; there are no technical grounds to ban Huawei. Quoting the NSCS’ assumption that 100% secure is impossible, suggesting a lack of concrete evidence against Huawei espionage, reasserting legal obligations placed on telcos to maintain security and pointing towards the international nature of supply chains nowadays are all points made by Lamb to suggest Huawei should be allowed to contribute to network infrastructure.

There are of course concessions make in the letter. Lamb is suggesting Huawei should be excluded from contributing to the network core, while there should also be a mechanism introduced to limit Huawei should it fail on-going competency tests and security assessments, but the message seems to be focused on the idea that Huawei is no more of a security threat than any other organization.

“Supply chains for telecommunications networks have been global and complex,” the letter states. “Many vendors use equipment that has been manufactured in China, so a ban on Huawei equipment would not remove potential Chinese influence from the supply chain.”

Another interesting point raised by Lamb is the legal obligation which has been placed on the telcos to ensure security. Communications infrastructure is a key component to today’s society, but the telcos are the ones who will suffer some of the greatest consequences for poor risk mitigation and due diligence. None of the telcos have raised concerns of an increased security risk from Huawei, and this should be taken as some of the most important evidence when considering the fate of the Chinese vendor.

Ultimately, this is action from the Government. It might kick-off some bickering between the parties (Lamb is a Liberal Democrat) and between departments, but finally someone is forcing DCMS and NSCS into a decision. It seems Lamb is not concerned about the distraction of a party leadership contest or Brexit, he simply wants an answer by the end of August.

Interestingly enough, this letter also forces DCMS into basing the outcome of the Supply Chain Review on politics. By stating there are no technical grounds for a ban, should Wright and his team want to exclude Huawei it will have to be done for another reason. Lamb has asked DCMS to consider the ethical and political weight of a decision, as well as the impact it might have on relationships with allies.

This is now a very difficult decision for DCMS. Lamb has seemingly taken technical considerations off the table; any ban would have to be political.

DCMS launches new initiative to bring elderly into digital

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced the launch of a new initiative to help older and disabled people get digital skills and reap the benefits of the digital era.

The scheme will see digitally savvy older people open their homes up to be kitted out in the latest technologies, before allowing others to visit and learn first-hand from their peers how to make the most of smart technology to control household appliances, book GP appointments online, contact friends and family by video, and shop online. In short, you can get some free kit, but you have to let Edna and Harold from down the road parade around your home.

“We are committed to improving the digital skills of people of all ages and abilities, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of modern technology,” said Minister for Digital, Margot James. “These innovative projects will not only help some of the hardest to reach people live healthier and happier lives but also boost our mission to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business.”

Funded by the Digital Inclusion Innovation Fund, this scheme will initially receive £400,000 and will be championed in rural West Essex by a partnership led by Uttlesford Council for Voluntary Service.

“Organisations across Essex are backing the Digital Boomers which will see older people redesign their relationship using technology to become even more tech confident and retain their independence for longer,” said Clive Emmett, chief executive of Uttlesford Council for Voluntary Service.

“Thanks to the Digital Inclusion Fund, our exciting Living Smart Homes and Digital Buddies pilots will help us rethink how older people use digital to support their health, wellbeing and independence.”

While some might turn their nose up at this idea, it is very easy to forget the older generations need to be taken forward into the digital economy as well. These are people who in all likelihood weren’t forced into the digital mindset through work or society and therefore need all the assistance possible to make sure they feel the benefits.

The UK government has not necessarily shown itself to be the most forward-thinking in the world, but this is an initiative which we quite like the look of.

UK Gov makes bold steps to tackle long-ignored security problem

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have jointly released new guidelines for the manufacture of smart devices, intended to build security into the foundations.

The issue of digital security is one which has been long-running and frequently brushed aside. While it is now generally accepted 100% secure is an impossible ambition, embedding security into the building blocks of every product or service is a way to mitigate as much risk as possible. This idea has also been aired numerous times, with little apparent action, though new Code of Practice aims to correct this oversight.

“From smartwatches to children’s toys, internet-connected devices have positively impacted our lives but it is crucial they have the best possible security to keep us safe from invasions of privacy or cyber-attacks,” said Minister for Digital, Margot James. “The UK is taking the lead globally on product safety and shifting the burden away from consumers having to secure their devices.”

“With the amount of connected devices we all use expanding, this world-leading Code of Practice couldn’t come at a more important time,” said Ian Levy, the NCSC’s Technical Director. “The NCSC is committed to empowering consumers to make informed decisions about security whether they’re buying a smartwatch, kettle or doll. We want retailers to only stock internet-connected devices that meet these principles, so that UK consumers can trust that the technology they bring into their homes will be properly supported throughout its lifetime.”

As it stands, the digital world is not secure. Innovation is progressing at an exciting speed, though advancements in security or even investments in security departments and products, are not keeping pace. The world is currently sleep-walking into a digital environment tailor made for hackers and other nefarious actors to thrive in. These individuals might be in the vast minority, but that does not make the threat any less real.

The new guidelines are as follows:

  1. No default passwords
  2. Implement a vulnerability disclosure policy
  3. Keep software updated
  4. Securely store credentials and security-sensitive data
  5. Communicate securely
  6. Minimise exposed attack surfaces
  7. Ensure software integrity
  8. Ensure that personal data is protected
  9. Make systems resilient to outages
  10. Monitor system telemetry data
  11. Make it easy for users to delete personal data
  12. Make installation and maintenance of devices easy
  13. Validate input data

Should the UK Government and the NCSC be able to nudge manufacturers into maintaining these principles, protections will certainly increase. This is not to say everything will be rosy, but by ensuring security is more than an afterthought in the design and manufacturing process, the right foundations are set.

“This government initiative is exactly what many in the industry have been craving for years,” said John Smith of CA Veracode. “Manufacturers have not really felt any market pressure to improve the security of these devices because consumers still have a lack of understanding of the security implications of IoT devices. Providing concrete guidance to manufacturers while also raising public awareness of these issues can only help address the gap that currently exists. It’s not just about the hardware anymore, it’s about the software behind it, and it’s really encouraging to see that the UK government wake up to the potential vulnerabilities in consumer IoT devices.”

These ideas are not new, more it is promising to see proactive action from the Government. Security experts have long discussed the merit of building security into the foundations of products, for example, Rik Ferguson of Trend Micro has previously suggested an official badge or certification for products which have been designed with the right security protocols and concepts in mind, similar to batteries. People don’t need to know the process of achieving the validation, but a properly audited process can provide peace of mind for the consumer.

However, it is critical the process is embraced by the majority and soon becomes an industry standard. Energy company Centrica has become one of the first to embrace the guidelines with its Hive smart energy devices, while HPE has also committed. This is a good start, and potentially sets the ball rolling for a process which is more official. Right now, the Code of Practice is voluntary.

Security has long been an ignored issue in the industry, mainly because it is incredibly difficult to deal with. If companies were honest with consumers about the threats of the digital economy, many would be turned off from taking more of their lives online. At least there is some positive action to addressing the significant problem of cybersecurity.

Government research suggests digital divide plans might actually be working

When you compare the digital divide to other countries around the world, it looks like nothing more than a minor crack in the UK. That said, it is still there and new research suggests it is getting smaller.

Before you give the mish-mash-of-no-one-wants-jobs Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport too much credit, you have to bear in mind this is research which has been funded and influenced by the department itself. That said, government initiatives do seem to have spurred on the lethargic Openreach/BT into action in the countryside taking the number of households which are able to access superfast broadband across the UK to 95.39%.

“Our rollout of superfast broadband across the UK has been the most challenging infrastructure project in a generation but is one of our greatest successes,” said Minister for Digital, Margot James. “We are reaching thousands more homes and businesses every week, that can now reap the clear and tangible benefits that superfast broadband provides. We are helping to ensure the downfall of the digital divide.”

In terms of closing the digital divide, it is worth reminding ourselves every now and then what this actually means. It is more than simply cat videos streaming faster than a laser pointer on the carpet, but accessibility to education and employment opportunities. With businesses increasingly reliant on the internet for everyday processes such as cloud-based services and infrastructure, connectivity decides whether a company opens up an office in one place or another, or the competitiveness of a regional. Functional companies create jobs, which dominos success throughout the local economy.

The initiative was first launched 2010/11 in response to concerns commercial deployment of superfast broadband would fail to reach areas which were not deemed commercially attractive. Backed by £530 million of subsidies (and an additional £250 in 2015), telcos were enticed to rollout out relevant infrastructure, though early years were plagued with claims BT was rebuilding its monopoly with public funds as it won the majority of early contracts. While the criticism of BT’s dominance continues to be an issue for some, it is worth noting £500 million in subsidies has been returned to the public purse due to uptake being higher than expected.

In terms of the impact on local firms, the report estimates postcodes benefitting from subsidised coverage saw employment rise by 0.8% and turnover grow by 1.2% in response to improved infrastructure. This has resulted in an additional 49,000 jobs for local economies, plus an additional £9 billion in annual revenues. When looking at productivity gains, better connectivity essentially means each employee makes an additional £1,390 per year on average for the firm.

Government Table One

As you can see from the tables above, the ‘other’ regions are still growing at a faster rate, though you have to question how big the digital divide would be today without the telcos being ‘encouraged’ to invest in rural areas with government subsidies. Growth is a positive, as it would be a fair assumption the statistics would be in decline without improved connectivity.

Education and health and social work were the sectors which really benefited here (worker turnover increased 4.7% and 3.7% respectively), though subsidised coverage raised turnover per worker in the manufacturing sector by around 0.8%. With improved connectivity now in place in the manufacturing space the opportunity to demonstrate further benefits through IoT and smart-factory environments is much more apparent. The manufacturing segment might be a slow-burner with the next wave of technological advancements proving to be the gamechanger.

With a benefit to cost ratio of £1.96 per £1 of gross public sector spending, it is difficult to argue with the success here. Yes, the numbers could be better, though as the report states the net benefits of the programme does not include any value associated with the future use of the infrastructure, you could conclude the value has been considerably underplayed. Governments do not often earn plaudits, but this does genuinely seem like an initiative which has been well managed, delivering on the stated promises.

Work is not complete on closing the digital divide, the South West for instance is still underserved for example, though it is difficult to argue that the government hasn’t done a bad job overall.

Is the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport the real life DOSAC?

Under-qualified Ministers, photo-ops with minimal media presence and a mash-up of policy areas which don’t really align, it’s like government is taking advice from the writers of The Thick of It.

For those who haven’t seen the show, the Thick of It is a BBC series which satirizes the inner workings of modern British government. There are calamities, botched policies, a lack of funding and Ministers who seem to be making it up as they go along. The series focuses around the fictitious Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship (DOSAC), and could easily be likened to the real-life  Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The most obvious similarity is the departments themselves. Both DCMS and DOSAC seem to be a collection of briefs which have (at best) tenuous links. In the TV show, one of the characters jokes that while the Minister is on holiday staffers were helpless to prevent a garbage truck being driven down White Hall, while Ministers chucked in policy areas they couldn’t be bothered to deal with. This was how DOSAC came to be as a department, and some might assume it was a similar situation at DCMS.

Whoever though that Digital, Culture, Media and Sport belonged in the same department must surely have been joking. But seeing as most public sector organizations are void of a sense of humour the memo was taken seriously. It might be farcical, but this could be a serious problem.

This is supposed to be the department which readies the country for the cut-throat digital era, making sure our infrastructure is ready to compete with the world on the connected stage. The internet and mobility will define commerce over the coming decades, so some would argue ensuring the UK has a suitable foundation for British businesses to compete would be a critical task. Yet the Digital proposals will be put in the same pile as applications to hold the next Badminton World Championships.

Considering the importance of digital initiatives and infrastructure, why aren’t these policies more closely aligned with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills say, or the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy? These would perhaps make more sense.

We suspect that as no-one in government seems to be suitably qualified to lead a technology orientated area, no-one really wants to take responsibility. MPs might sell their grandmothers for a good publicity shot, but perhaps the risk of being known as the person who messes up the digital potential of the UK outweighs the PR benefits of being the face of British digital ambitions?

Talking of MPs, our new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock is starting to do an excellent impersonation of The Minister for Fun. On his first day on the job, Hancock managed to find his way onto the guest list at a London Fashion Week after party, cosying up to stars such as Rita Ora. And this work-hard-play-hard attitude seems to be filtering down to his minions.

Yesterday we spotted one of the new Ministers in the department, MP Michael Ellis, visiting the Tate Modern, and today he’s been out seeing a heritage museum in Walworth. The department still hasn’t managed to figure out who is doing what yet, but who needs the MPs in the office to actually do that.

We also assumed that while Minister for Fun Hancock and Minister for Tea and Biscuits Ellis were parading around the capital, the other new appointment, Margot James, would the buzzkill doing the work. We hoped there might at least be one person in the department who was at their desk doing work. Alas, we were wrong, as you can see below.

We fully understand that politicians will be out in the field meeting people and helping raise awareness for good causes, but surely this can wait a couple of days. We would like to see these people who are supposedly responsible for our digital capabilities sit down for a couple of hours, hand out the responsibilities and have a bit of a read up about the policies which are in place. But this all seems too much when there is a camera on the horizon.

Who knows what this means for the UK digital ambitions, as while the world moves towards agility, flexibility and power, we seem to be stuck. Quips and witty remarks can only get you so far, as we will need to see some action before too long. Ofcom CEO Sharon White conceded during a stakeholders meeting this week that the UK lags behind the digital powerhouses of the world, but correcting this will be a challenge is our Minister for Fun is coming into the office every day nursing a hangover after a night of chumming up with celebs.

The UK is losing ground in the digital race, and considering the current set-up, we’re not entirely convinced there is a way back to the front of the pack.