Skip to main content
El Gismo Fantastico

Writ large on the white sign ahead was the word 'Espanha" and thinking that it might offer a more direct route out of Portugal, back across the Spanish border, I ignored the directions on the motocycle tank-bag in front of me and left the main road.

Fifty miles of winding country road later, we found ourselves on the Spanish side of the border in an oven-like expanse of plain. No cars, no people and a shaky idea of where we were on the map. I guessed that my big BMW 'Adventurer' had around fifty miles of fuel left in its tank and my wife was dreaming happily of a divorce.

"Don't worry", I said, "Although we seem to have fallen off the GPS map", there's a town 30kms ahead of us and if we get there, we can rejoin the main road at Ciduad Rodriguo".

I had resolved to leave all my gadgets behind on this trip, with my only luxury being my phone but when the time came, I failed the character test and smuggled my IPAQ and its foldaway keyboard into my luggage, which is how I can type this column in my room at the five hundred year old Parador set in the cathederal square at Santo Domingo De La Calzada.

Not thinking that GPRS coverage would be anywhere near extensive on my trip through Spain and Portugal, I left my Blackberry behind, which was a mistake, because GPRS appears to be active in the strangest places and the Vodafone service reaches into the medieval heart of Spain.

It's incongruous though to think that in some of the places that we passed though today, the Internet is a meaningless concept to all but a very few. And yet, with all the talk of 'Information Societies" and 'Digital Divides' in the EEC government conferences I have taken part in, the reality is that the Internet doesn't appear to matter greatly to most people on the continent and you can't blame them either!

Lunch still takes two hours, email, if you have such a thing can wait and the population lacks the overworked and stressed appearance of English tourists, separated from their in-boxes and worrying over the hundreds of unanswered messages, piling-up in their absence.

Jeremy Clarkson touched upon the problem in his documentary on our European neighbours. The British are in love with speed. Fast cars, fast food and one more vice, instant communications, much like the instant hot water of the 21st century. Much like the presence of the TV License fee and the Health Service we don't really have a choice in the matter and in contrast with the more laid-back Spanish, our growing national passion for email and the Internet leaves us looking very like Eric, my daughter's Hamster, as hopelessly addicted to running on his wheel as I am to my keyboard.

Can there be such a thing as a compromise, a co-existence between the insistent and intrusive digital world of the GPRS connected IPAQ in front of me and the contemplative medieval scene outside my window?

If you worry about your email while your'e on holiday, then you already know the answer.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …