Note — Nov 03, 2019

Just Enough Internet

Essay version of a talk given by Rachel Coldicutt at the BBC Research & Development and PublicSpaces. How the public sector should stop “following big business, and think back to the social contract.” She makes a number of excellent points, referring to her experience at the BBC, on measurements, ways of working, and “new decisions.” Although framed mainly around digital services, it’s actually something public services should think about in all aspects of their work; whether competing with the private sector, especially using their metrics, makes for better service… or worse. Actually, this needs to be a theme for much of what anyone does these days: What is sufficient? What is appropriate?

Creating this new social contract requires new norms, new institutions, new laws – and a stronger public sector, that is prepared to hold a different space: uphold different kinds of progress, measure different kinds of success, and celebrate a different kind of innovation to that of big technology platforms and venture capitalists. […]

If the answer from business is to add data to everything, then perhaps the public sector should be more measured. Perhaps a public service Internet should be a model of restraint; a counterweight to the ballast of peak data, that knows and provides just-enough. […]

But tax-payer funded public services need different affordances to Amazon and Google; they should not feel magical, they should be data light, they should meet social needs not just user needs; they should work in context, not simply fulfil a job to be done. Sometimes they should be compassionate. […]
It might look like a policy of Sufficient Technology: just enough to make it work better for the people that count. … Which might also be the best thing for the planet.