miércoles, 15 de octubre de 2014

The search of a model for providing digital services infrastructures

Digital Services Infrastructures are a critical input in our modern economy. Until the start of the century, only the basic connectivity to the Internet was in the list of this infrastructures. It is estimated that that a 10 percentage point increase in the broadband penetration rate leads to an annual growth in per-capita GDP of some 1 to 1.5 percentage points. Nevertheless, in the recent years new infrastructures has been added to the list. Basic computing and storage infrastructures in the form of cloud computing services or applications of frequent usage as e-mail are currently in this list, but soon other will be added as big data applications.

It is clear, that the more optimal way to have access to these Digital Services Infrastructures for a organisation is not building by itself but hiring them. Since the 90's, beginning with the basic connectivity, it has been established in Europe the idea that this infrastructures should be provided by the private sector. However, recently The Guardian opened the debate of a nationalisation of the mobile network infrastructure. Obviously, there is not reason for not extending this debate to the whole broadband infrastructure. But in the same way, the debate could be extended to the other infrastructures mentioned above.

Although, as The Guardian mentioned, the national ownership of basic infrastructures is seen as a debate from the past, it seems that at least part of the citizens are not reluctant to open the debate. What is more, it seems that the bigger the intervention of the government in the economy  the bigger the happiness of the citizens.  But do not misunderstood my position, I´m not directly claiming for the nationalisation of the Digital Services Infrastructures. What I´m asking for is for a critical review of the position established in the 90´s related to this point. Since then, new models for providing services not purely public or private have appeared, with different degrees of participation of the public sector (like public-private partnerships) or communities of citizens (digital commons). I have the impression that there has not been a thorough study of the different models for providing digital services infrastructures and their benefits and drawbacks from a social and economic perspective.

Another example of Digital Services Infrastructures are those needed for eGovernment services. Spain has been a model for providing the basic services for building up eGovernment services in a centralised manner, managed by a public sector organisation but operated by private companies. This is a model that in some way is now under development for the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme in the European Union. The study of the final scheme for providing the services under the CEF umbrella in a sustanaible manner could be a model to be extended to the whole Digital Services Infrastructures needed by the society.

Digital Services Infrastructures are the more recent case of utilities. If since their inception the other utilities have evolved in its provision model, there is not reason for taking a close minded approach to the provision model of digital infrastructures. Perhaps it is really the right time to start the debate.

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