Over the last couple of years we’ve seen some dramatic examples of how digital networking in the human sense changes things. At one end of the scale we’ve seen regimes toppled; whilst at the other, families are brought closer together as communication from a plethora of devices matched by an array of media becomes both easier to use and is often cheaper.
Then there are the cultural changes, a huge list that grows at an incredible rate - it can’t be too long before access to the Internet is considered a human right. And perhaps the most pervasive cultural change of all is the fundamental shift in our expectations when it comes to paying for things on the Internet. There is a sense that the internet is a portal to a world of free enlightenment and free entertainment. Sometimes this can be a force for good. Take, Skype in the classroom as an example.
Skype in the classroom is a free global community created in response to, and in consultation with the growing number of teachers using Skype to help their students and pupils learn. So far over 22,500 educators have signed up and they have created more than 1,700 projects across 186 countries encompassing 60 different languages. This is powerful stuff – kids talking to kids and learning directly from each other through their shared experience via a medium they are familiar and comfortable with.
For instance Jen Deyenburg had a Skype “sleepover” with her class of 24 pupils, five volunteer parents and a student teacher at the Dorothy Dalgliesh Elementary school in Canada. Their theme was the Winter Olympics and they Skyped with eight different classes throughout the night including participant countries such as Canada, Thailand, Australia, Scotland and the US. She used a Google Map to show where her class had been during the night. Just think of the potential to understand and interact with different cultures and how this immersive experience will linger in the minds of those pupils long after the actual event. And there’s much more.
Skype is not alone. There are thousands and thousands of services – whether it’s an individual blogger or something like LinkedIn to which we feel access to content or services should be free. This feeling is often perpetuated by the business models of internet service providers. But can this approach stand the test of time?
Over the top services have disrupted the service provider business model. Content is perceived to have value but the network that makes this all possible is seen merely as a piece of plumbing. As content increases and as demand for immediate access to content grows this puts an immense strain on the networks. Network providers have few options. Either jump on the content bandwagon and so generate revenue streams that make investment in the network worthwhile; find some way of differentiating between the value of content carried across the network and build business models to exploit this; or to take a new look at their network architectures. In reality, it’s probably a combination of all three.
Underpinning the solution is an acceptance that the user experience ultimately consists of good content and flexible networking and the user must be prepared to place some kind of value on this. In the mean time, the nature of networks is fundamentally changing. Whether it’s in service provider infrastructure or data centres there is some innovative technology from companies such as Juniper Networks that can play its part in helping to balance the equation.
In a biological sense, I wonder if networks and content have a symbiotic relationship. That’s to say there is a close association, but it’s not necessarily beneficial to both. Irrespective of this, content and networks must coexist. But how can this be profitable for both? Is content now king and how does this challenge the position of service providers? Let me know what you think.