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Telegraph vs. Internet: Which Had Greater Impact?

2012 is the bicentennial of the War of 1812.  You may remember just two things about this period from your high school history class.  First, in an act of ignominy for the Americans, the British burned down the capital.  Second, the war ended with the resounding defeat of the British by the heroic General Andrew Jackson in January 1815, in what was the war’s only set-piece battle between the opposing sides.  Jackson eventually rode this victory into the Presidency.

There is only one problem with this battle.  It took place after the war was over.  The previous month, in Europe, the two sides had agreed to peace.  But in those days, communications was so slow that word of the peace didn’t reach New Orleans until February 1815.

Fast forward, approximately forty-eight years later, to the Civil War.  In the period between these two wars, in 1831, Morse thought up the idea for the electronic telegraph.  The Union Army had mastered its quick deployment, so that in 1863 while sitting in Washington, President Lincoln could read almost real time reports from the battlefields many miles away.

book cover

This was a dramatic increase in the speed of communications.  Not all that many decades later, telegraph lines and cables would unite the world.  Yet this did not fundamentally change the way people worked or lived or governed themselves.

So consider 2011, when the US Navy Seals got Osama Bin Laden.  There was a tweet about helicopters within several minutes, but the author didn’t know why the helicopters were nearby.  The first tweet with some confirmation came about forty-five minutes before President Obama made his announcement.

Now think back about forty-eight years before to November 22, 1963 and the assassination of President John Kennedy.  The news was out quickly all over television and radio and newspapers.  Walter Cronkite famously told the viewers of CBS News that the President had died thirty-eight minutes before.

Unlike the 19th century examples, there was no dramatic speed up in the reporting of these two more recent events separated by roughly forty-eight years.  While we may have more sources of information in more places now than in 1963, word doesn’t get out all that much faster.  You could argue that the Telegraph had a greater impact on communications than the Internet.

Yet many of us have the feeling that our world has been changed by this communications.  Why is that?

I think it has to do with the changing nature of the work we do.  In the mid-19th century, more than three quarters of Americans made things or grew food.  In 2011, less than a quarter do so and the rest of us provide services — and increasingly intangible services, including ideas, knowledge, entertainment and the like which is delivered digitally.  Because better digital communications directly speeds up the delivery of these services, we see the impact more.  It’s the increasing availability of high quality communications, in conjunction with these significant socio-economic trends, which will continue to change our lives.

Please share with us how you’ve seen the confluence of these two trends? Reply here and visit the Cisco Public Sector Customer Connection Community.

[picture credit for Battle of New Orleans]

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The Future of Work-Life Innovation: The Role of Networked Technologies

A number of forces are changing how we work, live, and innovate: pervasive technologies, distributed ways of working, “space rather than place” as a work ethos, new methods and modes of work, access to shared services, open versus closed innovation, a new generation of workers, environmental concerns, and macro socioeconomic shifts.

Given a choice, people will demand freedom to work, live, and innovate in ways that meet their individual lifestyles, unfettered by place. Meanwhile, pressures to reduce costs and seek new approaches to innovation are causing many private and public organizations to rethink how work gets done. Read More »

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Looking to Build the Right Network for Your Business? Read Here for Advice on Purchasing Core Networking Solutions

Has your company outgrown its network? Are you anticipating business growth? Or are you simply looking to upgrade your infrastructure? If so, the following tips can help ensure that you build the right network.

The first step toward building the right network involves forecasting how your business will grow. You should consider whether there will be employee growth and brainstorm what networking infrastructure you will need to meet your company goals.  You should also investigate which technologies are becoming crucial to business (such as cloud computing). By choosing the right solutions the first time, you minimize the decisions that need to be remade in the future. Additionally, you prevent your network from breaking down as more users seek access, reducing support and upgrade costs.

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Innovation in the 21st Century City

As a global director of the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group’s Urban Innovation team, I’ve seen how broadband connectivity can radically transform urban life, while forcing us to rethink our entire approach to designing and managing cities. I recently had the opportunity to share some of my ideas on the subject at the 2011 World Council of UCLG (United Cities and Local Governments) in Florence, Italy.

The Council represents nearly half the world’s population, from 36 countries and more than 1,000 cities—everywhere from Istanbul and Dakar to Helsinki and New York. In Florence, more than 400 mayors, along with municipal ministers, directors, innovators and other experts, met to discuss the daunting challenges facing today’s cities, while offering solutions in a creative and interactive forum. Topics ranged from transportation, utilities, and infrastructure to tourism and environmental sustainability.

Mayor Matteo Renzi of Florence, the host of the event, has worked with Cisco on innovation initiatives in his city. In addition to helping him plan the conference, I was granted the opportunity to moderate some sessions on urban innovation. Read More »

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Participation, Collaboration, Community

Key to the development of effective public sector strategies for resilience, innovation, and productivity is the ability to navigate at unprecedented scale and speed, complex and distributed communities (networks) of information, people, and things. By tapping the power of these networks, communities can effectively share ideas, expertise, and knowledge, encouraging richer levels of participation.

Smart City development and services through partnerships, collaboration, and community was a major theme at the London Policy Conference (#lonconf) on December 12-13, 2011. Jointly hosted by IPPR, a leading UK think tank, and London’s new think tank, The Centre for London (incubated by Demos), the conference was a platform and network for all those with an interest in London’s future. Sponsored by Cisco alongside other private and public organizations, senior leaders from the public, NGO, and private sectors convened to discuss the major policy challenges facing London and how its future might be best shaped.

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