Financial crisis, innovation and European public services

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[Note: this has been republished after it was lost during a software upgrade. Unfortunately, comments were lost. ;-( ] ReadWriteWeb published at the end of last year a thoughtful look at how the financial crisis may impact innovation in the online world:

... we're clearly now at a point where the financial problems of the world will have a big impact on where web technology is headed. Indeed, it looks like we've arrived at one of those giant inflexion points - where one web era is usurped by another ... now is the time for innovation.
What's Next After Web 2.0 - ReadWriteWeb

There's a lot of stuff I like in this article, particularly the focus on the semantic web, which could be the single most useful web technology for a number of EU policies ever invented (Single Market, European Research Area, etc.), and a clarion call for: "... technologists, entrepreneurs and VCs to take a longer term view of this crisis ... Sramana Mitra wrote a great post at Forbes outlining some of the opportunities for innovation ... to create technology for education, health care, social security."

If the US can still easily harvest so many low-hanging fruit in the areas of education and healthcare, how much more of it hangs unpicked across the EU's sclerotic public administrations? And how many solutions are being developed 27 times across the EU, without being shared?

This is not a plea for any regulation-style harmonisation of education or healthcare (XML and other standards means that harmonisation is not necessary for technology to increase efficiencies). It is a plea that those focused on budgets and deficits wake up to where savings can be made without cutting social services or cutting the guts out of the real investments Europe need to make for the future - in education, research and energy efficiency.

ReadWriteWeb also quotes Tim O'Reilly [considered by many as the inventor of the term Web2.0]: His core message is to "work on stuff that matters ... [and] that rough times are often the best times for creativity, opportunity and change."

Elsewhere, a lot of people are pointing out that these rough times will give Obama more freedom to act than he would otherwise have had. Will the same be true for Europe? Or will be just keep muddling along, to and then over the edge?

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