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Brits Mean Business

Jenny Gardner, director of UK Trade and Investment in Stockholm, blogs about Britain, Sweden and doing business.

Archive for October, 2011

Spinning Jenny and Broadband

Friday, October 28th, 2011


Being named Jenny in history class in secondary school posed somewhat of a challenge. According to our Swedish history books, a machine called Spinning Jenny was the origin of the industrial revolution that started in the UK and spread over Europe. It was not only fascinating to learn how a cotton twisting and spinning machine could have such impact on the economy, but also discover what fun your fellow students could have spending their time combining your name with different odd verbs. Not to mention all the new verbs that were invented in this exercise.

Needless to say the early industrial inventions and the following revolution left a lasting impression on me.

At the beginning of the summer I was reminded of inventions that lead to big economic change, this time luckily with no obvious connection to my first name. I was attending an international conference in Stockholm called ‘Broadband For All’.

Broadband is a popular word used for describing wired or wireless access via high data rate to an Internet connection. Broadband these days simply means being able to transfer high quantities of data via for example glass fibre, the mobile network or even in rural areas via satellite. In comprehending all these fantastic things we are, and will be able to do, via this developing technology I could not help comparing the telephone, the computer and the Internet with its predecessor – they are all the Spinning Jennys of the communication age. And with the same kind of comparison – broadband is most probably the “railway” of the future – but built with glass fibre and phone towers instead of iron and timber.

The Broadband roll-out is probably one of the most important global infrastructure investments this century and it is a priority area for the UK government. At UK Trade and Investment, where I’m Director of Trade & Investment for Sweden, we are taking part in this process by facilitating knowledge, investments and trade between the UK and Sweden. And, as always, network technology builds on the idea that more and merrier participants give greater possibilities.

And in tandem with the broadband roll-out we will most probably again discover even more groundbreaking machines, products, apps and services. But next time around I hope the names will be different. The follow up to Jenny was a machine that was adapted to slubbing – the much less known “Slubbing Billy” – so if I may make a wish for the next generation of inventors; we Jennys have had our fair share of name calling – let’s go for a Billy next time.

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