Sir Bob Geldof has launched a campaign for simpler technology, and believes cloud computing will be a key enabler.
The aid campaigner and rock star, who co-founded communication and data applications provider Groupcall, was at the BETT 2011 education technology conference in London to promote his company.
He used the opportunity to hammer home the message that IT in general, and IT in the education sector in particular, was too complex. Cloud computing, which Sir Bob described as “fucking brilliant”, would allow users to leapfrog existing proprietary solutions.
This insight came from a man who uses a dated, basic Nokia mobile phone handset, who does not use email because it “gets in the way”, never carries his laptop around. Sir Bob also claims to not use the technologies he has at home because “it’s just all too slow” and he wants it to “get to the future now”.
Many countries have old, cumbersome proprietary systems that they developed, which makes it difficult for new technology to be widely deployed, said Sir Bob.
Talking about Groupcall’s operations in Europe, he said: “We have to configure it [new applications] to their individual [country] needs – it’s a bore, a nuisance.”
However, through the cloud, countries without legacy infrastructure can seize the opportunity to adopt new, simpler technology, he said.
“Where we will expand hugely is India and China, where they never put in those [proprietary] systems.”
Along with other education IT providers, including Pearson, Sir Bob plans to lobby government to raise awareness about simpler technologies.
“We are going to try and explain to government how over-complex systems will fall over and how there is technology available that gives them what they want,” he said.
He believed that investment in simple technology was inevitable.
“The necessity of the economy is to reduce. So the government will have to probably spend less on over-complex systems and be forced to look for simplicity.
“Education is a sector that is floundering because the system imposed on administration and teachers by the government is over-complex.
“It’s like the National Health Service (NHS) computer system. Once you know it’s doubled the costs and is in the millions, it’s too complex and won’t work. It needs to be simplified,” he said.
Groupcall’s applications are examples of complex processes being made simpler, according to Sir Bob. For instance, he became involved with the company because he wanted to develop a technology that would automatically alert him to his children’s safe arrival at school.
“It is an instant, simple application that frees up secretaries’ time in school, cuts costs because there are no landline charges for parents and the authorities would immediately know when a child was truant. A simplification of an over-complex requirement,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sir Bob said that Groupcall’s new product, Emerge, will “put the school in a teacher’s back pocket”.
“The government says that you must take a roll call twice a day. That’s a fucking drag. In an emergency, it [Emerge] is breathtakingly useful – you can immediately alert a parent, school administration and authorities that a kid is missing in an emergency,” he said.
Consequently, Sir Bob also believes that Groupcall’s technology has applications in other sectors, particularly the police and security services.