Chris drove me through the bank holiday monsoon to the Eurostar terminal at Ebbsfleet for my 8.00 train to Brussels for the V-ICT-OR "International Congress" incorporating the annual LOLA meeting.
After recent unproductive car journeys to Socitm meetings, it was good to be able to get some work done during the brief trip – which was no longer than my daily commute into London!
I was met at the Brussels terminus by Louis Massage, who drove me to the conference hotel at Aalst. I say "conference hotel", but it turns-out only the international guests stay there; as Belgium is a small country, the local delegates commute daily to the venue.
"Miss Belgian Beauty 2009" pageant was taking place at the hotel, so there were welcome distractions for the international al visitors. However the weather wasn't good, so I was content to stay in my hotel room and catch-up on correspondence until Peter Ryder turned-up – about 3.00pm – and we adjourned to a local bar. Well – it was a holiday at home!
During the afternoon, we were joined by colleagues from Sweden – Annette and Christian, who were now "old friends", Mike Manson – who had been enjoying an extended holiday with his family in Europe since the Kommits conference, Canada, the US and, of course, Belgium.
Much of this event is dedicated to the launch of LOLA – the association of local government societies from the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Holland and Sweden. The first meeting, from 5 until 7.30 pm, mainly concerned development of its web-site.
To be honest, I've always been sceptical about the benefits of international co-operation, study tours etc, so a big part of my agenda on this trip is to challenge the assumption that "LOLA" is worth pursuing. The initial LOLA web-site is fairly basic, so I'm keen to consider how we can make it more engaging through the use of RSS feeds and collaboration software.
A New Zealand supplier has offered to finance a survey on unified communications in the LOLA countries. I am supportive only if it is undertaken to enable a gap analysis to identify what must be done to achieve an agreed vision of what we understand by "unified communications".
Of much greater interest, I thought, was another New Zealand proposal – to develop and pilot a "Personal Learning Assistant" – software that "learns" individuals' preferred work-styles, and assists them by predicting web searches and prompting with relevant facts, whilst maintaining a "knowledge bank".
After dinner and a few drinks at the hotel, we again adjourned to a local bar. Guess which 70s hit by the Kinks was requested (repeatedly!)?