Saturday, May 18, 2002

Oh oh, the Guardian thinks that the "Sky's the limit for e-government". By launching DTV services only on Sky, without a policy statement trailing the plans, somehow the government has favoured Sky and shown a lack of neutrality. The way that we worked the DTV channel was to setup a small pilot to start putting content out and then we can see how people use it. DTV is like all the other channels (and here I mean IE, Netscape, Opera, various kiosks and so on) - you have to tailor your content to meet certain constraints or interpretations of standards. DTV is harder though - noone is going to read more than about 45 words on a TV screen, so you have to think really hard about what you display. The techno-cool way of doing this is to take an XML stream and render it on the fly, selecting certain fields only, to DTV ... but that is genuinely expensive and you have to do it for all your content. The pilot takes a simpler, slightly more manual route than that, at a much lower cost and lower risk. It worked originally on Sky and ITV digital and will work soon on the other providers - you just have to do a deal at a time. The article also notes that the %age of people who want to use DTV for transactions has dramatically fallen off. No surprise I guess. The home page of any site is streamed to the TV via the satellite (instant download), but if you want to go elsewhere, you have to open a modem channel, via the phone line (and this is where the extra cost comes in, plus speed is low - maybe 28kbps). I think this %age will shift higher once DSL, wireless, or cable connections are available for the interactive leg. One small step, one little acorn and all that - isn't it best to try the market out and see what it likes before you publish a policy?

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