This morning I attended an event at Portcullis House in Westminster for a discussion around what the UK government needs to do to cement this country as a leading digital nation.
Amongst the speakers were Matt Warman MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Broadband and Digital Communication; Antony Walker, Deputy CEO of techUK and Debbie Wosskow, CEO of LoveHomeSwap and Chair of Sharing Economy UK.
All of the speakers raised some interesting points around the role of government in developing a long-term digital strategy, but one of the most interesting issues raised came from Antony Walker.
His point revolved around the idea of 'disruptors,' a term which has quickly become synonymous with the tech industry to describe rapid-growth companies which have used technology to transform whole industries through clever innovation. The likes of Uber and AirBnB are prime examples, with chasing startups now embracing the idea of disrupting industries and traditional companies.
In terms of the wider digital economy in the UK, Anthony's point was this: Disruptors are all well and good, but what about the companies and individuals who keep things ticking over on a daily basis? He cited a recent essay written by Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell entitled 'Hail the maintainers,' which highlights the vital role that these types of companies play in our society.
Antony rightly pointed out that "if you are a disruptor then you are absolutely celebrated in our modern digital economy, But if you’re not a disruptor, it sort of comes across that you’re a bit irrelevant to the whole process.” The problem with this is that most people are not disruptors, they are maintainers who keep everything working properly on a daily basis and “make sure the detail gets done every time.”
To ignore these people would be to ignore a key element of our society and things would simply not function effectively without them. Antony spoke about making sure that the UK's "digital narrative includes the maintainers" and how "we should be talking more about their role in this society going forward, because we need to bring them with us.”
So yes, let's keep celebrating and encouraging the disruptors, but let's also remember to hail the maintainers. For without them, the world would be a chaotic place indeed.