Category Archives: Businesses

The Shakespeare Review of Public Sector Information

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Time to reflect on an interesting morning, the morning of 15 May at Policy Exchange in London where Stephan Shakespeare, Chair of the Data Strategy Board and CEO of YouGov, launched The Shakespeare Review of Public Sector Information, an independent review into how the public sector can open up and make better use of data.

Connected Liverpool was present, and witnessed the first ‘big step’ towards a nation wide big data strategy. Besides Shakespeare, Rohan Silva (Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister), Professor Sir Allan Bradley (Founder & Chief Scientific Officer, Kymab), Joe Cohen (Founder and Chairman, Seatwave), John Gibson (Senior Advisor, Number 10), Jonathan Raper (Founder and Director, Placr) and Mary Turner (CEO, AlertMe.com) were also present and part of a panel-discussion to discuss “how the UK can win the next phase of digital evolution?”. Overall, an impressive bunch we would not mind having lunch with.

Picking up on ‘the next phase of digital evolution’, what do they really mean? In short, Phase 1 of the Digital Evolution was about connectivity, bringing together people, organisations and businesses in new ways that increased communications, the channels to information, and the efficiency of operations. Clearly, this refers to the market that America dominated with its innovative and entrepreneurial culture. Google, Ebay, Facebook, Amazon, PayPal, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter and of course Apple are all examples of big winners that clearly dominated the first phase of this evolution. Companies that ‘shaped our lives’ (to some extent) and are all located on the West Coast of America.

But, as Stephan Shakespeare described it, it is now time for the UK to step up and be a leader in Phase 2 of the Digital Evolution, a phase that provides equal potential in the capacity to process and learn from data. Data allows us to adapt and improve public services and businesses and enhance our whole way of life, bringing economic growth, wide-ranging social benefits and improvements in how government operates and judges.

Public Sector Information (PSI) provides the very foundation of this. Britain enjoys significant advantages to become a winner in this space because of the size and coherence of our public sector (think of the size and data of our NHS) combined with government’s strong commitment to develop a visionary open data policy.

So why bother? At the bottom-line of all of this is economic growth. Mastering this digital phase will launch Britain from a low-growth economy to a high growth nation. Public Sector Information is key to achieve this but its potential success is interlinked with the important role of our government to create the infrastructure that enables this. As the Independent Review sates, “Consider the role of government: it exists to decide the rules by which people can act, and to administer them: how much, by what method, and from whom to take resources; and how to re-allocate them. Doing it well enables national success; doing it badly means national failure. Ensuring that the process of government is optimised for progress, and does not corrupt into an obstacle to progress, requires continuous data and the continuous analysis of data.”

As Sir Terry Leahy once stated: “to run an enterprise without data is like driving by night with no headlights”. Additionally, Rohan Silva (Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister) explained that this is what government often does: “It has a strong institutional tendency to proceed by hunch, or prejudice, or by the easy option.” In other words, the new world of data is good for government, good for business, and above all good for citizens as we can use data such as education and health, tax and spending, work and productivity etc. to make informed decisions and to consequently, optimise our quality of life and economic growth.

So what is it that Stephan Shakespeare actually recommended? Here we go…..:

  1. Recognise in all we do that PSI, and the raw data that creates it, was derived from citizens, by their own authority, was paid for by them, and is therefore owned by them. It is not owned by employees of the government.
  2. Have a clear, visible, auditable plan for publishing data as quickly as possible, defined both by bottom-up market demand and by top-down strategic thinking, overcoming institutional and technical obstacles with a twin-track process which combines speed to market with improvement of quality: 1) an ’early even if imperfect’ track that is very broad and very aggressively driven, and 2) a ‘National Core Reference Data’ high-quality track which begins immediately but narrowly.
  3. Drive the implementation of the plan through a single channel more clearly-defined than the current multiplicity of boards, committees and organisations that are distributed both within and beyond departments and wider public sector bodies. It should be highly visible and accessible to influence from the data-community through open feedback mechanisms.
  4. Invest in building capability for this new infrastructure. It is not enough to gather and
    publish data; it must be made useful. We lack data-scientists both within and outside of government, and not enough is being done in our education system at school and
    undergraduate level to foster statistical competence.
  5. Ensure public trust in the confidentiality of individual case data without slowing the pace of maximising its economic and social value. Privacy is of the utmost importance, and so is citizen benefit.

These principles ought to be adopted by the government when it will start to create a detailed nationwide Data Strategy. Even though no time frame was given for the production of this strategy, Stephan Shakespeare’s recommended principles seem both straightforward and essential. It is now up to the government to push this agenda forward and to do it quickly so Britain’s opportunity to become a ‘first-mover’ will not be wasted….

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Web vs Internet?

Last Monday, the Queen Elizabeth prize for engineering was awarded to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Robert Kahn, Vinton Cerf, Louis Pouzin and Marc Andreessen for their contribution in the current revolution in communications that has taken place in recent decades. Every one of them were treated as inventors of the internet while in reality, this is more complicated.

After the awards, the question was raised if people really understand the difference between the internet (a single application) and the infrastructure that makes it possible, the web. In reality, Cerf, Kahn and Pouzin can legitimately get most of the credit for designing the network; Berners-Lee built the web on the foundations laid by them; and Marc Andreessen in turn built on Berners-Lee’s work by creating the first major web browser. So what’s the difference between the web and the net?

There is a general and increasing misconception around the difference between the internet and the web. Currently, there are 2.4 billion internet users in the world, which means about 4.6 billion people are still unconnected. As the Guardian rightfully states, it will not come as a surprise to you that both Facebook and Google are already targeting them. At present, Facebook, for its part, has signed up 44% of the US population, 30% of Europeans and 37% of Latin Americans. But it only has 6.6% of Asians and even fewer (5%) Africans. Most users of the internet in poor countries will be connecting to it via mobile phones. As a result, both Facebook and Google are persuading wireless carriers in poor countries to offer customers free or very cheap online access that is limited to stripped-down versions of the web giant’s sites. Once those new web consumers will get experience in the ‘proprietary worlds’ of Facebook and Google, they will demand more and will be willing to pay for it.

As a result, more and more people will believe that Facebook or Google IS the Internet….

So why does this matter? The network that Cerf and Kahn built was deliberately designed as an open, permissive system. Anyone could use it, and if you had an idea that could be realised in software, then the net would do it for you, with no questions asked. Tim Berners-Lee had such an idea – the web – and the internet enabled it to happen. And Berners-Lee made the web open in the same spirit, so Mark Zuckerberg was able to build Facebook on those open foundations.

However, people like Mark Zuckerberg do not have the intention to allow anyone to use Facebook as the foundation to build their own applications (which Facebook cannot control). In other words, through Facebook’s and Google’s smart market entry strategy more and more people will consider the internet and the web to be similar, and Facebook and Google to be THE internet. Questionable don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Connected Liverpool @ Innovate UK

Last week, Connected Liverpool exhibited at InnovateUK 2013, the UK’s
leading multi-sector innovation & trade event for business. Recognised by the Technology
Strategy Board as one of the top 25 most innovative companies in the UK, Connected
Liverpool got invited to showcase its work at the event.

Innovate UK 2013 was a joint venture from the Technology Strategy Board and UK Trade
& Investment. Innovate UK brought together 4,000 people from UK and international
business, Government and academia, with the aim of accelerating UK economic growth
by stimulating business-led innovation and opening up international trade opportunities.
The program of keynote presentations given by Government ministers, business leaders
and industry specialists provided some great insights into the future products and
processes that are in development.

The three days (11-13 March) covered the following topics:
Day 1: Research for Growth: Commercialising the UK’s research base
Day 2: Market and Technology Opportunities
Day 3: Global Growth: starting up and scaling up

The event offered multiple seminars and talks focused on their daily topic. During day 1, the collaboration between the public sector and academics, and between the private sector and academics was a popular topic. The University of Strathclyde from Glasgow was an impressive benchmark in cross-sector collaboration as it attracted the first Fraunhofer investment in the UK after the city of Glasgow became home to the first foreign HQ of the Fraunhofer research centre. Additionally, it hosts the TSB Health Catapult, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, and the Future Cities Demonstrator project. Overall, an impressive list.

The Emerging Technology and Industry programme (ET&I), which was set up in 2010, explained its key investment areas and work over the years between 2010 and 2012 within the spaces of Synthetic Biology, Energy Efficient Computing and Energy Harvesting. For the near future, it will focus on identifying the ‘next’ technologies to feed the pipeline of innovation.

Besides the seminars, the Connected Liverpool stand was a popular place during the event allowing the team to establish great connections with people from all over England and abroad in different sectors. Overall, WE LOVED IT!

 

General Electric embarks on internet of things UK recruitment drive

Energy giant General Electric (GE) is set to recruit hundreds of UK software engineers and data scientists in the coming months, as part of its “internet of things” strategy drive. The internet of things is not a new concept but the buzzword is becoming more frequent in the IT industry as the likes of IBM, Intel and Cisco spearhead projects aimed at connecting billions of machines capable of communicating without human involvement.

GE has a three-year strategy and a fund of $1.5bn to build out such projects, which it terms the “Industrial Internet”. William Ruh, GE software research vice president, is overseeing the investment, which includes the hiring of hundreds and possibly thousands of software engineers worldwide.

In an interview with V3, Ruh explained how GE is now developing its industrial internet strategy in the UK.

“This year we are working to expand our strategy and get the plans set. At the moment we are working on how to build out capability in the UK as it’s one of our largest bases,” said Ruh.

Ruh declined to comment on the exact number of UK staff GE would be recruiting but said the number would be “hundreds and hundreds”.

Read full article here: http://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2237727/general-electric-embarks-on-internet-of-things-uk-recruitment-drive

 

Technology in Africa: Extracting insights from Big Data

The big data opportunity for Africa came into sharp focus this week when IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and key members of her executive team visited Africa to meet with clients and government leaders. “Going forward, data is going to be THE source of competitive advantage,” Rometty told a South African audience.

Already, African companies are harnessing big data to transform their businesses. Take Santam Ltd., the leading short-term insurance company in South Africa. The company is using predictive analysts to streamline the processing of claims and to spot potentially fraudulent claims. When Anesh Govender reported for duty as Santam’s head of operations for finance, his boss told him that he wanted to do more with less. Govender quickly spotted data as his leverage point. “I was amazed how much data was available but how little of it was being used” he said. Govender was one of the presenters at IBM’s South African gathering.

He decided to completely overhaul the claims processing system. In the past, every claim went through the same steps of being reviewed manually by staff members. Today, they’re all fed into a predictive analytics software program that channels routine claims into a queue for quick action. The others go through deeper analysis that takes into account not just the current claim but a lot more information about the customer and their past claim activities. Computer algorithms search for patterns that suggests the claims might be fraudulent. One example: Fraudsters typically start with small false claims and, if they’re successful, submit larger ones. Govender’s staff has tuned the algorithms so they identify the maximum amount of false claims without producing too many false positives—which require extra work by the claims processing staff. Today, they kick out only 1% of claims for deep fraud analysis, and about 30% of them are fraudulent.