Public Technology

PublicTechnology editor Sam Trendall picks out the topics and trends that will dominate the year ahead, and revisits the predictions of a year ago to see any of them came to pass.

Predictions are apt to make one look foolish at the best of times.

And you might have noticed that the UK in late 2018 seems quite a long way from the best of times.

Given the all-encompassing uncertainty in which the country is currently gripped, it might appear folly to make any predictions about anything anywhere until further notice. 

But, then again, while our so-called leaders lurch from one looming national crisis to the next on an almost daily basis, perhaps it behoves the rest of us to take the advice of the wartime government – and a million tea towels – and keep calm and carry on.

Coders should continue to code, data analysts should continue to data analyse, and policymakers should continue to policymake.

Journalists, meanwhile, should clearly continue to churn out thinkpieces and listicles.

So, in that spirit of brave stoicism, we bring you the PublicTechnology rundown of the three trends – because, as every journo knows, three is the shortest list technically possible – to look out for in the public sector technology space in 2019.

Everyone will need gigabit broadband, CityFibre claims

USwitch

An executive at CityFibre has responded to suggestions that gigabit broadband is not necessary for most users.

Every home in the UK is likely to be able to benefit from the introduction of ultrafast gigabit broadband in the coming years, one of the companies working to roll out the technology has stated.

In a piece for Computer Weekly, Head of Marketing – Portfolio and Engagement at CityFibre Caroline Hughes said that while most of the reactions to gigabit-capable broadband – which can provide speeds some 50 times faster the current UK average – are positive, there are still some who doubt whether such speeds are needed.

However, she stated that in the coming years, such solutions will become more necessary than ever, particularly as the size of downloads continues to increase.

AWS to host UK government’s Crown Marketplace

DCL Search

Amazon Web Services has been chosen as the cloud provider of a portal for the UK government which will enable government departments and local councils to procure goods and services online.

The new government portal is being built by a small public sector-focused development team called The Dextrous Web, which – in consultation with the Cabinet Office’s procurement body, the Crown Commercial Service – decided that AWS would be best for the project.

Hosting the primary components of the Crown Marketplace will likely give the company an advantage when it comes to later stages of the project, which may prove lucrative over the long term.

Huawei launches ‘industry-first’ AI data centre switch amid trade war

DCL Computing

Despite being embroiled in the midst of a trade war between China and the United States, Huawei is showing no signs of slowing down its innovation.

On Tuesday the company revealed a new chipset for data centres purported to be more powerful and more efficient than its peers, and now the Chinese tech giant has unveiled its new data centre switch ‘built for the AI era’, the CloudEngine 16800.

Huawei claims it to be an industry-first, consisting of an embedded AI chip, 48-port 400GE line card per slot, and the capability to evolve to the autonomous driving network. According to Huawei, this will enable customers to accelerate intelligent transformation.

GlobalData expects 5G ‘rush’ in 2019 – eventually

5G

2019 will see “a trickle followed by a rush” when it comes to 5G, according to predictions from data research firm, GlobalData.

The company expects a number of commercial 5G services to roll out in 2019. However, it predicts that adoption will be slower, with most 5G services not gaining traction until late this year or early next. The research firm puts this down to limited initial coverage and poor device availability, as well as a lack of clear consumer business cases for 5G. Another factor which will limit the speed of 5G adoption, according to GlobalData, is that Apple isn’t expected to join the 5G fray until 2020.

GlobalData’s 2019 briefing notes: “At the outset, carriers will have limited smartphone inventory to work with, and that could put a damper on marketing campaigns.”

NHS England claims it will be all-digital within the decade

The Register

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

NHS England has once again pledged to improve the state of digital services to benefit patients and staff in its Long Term Plan, with a fully digital secondary care and access to digital consultations promised by 2024.

The 136-page document (PDF), published at midday on 7 January, aims to provide clarity on the government’s plans for the NHS over a longer period of time, setting out how the 70th birthday funding boost – an extra £20.5bn on top of 2018-19 levels by 2023-24 – will be spent.

Liverpool to deploy full fibre network

UKAuthority

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is investing in a digital ‘spine’ to connect the region’s key digital assets.

It has announced plans for a 260km full fibre network, covering all six local authority areas within its borders, to enable ultra-fast internet for every home, school, business, hospital and other locations.

Among the assets to be connected are the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Hartree super computer at Daresbury and GTT fibre optic cable, which carries internet traffic between the UK, North America and the rest of the world and comes ashore in Southport.

Will 5G be turned to as a safety net if rural broadband is not rolled out?

Independent

It seems that every year is a crunch year for rural broadband. But 2019 really is shaping up to be do or die for the State’s National Broadband Plan, the pledge to connect 540,000 businesses and homes in rural areas to state-subsidised fibre internet.

On balance, a contract with the current bidder, Granahan McCourt, still looks likely to be given the green light. But if this doesn’t happen, the Government has a very serious infrastructural deficit to address, even if a small percentage of those without proper broadband will get it through market sources next year.

Inevitably, attention will shift to alternative options. One such option that is often mentioned is 5G, the next-generation mobile technology that is currently being trialled by Irish operators.

Fast broadband is ‘tantalisingly close’, but BT just can’t close the gap

The Times

Rural homeowners and flat dwellers are still missing out on top speeds

Baz Parmer has spent three years trying to persuade BT to connect him to the superfast internet received by almost every other household in his village of Fulking, West Sussex.

Although he pays the company £39.99 a month for a 50Mbps service, he only gets 12Mbps at the best of times. He and his daughter, Madelaine, 15, get faster internet from their mobile phones — or by popping to the local library.