Public Technology

Department signs ‘digital charter’ with 15 companies

The relocation of HM Revenue and Customs into 13 hubs around the country will see the department move into what it claims are “some of the most digitally advanced buildings in government”.

HMRC’s Estates directorate, which is overseeing the ongoing development and population of the new locations, has signed a “digital charter” with 15 companies involved in the construction and ongoing maintenance of the buildings. 

The signatories are: Atalian Servest; Aecom; Styles & Wood; Bellrock; BW; Interserve; White Young Green; ISG; Overbury; Faithful & Gould; Sodexo; Mace; Wates; Turner & Townsend; and BAM.

By signing the charter, the firms in question have agreed to focus on “maximising the use of data and implementing the latest digital technology, including smart technology where systems interact with each other,” according to HMRC.

The charter forms part of the HMRC’s Estates Digital Blueprint, which is designed to help ensure that staff make use of the latest technology, including mobile apps. The blueprint “will also deliver data and insight to support the right decisions being made at the right time during construction and operations” of the new hubs. This process will involve data – such as the comparative use of various areas in its existing locations – being used to inform “architectural and design decisions” during the construction of the hubs.

Amazon Alexa-NHS partnership splits expert opinion


Worried about a lump? Got a nasty cough that won’t budge? Many people Google queries about such symptoms daily – but now they can get NHS advice instantly by asking Amazon’s Alexa.

The voice-activated assistant is now automatically searching NHS web pagesto find answers to medical questions.

And the government hopes it will reduce the demand on human doctors.

But the move has split opinion among artificial intelligence (AI) experts and data ethicists.

“The sensitive data holdings of a national healthcare provider like the NHS are a form of ‘critical social infrastructure’,” said Berlin-based tech expert Mathana Stender.

“Yet they’ve been handed to a foreign company that’s both a defence contractor and targeted advertiser,”

NHS GP David Wrigley asked, among other things, whether the questions asked via Alexa would be encrypted and who would store any data relating to patient queries.

How to Create the Team Cohesion Needed for Digital Transformation

Chief Executive

Digital transformation is easier said than done. Companies know it takes a serious investment of time, energy, money, and will, yet they are still often caught off-guard by the scope of the effort. For that reason, far more companies start transformations than finish them.

One resource that is often missing is buy-in, but not from the source you probably expect. While the focus is often getting executives on board with digital-first initiatives, it’s the front-line staff who really need to be engaged. Recent research found that 84% of executives are committed to transformation compared to just 45% of lower-level workers.

Digital transformation depends on engagement at all levels because companies need the broadest perspective throughout this process. An executive in charge of operations, for example, has a much different perspective from someone who works in the field. However, both are valuable because together they reveal what the “digital-first version” of your company actually looks like.

Get a variety of stakeholders in the room together, and you’ll see a synergy you never expected. New ideas are born out of thin air as people combine their needs to create a holistic solution. The goal is digitization, but it’s driven by the needs of people.

White paper highlights NHS cyber vulnerabilities


Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) has sounded the warning in Improving Cyber Security in the NHS, based on evidence from NHS organisations and examples of previous attacks – the most high profile being the spread of the WannaCry virus that disrupted at least 81 out of England’s 236 NHS trusts in May 2017.

The paper says the NHS is vulnerable to due to a combination of outdated computer systems, lack of investment and a deficit of skills and awareness in cyber security.

Among the problems it identifies is the complexity of accountabilities for cyber security. For example, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) receives information about a cyber attack from NHS Digital and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), which can make the information transfer complex and cumbersome.

While there is a set of data security protection requirements for different networks, there are no detailed specifications. And while NHS Digital collects information on cyber incidents, it is not statistically evaluated to build an understanding of risks and threats.

UK hits 8% full fibre coverage

Think Broadband

Whether the UK is to stay with existing ambition of 50% coverage of full fibre by 2025 or increase this ambition to bringing forward the 100% full fibre date of 2033 to 2025 looks very difficult to comprehend when we are getting mildly excited that the actual coverage has increased to 8%.

The UK hit 8.02% full fibre coverage on Monday 1st July when we updated the online stats for the start of July and with the daily updates on our internal system we are recording a total of 8.08%. 

8% looks inconsequential but the pace of roll-out has changed significantly with half of the roll-out appearing in the last 12 months and with roll-outs from firms such as Openreach, Hyperoptic, Vodafone Gigafast (built by CityFibre), Community Fibre ramping up.

Of course premises passed is just part of the story, no point in having an area with 100% coverage and no-one buying the service or companies refusing to connect people, so as well as tracking the premises passed the next year or two are crucial in seeing how much take-up there is and whether the various FTTP companies have the resources to both pass and connect homes and businesses.

NHS creating its own ‘G-Cloud’ for digital services


NHS CIO Will Smart tells Computing that the organisation is in the midst of creating NHS-wide procurement frameworks for IT services

The NHS is in the process of creating an organisation-wide procurement framework for IT services, similar to the G-Cloud digital marketplace set up for Central Government.

NHS CIO Will Smart admitted that it’s unusual for the NHS to make any organisation-wide purchases, but admitted that it is setting up a system to enable it to negotiate better deals with suppliers.

“You will see us doing more NHS-wide procurement frameworks,” Smart began. “We will use the commercial scale of the NHS to strike the best possible deal with vendors, but allow local organisations pull off the most appropriate solution. And we’ll do that at a core technology level.”

Public Technology

Over the past decade, tech-minded government reformers have pursued two main objectives: digitisation and disaggregation.

While digitisation is the sleek and seductive storefront of transformation, disaggregation serves as the back office and the goods warehouse. The former has seen departments, guided by the Government Digital Service, build ways to deliver hundreds of citizen services online, while also digitising many of government’s own internal processes. Supporting this have been concerted efforts to reimagine the way the civil service – and the wider public sector – buys and deploys technology. The ambition is to do away with the old long-term, multibillion-pound deals that were, invariably, awarded to just a handful of global IT giants.

Having broken up these contracts – a process otherwise known as disaggregation – the goal is to replace them with numerous smaller deals and, in doing so, enable innovative SME specialists to work with government in a way that was not possible in years gone by.

In the gamut of technology careers, working in procurement will never be towards the glamorous end. But, during the transformation efforts of recent years, the Crown Commercial Service has been the yin to the GDS yang: a necessary complement needed to make a whole of two halves.

CCS took its current form in 2014 when the centralised Government Procurement Service was expanded and strengthened by the inclusion of buying management teams from individual departments. This was two years after both the creation of GDS and the launch of the first G-Cloud framework – a streamlined commercial vehicle allowing for easier purchase of cloud services.

And while the work of the procurement agency may not always capture the imagination in the same way as its Cabinet Office stablemate, CCS can put up some pretty impressive numbers to demonstrate its effectiveness: its 2017-18 annual report reveals that the organisation enabled cumulative cost savings of £601m for a total of 17,000 public sector buyers.

Niall Quinn, technology director at CCS, tells CSW: “CCS was set up to save people money; there is money saved through using our frameworks, and there’s money saved through further competition [between prospective suppliers]. Further competition is key. So, we want much more of that across all of our frameworks, because that’s real and demonstrated.”

But, he adds, CCS’s work is not just about saving money – it’s about value. “If we educate people about how to use our framework better… and educate suppliers about how to bid better as well, then you have [everything] meeting in the middle to create value – namely appropriate skills, delivered to the right problem and solving it – at the right price.”

Over half a million homes now using full-fibre as access improves

Computer Weekly

Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report examines key trends in the UK’s broadband and mobile market, and finds that access to faster broadband is expanding rapidly across all delivery mechanisms.

The number of active full-fibre – or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) – broadband connections in the UK grew from 320,000 to 510,000 during 2018, reflecting the gathering pace of the national full-fibre roll-out, which is bringing the technology within physical reach of more homes, according to Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report.

The annual report highlighted growth across the broadband market as Brits rushed to upgrade to faster broadband services, mostly to access subscription on-demand video services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

Vodafone switches on 5G mobile network

Computer Weekly

The UK’s longest-standing mobile operator, Vodafone, has officially turned on its 5G mobile network at an event in London, and reintroduced unlimited data packages for users as it looks to shake up the market.

Mobile network operator Vodafone has officially launched its 5G mobile network service at an event in the City of London, with UK chief executive Nick Jeffery and reigning Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton pushing the ceremonial big red button, marking the culmination of a multi-year, £4.5bn transformation and preparation programme for the operator.