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  • Tom Read talks GDS’s future strategy
    Tom Read was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Government Digital Service in February 2021 – and he’s been busy since then! For this month’s episode, Tom reflects on his tours inside and outside of digital government, takes us through the newly-launched GDS strategy for 2021-2024 and offers his take on why we’re switching gears from start-up mode – without losing any of GDS’s “secret sauce”…
  • UK government launches new £210m AI and quantum computing centre
    The Government of UK has launched a new artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing centre with an investment of £210m in North West England. Based in the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory in the Liverpool City Region, Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) will create vacancies for 60 additional scientists. The government collaborated with tech giant IBM to launch the new facility. Through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the UK government will make approximately £172m investment over five years, with £28m investment to come in the first year. The remaining £38m funding is provided by IBM. HNCDI will combine AI and quantum computing to support the latest technologies in industry and the public sector. UK science minister Amanda Solloway said: “Artificial intelligence and quantum computing have the potential to revolutionise everything from the way we travel to the way we shop.
  • Government Suppliers need a Carbon Reduction Plan in order to Bid
    On 5th June 2021 the Cabinet Office issued Procurement Policy Notice PPN 06/21 ‘Taking account of carbon reduction plans in the procurement of major government contracts’. The new guidance will apply to new Central Government procurements dated after 30th September 2021 over £5m and will require the following from the bidding supplier:-
  • Oracle and Crown Commercial Service renew MoU to continue cloud use
    Oracle and the UK government’s Crown Commercial Service (CCS) have renewed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) such that the supplier will facilitate access to its cloud infrastructure as well as its suite of cloud-delivered applications. The agreement also covers the beefing up of what the supplier describes as its “government centre of excellence” to provide support and technical expertise to help public sector organisations make better use of Oracle Cloud. Oracle and the government first signed a MoU in 2012, and last updated the arrangement in September 2019. Today’s renewal will last for three years, the supplier has confirmed. The updated MoU will ensure that central, local and devolved governments, as well as all public service departments and agencies, such as NHS Trusts, are able to make continued use of Oracle Cloud. Public services will have access to the full suite of Oracle Cloud applications.
  • Network automation is ‘essential’ to Vodafone’s bid to become a true technology company
    Vodafone’s ambition of being a true technology company, rather than a mere provider of telecoms services, is well documented. It is a strategy that permeates through its various projects at a UK and Group level, most recently through its extended partnership with Google Cloud. Specifically, the Newbury-based firm wants to become a more agile, data-driven organisation capable of powering entirely new services that generate new sources of revenue for both itself and its customers. It wants to be a driver of innovation rather than just a vehicle. In the UK, investments in fibre, 5G and IoT are all essential in achieving this goal. But central to everything is the transformation and consolidation of its mobile and fixed core networks into a single platform – Redstream.
  • NHSX launches dynamic purchasing system for digital social care records
    It has established a framework as part of the Digital Social Care Records Programme that was introduced in September 2020. Initially, the DPS includes four suppliers – iplanit by Asprico, everyLIFE, Person Centred Software, and Nourish. NHSX expects other suppliers to become a part of the DPS over the next few months, and by November 2024, this is expected to be in place. In a blogpost, NHSX assistant director of programmes Pete Skinner and programme manager for market engagement and standards Claire Hessey said: “In October 2020, we began engaging with suppliers, the social care sector and the Professional Records Standards Body to understand the priorities and functionality that carers and care managers need. These were then built in as minimum requirements that all suppliers must meet. “We also included a number of optional capabilities to help social care providers narrow down the systems available to those that best meet their needs. “We will be continuing to work with the sector to develop purchasing guidance, helping to highlight key areas that a provider should think about to ensure that they are buying the solution that best supports them.” The move is claimed to be in line with a push for higher interoperability with NHS systems, including shared care records. NHSX plans to offer more support to the social care sector in the months to come through integrated care systems.
  • Procurement frameworks for IT don’t deliver true out-of-the-box functionality
    In September 2020, the twelfth iteration of the G-Cloud framework was issued, demonstrating that the framework and its use continue to be fully endorsed by The Crown Commercial Service and the government departments it supports. This latest release and the programmes of work across Westminster affirm that cloud, out-of-the-box and SaaS (Software as a Service) are very much the solutions of choice for government and the private sector. The benefits of SaaS support this trend and are incredibly attractive to all; the promise of reduced time to implement, operational cost reduction and increased scalability are hard to ignore. Frameworks such as these provide government with an assured, transparent way of procuring services, and as they mature, the time to procure and the success of using them increases. However, they often miss two key factors – organisational readiness and supplier management – and require more input and expertise from public sector customers than their off-the-shelf functionality would suggest.
  • DWP signs £27m Crown Hosting contract extension due to ‘security requirements’
    The Department for Work and Pensions has signed a £25m-plus contract extension with Crown Hosting Data Centres. The DWP claimed that, while it has an overall “strategy to increase its footprint in the cloud”, it still has a need to keep some programs in the dedicated datacentre facility provided to the department by Crown Hosting. “Following the purchase of four datacentre rooms in 2015… the rental is due for renewal,” the contract notice said. “Some applications will remain in the DC due to security requirements whilst others will become obsolete during their tenure. This facility therefore remains a key strategic requirement for the foreseeable future.” The extension of the hosting deal commenced on 1 June and lasts for five years. It is valued at £26.6m. The DWP indicated that, as work goes on to move more systems to a cloud environment, the contract allows for a reduction in capacity.
  • The acceleration to cloud is causing a monitoring migraine
    From a technology perspective, one of the biggest changes we’ve seen over the past year has been a dramatic acceleration in cloud computing initiatives. The pandemic has proven once and for all that cloud computing really does work, even in the most challenging of circumstances, providing greater speed, agility and resilience. And with this new level of trust and appreciation of cloud computing, huge numbers of businesses have gone from running only a handful of applications in the cloud to wanting to shift significant parts of their IT estate over to a cloud environment, as quickly as they possibly can. Indeed, as organisations have rushed through digital transformation programs to deliver new digital services to both customers and employees during the pandemic, most have relied heavily on the cloud to enable them to move at the required speed and scale.
  • BT launches ‘unbreakable’ small business Wi-Fi to boost connectivity, coverage,
    BT launched a new business unit which will serve the millions of UK firms which are either small by design or just starting up. Together with the launch of the UK’s ‘unbreakable’ Wi-Fi for micro-businesses which guarantees coverage across the workplace, full fibre speeds of up to 900Mbps and free tech expert support the new unit will help the UK’s smallest firms to rebuild and get set for growth. More than 95% or around 5.7 million of the UK’s private sector companies are micro-businesses with up to nine employees. These range from home-based businesses and start-ups to more established firms with a single site. BT is so convinced by the high-growth potential of this market known as single/small office, home office (SoHo) and its role in powering the post pandemic recovery, that it has carved out a new unit to focus on the digital and connectivity needs of home based and single site businesses. As well as delivering business grade connections which offer value for money and a premium customer service experience, BT will launch a new suite of services and apps to help the UK’s smallest and fledgling firms grow by building stronger digital foundations. These new services could include stronger cyber security measures, free digital skills training and new digital advertising tools, for example.
  • Most workers want to make it illegal to force employees to go into the office
    The vast majority of workers are in favour of changes to legislation that would make it illegal for businesses to force employees to work from the office, according to new research. Following the recent lockdowns a survey from identity firm Okta has found that workers want more freedom to choose how, and where, they work – with hybrid working solutions increasingly popular. However, the study of more than 10,000 office workers, including 2,000 from the UK, revealed that many feel employers will be reluctant to offer more flexibility. Some 79% of those questioned for the research would like legislation changed so that it becomes illegal to force employees to work from the office. However, 48% want exceptions, including for emergency services workers. Meanwhile, 31% think it should be against the law no matter what the occupation happens to be.
  • Website Woes Cause Problems for UK Gigabit Voucher Scheme
    The UK Government’s new rural-focused Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme is said to have faced “significant challenges” due to issues with the stability of its website, which DCMS told ISPs had resulted in temporary site outages and “issues with automated supplier payments and reporting.” But only “some users” were affected. The new scheme – part of the wider £5bn Project Gigabit programme – was relaunched on 8th April 2021 and is an almost identical replacement for the previous Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) project. Both schemes offer up to £3,500 for businesses, or £1,500 for homes, to help them get an ultrafast or gigabit-capable broadband ISP connection installed.
  • Smartphone battery tech: what could the next 10 years bring?
    We’ve all suffered from smartphone battery-range anxiety. From the dreaded 15% warning one day into a weekend festival, to navigating maze-like backroads to reach your destination before Maps sucks your handset dry, the dread of running out of juice is one that we can all relate to. It’s no surprise, then, that battery life is one of the most important features for consumers. The trouble is, while other areas of smartphone tech have improved at a blistering pace – bigger, higher-resolution screens, more powerful innards and pixel-packed cameras – battery tech has lagged sorely behind. When the ancient and miniscule Nokia 8210 is capable of comfortably outlasting your modern pocketable computer by days, it feels like in some ways, we’ve gone backwards. But there is hope. Battery tech has already improved immensely over the nickel-toting cells used in the 80s. The following decade’s switch to lithium-ion/poly batteries has allowed more power to be crammed into smaller spaces, helping kick-off the smartphone revolution. Today, manufacturers are already using innovative solutions to provide more power, and there isn’t a day that goes by without news of a potentially revolutionary new bit of battery tech hitting the news.
  • China’s drive to compete against Starlink for the future of orbital internet
    There has been a wave of businesses over the past several years hoping to offer broadband internet delivered from thousands of satellites in low-earth orbit (LEO), providing coverage of most of the earth’s surface. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen excitement in the category. Companies and people that you have heard of — Bill Gates and Motorola, to name a few — invested billions of dollars into this business model two decades ago in an adventure that ended in many bankruptcies and very few people connected to the internet from low-earth orbit. Yet, here we are 20 years later, witnessing billionaires from Elon Musk to Jeff Bezos and entities from SoftBank to the United Kingdom investing billions into broadband from space in a gold rush that began around 2015, and has only accelerated since the beginning of 2020. During that same period, we have seen a parallel ascendance of China’s space capabilities. In tandem with the accelerated deployment of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation in 2020, China has rapidly responded in terms of policy, financing, and technology, including most notably the creation of a “Chinese answer to Starlink”, namely constellation operating company China SatNet, and the associated GuoWang (国网, or National Net(work)) constellation.
  • Hybrid working could be a catastrophic mistake
    A hybrid working model is anything but the perfect solution, says Head of Remote at GitLab In the spring of 2020, the pandemic was said to have brought about the world’s largest remote working experiment. But as some nations now begin to unlock, there is little agreement over the conclusions that can be drawn. Eager to escape the confines of the home office, many people are calling for a transition to a hybrid working system, whereby time is split between the home, office and any other preferred location. Others, like Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab, believe businesses are heading blindly towards catastrophe, having underestimated the logistical challenges a shift to hybrid working will create. “Hybrid working is going to wreck a lot of companies; it’s going to create a lot of chaos and friction,” he told TechRadar Pro, in no uncertain terms.
  • ResearchWire: Top 25 Tenders
    Narrowing the top 25 public sector tenders from the above time range, the most common value band for opportunities lies in the £10m – £50m range, account for approximately 48% Now that many central government and public sector organisations’ new budgets will have likely been recently approved for the new year, the total value across the top opportunities has decreased by more than half (over £2bn) The average contract value has also decreased by around £100m, another indicator that the new budgets reflect strained government investment resulting from the pandemic’s crippling effect on the economy, while the average contract duration is 56 months (over four years) These infrastructure tenders came in the form of Network Rail Infrastructure installing communications lines The Central Housing Investment Consortium (CHIC) was the biggest spender this month, down from £2.5bn (Crown Commercial Service) in the previous month, this spending went into a single opportunity – the CHIC Digital Asset Delivery Framework 2021
  • The government wants to have another go at digital identity. Can it get it right this time?
    Filing a tax return, changing some key personal information like a name or an address, sponsoring a visa applicant: for many of us, this type of admin is still synonymous with complex paperwork and hours spent on the phone trying to reach the right government service for advice. The UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) wants to change that. As the organization responsible for running the Gov.UK website, GDS’s mission statement is to modernize the way that citizens interact with public services.
  • Virgin Media Business reveals new flexible contracting model
    Virgin Media Business has announced changes to its wholesale connectivity contracting model, enabling further flexibility for partners and customers. The changes will provide partners with flexible access to wholesale business connectivity with the removal of excess construction charges and the majority of installation charges. Flexible contracts will be offered, with anytime cancellation offered as standard for managed ethernet, leased line and High Capacity Services contracts. The network provider has also refreshed its pricing as part of the new commercial strategy, benchmarking prices in line with the latest acquisition pricing to provide better value and increased confidence for partners and customers. Mike Hallam, executive director of wholesale at Virgin Media Business said the company is ‘ripping up the rulebook’ to give customers guaranteed flexibility and better prices. “We’re stepping up for our partners with this radical shift so they have the confidence, cashflow and commercial agility they need to help their customers bounce back stronger than ever,” Hallam said.
  • Embracing cloud could net your company billions
    A study from digital consulting company Infosys has found that enterprises could add up to $414 billion per year in net profits through effective cloud adoption. The firm’s research arm surveyed over 2,500 companies across six regions: the US, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. With the findings, the company launched the Infosys Cloud Radar 2021 report, which highlights the links between enterprise cloud usage and business growth.
  • Transformation tips
    The following tips are from conversation with a handful of transformation directors from across the country. These are not rules, but observations from their lived experience… Where to start Work in an equal partnership with voluntary, community and faith organisations and with well connected leaders in communities. Engage them well and early: they know more about where they live. Start small and do it and make it work; build from small examples with a coalition of the willing. Do not underestimate the importance of change in the short-term rather than waiting for the bigger stuff. We think it’s best to have lots of pilots rather than a big gamble. Give permission to safely make mistakes and test new approaches at all levels – enable a culture of learning and problem solving. Sandbox these experiments so that mistakes don’t undermine confidence or lead to safeguarding risks. (Sandboxing means testing in a safe way, so the risk of things going wrong is contained. For example, in children’s services you might run the new service model alongside the old one for a period to ensure there are no unintended outcomes.) From the beginning, evaluate the impact. Partners are interested in the evidence of outcomes and demand reduction that affects them, so tailor your messages and show them the findings.
  • UK spies violated human rights with bulk intercepts, European court rules
    Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency breached fundamental human rights by intercepting and harvesting vast amounts of communications, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday. Revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed that GCHQ and the U.S. National Security Agency were sucking up vast amounts of communications from across the world, including on their own citizens. The Strasbourg-based court ruled in a case known as “Big Brother Watch and Others vs. the United Kingdom” that Britain had breached the right to respect for private and family life communications and the right to freedom of expression with its bulk intercept regime. The regime for obtaining communications data from service providers also violated human rights, the court said, though it added that bulk interception in itself was not illegal. The law which allowed the bulk interception has since been replaced by new legislation which the British government says provides greater oversight.
  • CCS plans ‘recommended’ public sector mobile voice and data deal
    The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is opening discussions with potential suppliers of a mobile voice and data agreement that would become the “recommended vehicle” for the UK public sector CCS estimates its new Mobile Voice and Data Services agreement will be worth £650 million over four years, made up of an initial three years and an optional one year extension, according to a prior information notice. It plans to divide the agreement into three lots. The primary lot would cover voice and data services including airtime, hardware and supporting services such as mobile device management and security. The second would establish services allowing analysis of usage and recommendations on tariffs and suppliers. A third would cover professional support in areas such as integration, strategy, implementation and security.
  • How a modern cloud-based system can help the public sector
    The tumultuous political landscape, marked most recently by events such as Brexit and the ongoing pandemic, necessitates public sector organisations be able to react quickly to new operating environments. As portfolios shift, policies evolve and new ministerial priorities come to the fore, today’s government departments and local authorities must develop new business models or adapt their current model to maximise the skill sets and time of staff. A public sector organisation relies on having accurate and up-to-date information at its disposal in addition to the necessary tools to enable it to create predictive insights. By doing this, organisations can adapt, as well as respond to the implementation of new policies and keep delivering efficient and effective services as the circumstances continue to change. Therefore, a business that operates in the public sector should implement a modern, flexible cloud-based system to integrate its suite of business applications.
  • Telcos will be leaders in cloud adoption by 2022 if they deliver on plans
    A report from Infosys has found that telecoms firms will be leaders in cloud adoption if they deliver on their migration plans. Despite the telecoms industry representing a small subset (4%) of the study, the researchers noted how telcos are leading in cloud adoption—focusing their efforts on deploying AI and automation, developing predictive maintenance capabilities, and expanding 5G offerings. While the pandemic slowed cloud adoption in many industries, the telecoms industry continued at pace. Cloud technologies helped telcos to continue offering robust connectivity and service when people needed it most. Anurag Vardhan Sinha, Senior Vice President of Communications, Media & Entertainment at Infosys, said: “Connecting people and data regardless of distances is fundamental to what telecom companies do. It’s only natural that telecom companies would see the promise of cloud and move quickly to adopt it.” In the case of unlocking AI and data benefits from the cloud, telecoms companies were rated the highest (36%) of all the surveyed industries.
  • Cybersecurity is not a one-stop shop
    Boris Johnson announced the government’s roadmap to lift coronavirus restrictions for both businesses and the general public earlier in February, and since then, this has provided a glimmer of hope for many across the country. However, since the start of the pandemic, the way business is conducted has changed permanently, with many workforces wanting to continue to work remotely as lockdowns and restrictions ease over time. So, as companies relax and rules are eased, life is expected to return to a form of ‘new normal.’ But, the issues around cybersecurity are here to stay, and the gas pedal must not be eased – especially with the increased risks associated with continued remote working. If anything, security should be more reinforced now than ever before to ensure all aspects of a business are secure. But this isn’t the case.
  • Smarter working in public services in the age of Covid-19
    Covid-19 has caused seismic shifts in the way we work. Traditional, inflexible models of working – based around physical office spaces and set working hours – became impossible almost overnight from 23 March. Smarter working is now a priority for every organisation and the public sector is no different. Throughout the UK, it has had to adapt at speed to create working environments that empower staff and make best use of workplaces and technology, while also realising savings for the taxpayer. However, this period of ‘enforced’ home working has shown that it is possible for the majority of public sector office-based roles to be delivered from home, and this has encouraged a change around how and where work is delivered.
  • The value of an integrated communications stack in a hybrid working world
    Covid-19 has created a seismic shift in employee expectations for working from home. As talk of a return to normality grows, companies have begun to grapple with the implications of meeting these expectations for hybrid working environments. With this comes multiple challenges for communication and collaboration, which are the lifeblood of any business. On top of this, to connect with consumers now and in the future, businesses must turn to more innovative channels and employ new communications technologies that allow them the flexibility to embed programmable capabilities – voice, video, messaging and verification – directly into existing applications and workflows. It’s becoming increasingly clear that significant value lies in considering an end-to-end communications stack proposition for IT decision makers.
  • Strategies businesses can use to out-innovate the competition
    When was the last time you saw something and wondered, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Many small business owners mistakenly believe that only big companies, armed with scientists and large research and development budgets, are capable of true innovation. But you might not realize that smaller firms actually have the upper hand on innovation. Globalization, digitization and changing regulations have raised uncertainties that cause many large businesses to stick with what they know rather than explore possibilities. Built-in corporate constraints can lead to months or years of evaluating new ideas, and strict adherence to a more traditional corporate culture stilts thinking. Smaller businesses, on the other hand, have more flexibility to make decisions quickly, reallocate resources to new ideas and come to market first. An entrepreneurial approach that is more adaptive presents an opportunity for fresh thinking. Innovation results less from careful planning and predictive analysis and more on fluidity to surpass market demands.
  • UK is the most digitally advanced country in Europe
    The UK is the most digitally advanced country in Europe after the pandemic accelerated digital adoption, new research shows. A survey of more than 20,000 European citizens by McKinsey reveals 86 per cent of the UK has used ecommerce or online services in the past six months. Some 7m Brits have accessed new digital services since Christmas, especially in grocery and education as a result of the pandemic, with 43m digital users in total this year. The research shows fully digital is the preferred channel across industries except for groceries, with 48 per cent of users not going online for their shops. Digital growth has plateaued across Europe in the past six months and may begin to slip back once the pandemic is over, McKinsey predicts. Indeed, the survey shows over 9m Brits expect to return to physical stores once the pandemic is over. “With consumers having reached high levels of digital penetration in most regions and industries, the acceleration into digital channels now seems to have leveled off in both Europe and the United States,” McKinsey said.
  • Government Digital Service: Our strategy for 2021-2024
    At GDS, our mission is to build a simple, joined-up and personalised experience of government for everyone. Using our unique position at the centre of government, we will develop services that just work for the user, however complex the underlying systems. The journey to today Ten years ago, the UK government had an organically grown online presence with each government department, agency and arms-length body having their own website. Additional information was available through DirectGov and BusinessLink, early attempts at bringing information together in one place. Following Martha Lane Fox’s report into digital government in 2010, GDS was established to focus on fixing publishing, digitising high-volume transactional services, and building “wholesale” technology platforms. GOV.UK was created, and more than 2,000 other websites were fully migrated to the new single publishing platform. Twenty five of the highest volume services were chosen as “exemplars” of digital transformation, and a programme established to deliver the transformation. While there are lessons to be learned, many of these services remain the gold standard for what excellent digital services can look like. In the 10 years since GDS was created, departments and agencies have built digital teams of the highest quality, and many of the most important services have been built and designed based on research from real users, and are supported by agile, multidisciplinary teams.
  • UK stakes further claim in small-satellite launch business
    The UK government evidently wants to cash in on the growing demand for launch capacity of small satellites, driven largely by “Internet-in-the-sky” projects like Elon Musk’s Starlink, and create more employment opportunities. The UK Space Agency said “hundreds of space jobs” will be created in Scotland now that the government has approved plans for Lockheed Martin to transfer its “UK Pathfinder Launch” to the Shetland site at Lamba Ness on the island of Unst. (Located in the Shetland Islands, Unst is about as far north as you can get when it comes to inhabited parts of the UK.)
  • Cabinet Office to relocate more than 1,000 jobs to Scotland
    More than 1,000 civil service jobs are set to be relocated to Scotland as the Cabinet Office looks to establish a second flagship HQ, with ministerial offices, in Glasgow. The move will see Glasgow, East Kilbride and the surrounding areas benefit from new jobs and investment from the UK Government, with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) set to be joining the Cabinet Office in moving civil service jobs to Scotland. It is intended that the move will bring key decision makers closer to the communities they serve, as well as strengthening diversity in the UK Civil Service, as well as widening the available job pool to recruit from.
  • It’s time for telecom to worry about the public cloud
    The public cloud giants are becoming rather like munificent dictators, attractive and terrifying in equal measure. Their “hyperscale” muscle makes their services hard to resist. It also means punier rivals stand little chance of competing. As the Internet consumes planet Earth, its three most ravenous purveyors – AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure – are growing all-powerful. Telecom operators sound increasingly resigned to this fate of dependence on the US clouds. “We cannot pretend, because we don’t have the scale to redo what they have been able to build with worldwide scale,” said Michael Trabbia, the chief technology officer of France’s Orange, in a recent discussion with reporters. His own company gave up any pretense last July when it struck a far-reaching deal with Google Cloud. Besides looking after various cloud-computing needs, the Internet giant will be developing analytics and machine learning systems for Orange.
  • Empowering the digital workforce of 2021 and beyond
    2020 was the year that changed everything. The way we live, work and succeed got turned on its head. The challenges faced gave way to opportunities and innovations that we can now capitalise on to make the future better. Evanna Kearins, SVP Marketing EMEA at Pluralsight, discusses these challenges and how you can begin applying them to your team.
  • How Covid has revealed public sector transformation’s greatest strengths – and weaknesses
    As living and working in a Covid world has become a way of life – rather than a complete subversion of what we previously thought of as a way of life – many public sector digital advocates have begun to look back on the past year and reflect that they hope the progress and reform necessitated by the pandemic is not reversed over the coming months and years. The scale of their collective achievements has been enormous. There is, most obviously, the switch to technology-enabled remote working, which was realised at huge scale, with great effectiveness and, in many cases, practically overnight. But there is also the work – completed with similar speed and efficacy – to create and implement major new digital services, such as the platform to support the furlough scheme, and GOV.UK’s ever-evolving and expanding hub for communicating with citizens about coronavirus. Beyond that, there have been big advances in the use of data across the public sector, and the ease and potency with which it is shared between organisations. However, for all that the Covid crisis has shone a light on the power and potential of digital transformation, it has also starkly revealed the barriers that remain in its way, and the work that remains to be done. Speaking on a recent webinar co-hosted by PublicTechnology, Civil Service World, and SAP Concur, the cloud technology vendor’s UK and Ireland central government sales lead Dips Dhillon said that, across Whitehall, “Covid has exposed lots of manual processes that relied on legacy technology, and could not support mobile working or the speed of change that we have seen over the last year”.
  • How business leaders can adapt for the Covid rebound
    Covid-19 hasn’t just transformed the working day. It has fundamentally changed what it means to be a business leader and has created a new and demanding set of priorities. These include building a strong company culture as we move from mass remote working to a more hybrid model, and digitizing and streamlining services to improve employee collaboration and acquire new customers. Boosting resilience and protection from cyber threats is another key consideration. Leaders shouldn’t be intimidated by these challenges. They should be excited by them. Our study with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) shows that if CEOs make the right decisions, they can drive a £232bn boost to UK GDP by 2040. And I believe there are several straightforward steps leaders can take to meet new expectations and set organizations up for a successful bounce back from Covid-19.
  • Businesses Unprepared for End of Openreach’s Copper Phone
    A new survey of 400 UK-based SME businesses, which was conducted by ISP Spitfire during March 2021, has found that nearly half (46%) of firms have no idea that their existing analogue phone and ISDN services will be switched-off completely by December 2025. The “Switch On to the Switch Off” survey also highlighted that 83% of businesses have no visibility of when their services will be switched off, and over three quarters (77%) haven’t prepared for the disruption the switch-off of services may cause. Openreach has already begun the gradual migration of traditional voice (PSTN / POTS) services to all-IP (VoIP, Cloud PBX etc.) technologies (here), which is due to complete by December 2025 and is occurring on copper lines (e.g. SOGEA). In other words, future phone services will need to connect over your broadband service (via a router etc.) instead of a handset plugging directly into the old wall socket.
  • Too many disconnected systems in government, says minister
    Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez wants to address issues with legacy systems, improve digital skills across government and improve department collaboration, including in procurement
  • Why the Home Office is still not fit for purpose
    I read Daniel Trilling’s article on the Home Office (Cruel, paranoid, failing: inside the Home Office, 13 May), and its story of delay, confrontation and the “hostile environment” echoed my experience of dealing with immigration cases as an MP. Time after time, people came to my surgeries pleading for help with the labyrinthine processes imposed on them by the Home Office, with many of them waiting months or even years for a decision. I was therefore surprised to see the letter from permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft (14 May) claiming that the Home Office operates under new values: “compassionate, respectful, courageous, collaborative”. Mr Rycroft would have us believe that things have changed for the better in the last year. Yet on the same day we read of an EU citizen trying to visit her family in the UK, only to be locked up in a detention centre and issued with an expulsion order (Report, 14 May). The permanent secretary may wish to convince us that the Home Office is considering “the face behind the case” but the evidence would suggest that in the case of EU citizens the face doesn’t fit and the “hostile environment” persists.
  • NHS Digital denies conflict of interest over Accenture contracts
    NHS Digital has denied a conflict of interest with consultancy firm Accenture following reports it spent 15% of its budget in one year with the company where two board members previously worked. Noel Gordon and Daniel Benton, who both previously worked for Accenture, were members of NHS Digital’s board when the organisation spent £33 million with the firm. Gordon was chair of NHS Digital until August 2020 while Benton remains a non-executive director. NHS Digital awarded contracts worth £33m to Accenture in 2018/19, out of its total operating expenditure of £218m – totalling 15% of its budget. Some £18m of this was spent on the NHSMail contract, according to the 2018/19 annual report and accounts.
  • Digital Government
    Earlier this year, the Cabinet Office announced the new DDaT leadership team. The appointments of Paul Willmott and Joanna Davinson to the newly established Central Digital and Data Office, strengthen the leadership and vision needed for the next phase of digital delivery and transformation in government. The CDDO has been established to lead the DDaT function across departments. Our mission is to improve user access and experience of government services and harness the power of data. As such, through this collective leadership we will use and upskill the expertise of our cross-government DDaT community and put the strategy, standards and assurance mechanisms in place to deliver the digital transformation we’ve been waiting for at scale. Government, and the stakeholders that it exists to serve, are rapidly becoming ‘digital’ in every way. The shift to digital is a long term trend that has been accelerated by COVID-19 and will continue with improving technology like the rollout of 5G. Now, more than ever, digital must be front and centre of government’s priorities to meet user needs. There is strong backing and support from my Ministerial colleagues and leaders across government to accelerate the digital transformation of public services – the introduction of the CDDO is evidence of this.
  • Tech companies that fail to keep children safe online could face huge fines in the UK
    If new legislation successfully comes into play in the UK, tech companies there could face major financial penalties for failing to keep children safe online or not removing racist and other harmful content. A draft copy of the country’s Online Safety Bill, which has been years in the making, was published by the government on Wednesday after being announced in the Queen’s Speech. It’s expected to come before Parliament in the next few months. The Online Safety Bill, previously known as the Online Harms Bill, is a key piece of legislation that would place UK media watchdog Ofcom in charge of regulating tech companies in Britain. Ofcom will have the power to fine tech companies £18 million ($25.3 million) or 10% of their annual revenue, whichever is higher, if they fail to remove harmful or illegal content, as well as to block sites and services. Senior managers at tech companies could even face criminal charges if those companies consistently fall short of their obligations.
  • Even greater reliance on data could be the greatest thing to emerge from the pandemic, say IT leaders
    Greater demands for access to data in order to drive better decision making is one of the trends to emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic. That was one of the themes of a roundtable for senior IT leaders hosted recently by Computing. “We’ve traditionally been an immature data organisation,” said one IT leader from a major retail organisation. “But over the pandemic we’ve seen an increase in demand for data right across the organisation. We’ve also seen a greater need to automate which has in turn improved our data processes. We’ve moved from five to over one hundred people using our data platform. That’s because we made it available and useful, the hunger for it was already there,” she added. Another delegate, from a government body, said that data was always important to his organisation, but they’ve added more automation. “We’ve always used customer data to look at how to improve that experience, so we haven’t had to pivot that way due to the pandemic. But we have started using RPA (Robotic Process Automation) extensively to try to take the load off our call centres. And we’ve used data to ensure that those processes are doing what they’re supposed to do.” One attendee, a head of data from a global banking group, explained that whilst data can be essential, it must be properly rationed amongst the right people.
  • Understanding the 3 Key Edge Deployment Options
    As legitimate low-latency, high bandwidth use-cases for edge computing continue to grow within the enterprise, IT leaders and architects are beginning to wonder exactly how an edge computing deployment could fit into the rest of their corporate network infrastructure. According to market analysis research conducted by Million Insights, the global edge computing market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37% through 2027. With IoT finally taking off and an increased need for real-time data collection, processing, and analytics, it’s expected that most medium to large enterprises will require the need for delivering compute and storage closer to end users at some point in the future. When looking at the edge computing landscape, network architects will find a myriad of options and pricing models. Yet, if you boil the offerings down and look at what is being offered from a customer perspective, three distinct models emerge. Let’s look at these three edge deployment models and discuss why a company may prefer one model over the others.
  • Government agreement offers public sector up to 20% discount on AWS hosting
    The government’s memorandum of understanding with Amazon Web Services – under the terms of which more than £300m has already been spent – offers public-sector customers an 18% “baseline discount” on the vendor’s hosting services, PublicTechnology can reveal. In addition to this saving, which is available to all public-sector organisations awarding three-year contracts to the cloud firm, a further price reduction of 2% is available when services are paid for upfront and in full. A partial upfront payment of at least 50% confers on the buyer an extra 1% discount. Citing commercial sensitivity, both the Crown Commercial Service and AWS have not disclosed the terms of the MoU, known as the One Government Value Agreement. Asked earlier this month, neither would put a percentage figure on the savings available, although CCS indicated that it “anticipates commercial benefits well in excess of £50m over the next three years”. The terms of the agreement – which include a non-disclosure clause that applies to both parties – have been revealed in unredacted documents, seen by PublicTechnology. The MoU also stipulates that, for AWS’s professional services offerings, a discount of 15% will be applied to each eligible engagement – or ‘statement of work’, in the vendor’s parlance.
  • A new breed of public servants: skills and staffing after the pandemic
    Civil servants have broken new ground during the COVID-19 pandemic – using hackathons, scientific advisory groups and private sector volunteers to shape policy and deliver services, for example. But at the Global Government Summit, it became clear that these innovations may be dwarfed by the changes to come. Matt Ross listens in as leaders debate the future of governance When the pandemic struck, demand for some public services suddenly spiked. Many countries responded by moving staff between departments and agencies, short-circuiting the usual processes to get people where they were needed; some even reached out to furloughed private sector staff. “There was a need for surge manpower: we needed people to be safe distancing ambassadors; to distribute masks; to give out COVID support grants,” recalled Jacqueline Po, Deputy Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office Strategy Group in Singapore. “Sectors like aviation and hospitality were quite badly disrupted, and we were able, through our Public Service Division, to channel that manpower to some of the needs of the Public Service. Singapore Airlines stewardesses were helping out, working in hospitals rather than hospitality!”
  • Ex-NCSC chief Martin asks whether the new cyber strategy will make the UK safer
    The signature achievement of the government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Foreign and Development policy was a coherent plan to base future security and prosperity on scientific and technological excellence. The plan has everything need to give it strategic credibility: funding, policy, legislative and governance changes. But one underdeveloped part of this part of the document is cyberspace. Despite a narrative emphasis on Britain as a ‘cyber power’ there were no new policies or pounds. The only new ‘announcement’ was that there would be a national cyber strategy later this year. Intriguingly, this is to be a ‘whole of cyber’ strategy, replacing the two previous national cyber security strategies of 2011 and 2016. This seemingly arcane bureaucratic change matters. That’s because the strategy now incorporates not just the UK’s efforts to secure its digital homeland, but also offensive cyber – hacking others – in support of our own national security.
  • Government tells NHS Digital to collect sensitive GP records – patients have until 23 June to opt out
    The government has directed NHS Digital to collect sensitive health data in GP records, with citizens given until June 23rd to opt out. The move, which updates existing practices, has alarmed medConfidential, a group that campaigns for the privacy and confidentiality of health data, which says the measure was not flagged up, and despite promises of anonymisation and encryption of the data the programme may make sensitive data saleable to commercial companies and other third parties, as is already possible with hospital data. The General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) Directive by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock requires NHS Digital to “establish and operate an information system for the collection and analysis of General Practice data for health and social care purposes,” according to NHS Digital’s website (page since taken down), adding health data should be collected for health and social care purposes that “include but are not limited to health and social care policy, planning and commissioning purposes; public health purposes, including Covid-19 purposes… and research”. Its scope is limited to General Practices in England.
  • AWS wins yet another UK public-sector contract – this time to provide £15m health data system for NHS Scotland
    NHS Education for Scotland has awarded AWS a £15m contract to host its National Digital Platform, an architecture to share data across the nation’s health service. The education and training body within NHS Scotland said that the platform would be designed to “create and deploy real time data at the point of care”, “operate to a predictable architecture to enable new and innovative products to be developed and implemented” as well as “enable the use of data at scale for quality improvement and to support research and innovation”, according to a tender notice. The cloud infrastructure biz is set to host the data platform, including repositories of structured and unstructured clinical data, web services to power web and mobile applications, an integration layer, and web app. The platform is intended to enable the creation and use of information at source and facilitate the interoperability of existing and new healthcare technologies following the publication of the Digital Health and Care Strategy for Scotland in 2018.
  • EU court says Amazon won’t have to pay its $300 million tax bill
    Amazon has won an EU appeal after being hit with a €250 million ($303 million) tax bill by the European Commission (EC) in 2017, the WSJ has reported. After a similar decision in favor of Apple, the judgement is another setback for the EU in its effort make US tech giants pay more taxes. While Apple’s case centered around so called “state aid” from Ireland, Amazon came under fire for the use of an operating company based in Luxembourg. From 2006 to 2014, Amazon paid a significant royalty to that company, called Amazon Europe Holding Technologies SAS, reducing its taxable income. The commission accused it of inflating that royalty to reduce its operating profit. (Amazon has since changed its tax structure.) However, Amazon argued that the decision was full of “methodological errors” and that the payments were legal according to international tax principals. Europe’s second-highest court agreed, ruling that the setup didn’t confer any advantage to Amazon over other companies and that “the contested decision must be annulled in its entirety.” It’s not yet clear if the EC plans to appeal.
  • 2021 Queens Speech Touts Online Safety Bill and Broadband Boost
    The Queen has today carried out the first State Opening of Parliament since the pandemic began, which sets out the UK Government’s agenda for the coming session. As expected this included various references to gigabit broadband and mobile connectivity, as well as their plans to publish the controversial Online Safety Bill. As usual the speech is historically more of a ceremonial affair, which often only serves to feed the media with a tiny sliver of new information on forthcoming Government policy and precious little else in the way of detail. On the other hand, you do sometimes get a few surprises and as usual we keep an eye out for anything to do with broadband or telecoms. In terms of broadband and internet policy, this year there were no huge surprises as most of what the Queen announced has already been reported on before. Most of the policies relate to cutting more red tape and supporting the deployment of new fixed (full fibre) and mobile (4G, 5G) networks via the Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme and the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) industry scheme.
  • Indian government says 5G doesn’t cause COVID-19. Also points out India has no 5G networks
    As COVID-19 continues to ravage India, the nation’s government has told it populace that 5G signals have nothing to do with the spread of the virus – if only because no 5G networks operate in India. A statement from the nation’s Department of Telecommunications states “several misleading messages are being circulated on various social media platforms claiming that the second wave of coronavirus has been caused by the testing of the 5G mobile towers.” After pointing out that the very notion is a nonsense, the department points out that India approved 5G trials on May 4th and they won’t start for months.
  • AWS, Microsoft and Google secure spots on £750m UK government Cloud Compute framework
    Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Microsoft are among the nine suppliers to have secured a place on the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) £750m hyperscale-focused Cloud Compute framework The four-year framework is set up to allow public and third-sector organisations to purchase cloud infrastructure and platform-as-a-service offerings in high volume directly from suppliers that specialise in the provision of hyperscale, general-purpose compute environments. “[This framework is] necessarily restricted to pure compute requirements which do not require additional services such as design, detailed configuration, tailoring or any ongoing management or professional services to assist with data migration in or out,” said the original tender notice for the framework. Framework suppliers must also be able to host and provide their services primarily within the UK, and must be able to point to at least one example of a contract where they have delivered public cloud services to a private or public sector organisation during the last three years, the tender stipulated. As well as AWS, Google and Microsoft, the other suppliers on the framework are IBM, Oracle, Fordway Solutions, Frontier Technology, UKCloud and UKFast.net.
  • Working from home, the office and the cloud
    In March, the UK’s largest building society Nationwide announced that its 13,000 staff could choose where to work from. A staff survey showed that 57% wanted to work from home full time, while 36% said they would prefer a mix of office and home-based work. In October 2020, Microsoft advised its employees of its goal to offer as much flexibility as possible. Bill Gates subsequently predicted that more than half of all business travel and more than 30% of days in the office would not return post-pandemic. These are just two high profile examples of how the response to COVID-19 is changing the way we work. As Nationwide’s Chief Executive noted: “How we do our jobs is more important than where we do them from.” During the lockdowns, with commuting suspended, many organizations are realizing that they can save costs and have happier employees by supporting flexible working, but this is not set to be all home-based. We’re seeing a shift to a hybrid working environment – part home, part office, and with central ‘hubs’ being created as meeting spaces. Yet while employees have the luxury of choice, employers need to consider the options and create a communications and engagement strategy to keep this new dispersed workforce, and its customers, connected. They also need to ensure that their new ways of working are sustainable in the long term.
  • Why Companies Are Migrating Legacy Systems to Cloud Infrastructure
    At no point in time have industry leaders in IT desired a secure, cost-effective way to access their data more than they have in today’s post-COVID location-distributed world of remote work. It’s no wonder, then, that enterprises are migrating their legacy systems to the cloud with virtualization to reduce infrastructure costs and increase security while allowing their users to connect to business applications from any device at any time. The migration of legacy systems to the cloud infrastructure typically occurs alongside specific events which, more often than not, relate to the optimization of storage resources and the acceleration of a business’s digital transformation. As the pandemic continues, though, more enterprises are likely to realize just how constrained they are with an on-premise IT infrastructure that can’t accommodate a remote workforce. As more companies continue to migrate their legacy systems to cloud infrastructure, it’s important to examine the reasons behind their migrations as well as what they should expect once their systems are on the cloud. To that end, let’s dive into the biggest challenges that companies face as they make the move, as well as the most important tips they should bear in mind to make their transition as stress-free and seamless as they can.
  • US fuel supply company hit by ransomware, government steps in to restore services
    The Biden administration is working closely with fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline to help it restart operations as quickly as possible following last a cyber attack last week that forced the company to shut down its IT systems, halting critical pipeline operations. US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Sunday that resolving the issue quickly was a top priority for the government, and that all measures were being taken to prevent more severe disruptions to fuel supply. “It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ effort right now,” Raimondo said on CBS’s Face the Nation programme.
  • NCSC records 15-fold increase in online scam removal
    The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) took down more online scams last year than in the previous three years combined. The NCSC says a surge in coronavirus and NHS-themed cyber crime since the start of the pandemic led to the agency recording a massive 15-fold increase in the removal of online frauds in 2020 compared with 2019. The findings are included in the fourth annual report on the NCSC’s Active Cyber Defence (ACD) programme, a pioneering service that was started in 2016 to protect Britons from millions of cyber attacks and which was expanded during 2020. The agency says there was a surge in the number of phishing campaigns using NHS branding to deceive victims; its ACD programme dealt with 122 NHS-related phishing campaigns in 2020, compared to 36 in 2019. Attackers used Covid-19 vaccine rollout as a primary lure in their text and email messages to steal people’s personal data for fraud. Some 43 fake NHS Covid-19 Test and Trace apps hosted outside of official Google and Apple app stores were pulled by NCSC last year.
  • Vodafone extends 12 months free broadband offer to UK small businesses
    Vodafone is relaunching its offer of 12 months free broadband for small businesses, hoping the deal will aid their post-pandemic recoveries after a challenging year for many. Lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures mean offices, shops and hospitality venues have been forced to close, while economic challenges have stifled demand. SMBs that have been able to continue operating have become increasingly reliant on their broadband connection to support a disparate workforce and serve customers. For example, cloud-based collaboration tools allow staff to work together remotely, while e-commerce platforms allow retailers to make sales.
  • In good health
    Technology has been vital to managing the pandemic, as well as helping other aspects of healthcare to run as smoothly as possible at a time of unprecedented strain. Devices, communications, and software are helping deliver new treatment pathways and patient interactions – both within the NHS and for private healthcare businesses. For Dave O’Shaughnessy, healthcare solutions consultant at Avaya, change is here to stay. He said, “Proactive, digitally enabled patient engagement will be a transformative development of both public and private healthcare for the foreseeable future. How can healthcare organisations better communicate and collaborate between their patients and appropriate staff, and over a patient’s channel of preference? Partners and MSPs should become aware and closely familiar with the strategies and projects for this unstoppable evolution in delivery and access to healthcare services that the pandemic has accelerated us towards. “Partners and MSPs must identify and develop relationships with the key personnel who will be responsible for this transformation in patient engagement. Look to share compelling use-cases and examples of the latest in technological innovations that align with patient or customer engagement and experience goals you’ve learned about.” Ian Wilcox, public sector strategist at MLL Telecom, said it is worth knowing the public sector, including NHS trusts, are mandated to use Crown Commercial Service (CCS) frameworks for procurements over £1,000,000 unless they can justify otherwise. “Local authorities and health organisations do have local procurement rules and may have approved supplier lists they can go to for contracts under the Government’s procurement threshold.
  • Global WAN Competition Alarms for the Telcos
    Recently there came some alarms for the major telcos about the global Wide Area Network (WAN) market dynamics. That is, some cloud hyperscalers like Google and Cloudflare are entering the global WAN infrastructure and access market. Cloudflare just announced the launch of its Network as a Service (NaaS) named Magic WAN & Magic Firewall. The firm will partner with SD-WAN vendors VMware and Aruba, whose SD-WAN appliances can be configured to direct traffic to a Cloudflare global PoP and then ride on its massive private backbone. Another announcement is that Google has expanded its relationship with Cisco to automate the provisioning of WAN links over Google’s global private backbone network, which can be called a Software defined underlay. As the WAN technologies are transforming from MPLS to SD-WAN/SASE, we know that regional/national vs. global SD-WAN/SASE may have different flavors especially in terms of the underlay network. In developed countries like the US, UK, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Singapore, etc., the public Internet backbone and access are robust and reliable enough to support SD-WAN/SASE overlay in country services.

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