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  • What to expect from the UK’s new health secretary
    Taking over as health secretary during a pandemic was never going to be a walk in the park, but the public health crisis is only one among several daunting tasks awaiting Sajid Javid in his new post. Javid was announced as the U.K.’s new health secretary on Saturday, after his predecessor Matt Hancock quit when a video of him kissing an aide and breaching coronavirus restrictions in the process emerged. The former banker is no stranger to taking on big jobs, having previously served in a host of major Cabinet roles including home secretary and, most recently, a short stint as chancellor. But there is enough awaiting the new health secretary in his in-tray to strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned political operative.
  • This is what the high street of the future will look like
    John Timpson knows a thing or two about the high street. The chairman of the UK shoe-repair chain that bears his family name was, after all, entrusted to lead a 2018 government review into what the future UK high street would look like. Though at one time he envisaged a future where the number of shops in British town centres would have halved, he could never have imagined how quickly that revolution would come. The impact of the pandemic on our towns and cities has, he says, been seismic: “What we have seen is ten years of change on the high street all in one go, but it’s been all the negatives, without any positives,” he explains.
  • BT Sign OneWeb Deal to Tackle UK Rural Broadband Slow Spots
    UK ISP BT and satellite operator OneWeb, which is partly owned by the UK government, have reached an agreement that will see the two working together to bring ultrafast low-latency broadband speeds to some of the hardest to reach rural parts of the country, where even their £5bn Project Gigabit programme would struggle to go. At present OneWeb has launched a total of 218 small Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites into space, with another 36 set to join those on 1st July 2021, and the initial plan is to build a constellation of 648 satellites, which is enough for a reasonable level of global coverage by around the end of 2022.
  • How can businesses manage GDPR’s ‘Terrible Threes’?
    GDPR is a ‘threenager’ this year, and despite battling through the terrible twos many organizations are still struggling to protect their data. Last year alone, the UK had the second-highest total value of GDPR fines across the EU, with companies paying £39.7m in total. And, at the start of the year, figures indicated that GDPR fines had reached a staggering £245m. The risk of fines are, however, not confined to GDPR. Currently, there are 128 countries with data protection and privacy legislation — including CCPA, CCPA, PSD2, GLBA and a whole host of other acronyms. At the same time, the business landscape has changed considerably in the last three years – cue obligatory mention of Brexit and COVID-19. To complicate the data protection challenge, the legislation itself could not have anticipated the fast-track adoption of technologies or the accelerated shift to cloud computing caused by the pandemic. A risk compounded by an unprecedented uptick of remote working and employees using home devices, and networks, that are almost certainly less secure than those found in the corporate environment. These are not new concerns when it comes to data management and protection but the issue is that few businesses were prepared for how quickly things escalated. After all, many were focused on digital transformation to simply keep their business going so security in the design of new systems and processes was often neglected, albeit not through choice. The good news is valuable lessons have been learnt, particularly when it comes to protecting and managing data to ensure compliance. And through talking with many of our own customers, we can share a few.
  • Virgin Media Ireland for sale
    Liberty Global is likely to put its Virgin Media television and broadband business in Ireland up for sale. The Irish business was left out of the recently completed £31 billion merger of Virgin Media with O2. The main cable television provider in Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland also owns TV3 Group, the only commercial television broadcaster in the country, which was rebranded Virgin Media Television. With 438,000 fixed-line customers, the business could be worth up to €2 billion. Previously trading as Chorus NTL and UPC Ireland, the Irish operation was rebranded Virgin Media Ireland in 2015. The Irish cable network passes 948,000 homes, with 319,000 subscribing to its television service and 388,000 taking broadband, giving it a total of 438,000 fixed-line customers. It also has a modest 122,000 mobile subscribers, operating as a mobile virtual network operator on infrastructure from Three. Virgin Media in the United Kingdom is now owned by Virgin Media O2, an equal venture between Liberty Global and the Spanish telecoms group Telefónica. The $31 billion merger completed on 1 June 2021, following clearance by the Competition and Markets Authority.
  • Study Examines Capabilities of LEO Satellite Broadband Networks
    Researchers at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics have tried to compare the estimated global data capacity of the four largest Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based ultrafast broadband satellite constellations – SpaceX (Starlink), Telesat, OneWeb, and Amazon (Kuiper). Interestingly, they end up closer than you might think. We should point out that each network is at a different stage of development (e.g. Telesat and Amazon are still a fair way from commercial service) and the technologies they use, as well as the ground stations, are constantly evolving and expanding. As a result, the MIT study should be seen more as a ‘current’ estimate of each network’s expected throughput, or global data capacity, based on their technical specifications as reported to the FCC. Likewise, the research doesn’t really consider the commercial model for each network, as well as how network throughput may vary between countries or how much network contention may be applied per user. As such, the report is only able to give a very general global overview of capacity, which is interesting if perhaps not as relevant for understanding future service impacts for consumers in specific countries.
  • A Big Touch of Technology in the UK Correctional System
    Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has a vital role in overseeing correctional services in the UK. The organisation sits under the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) responsibility, but usually has its own ICT objectives and challenges to tackle. On 15th June 2021, HMPPS published its Digital, Data and Technology Strategy for 2021-2022, including a long term vision on what it expects to be implementing up to 2024. In this article we will highlight the most important developments on HMPPS’s pipeline and some of the implications of these projects to the development of the correctional system in the UK.
  • Will SASE Mark the End of the Network as We Know It?
    Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), the increasingly popular framework that transforms security and network connectivity technologies into a single cloud-delivered platform, promises to revolutionize wide-area networking to the extent that it will soon eradicate conventional SD-WAN technology. Kate Adam, senior director of security products at Juniper Networks, said that network leaders shouldn’t view SASE as the end of the network as it’s currently known, but as a “natural evolution in network technology, one that makes it more scalable and extensible by leveraging the public cloud global infrastructure.” Arthur Iinuma, president of ISBX, an app development firm serving clients including Apple, Nike, L’Oreal, Warner Brothers, Lexus, and Red Bull, observed that SASE offers a cloud-based edge computing solution that gives distributed workforces secure network access. “With an increasingly remote, highly mobile workforce, this solution is needed now more than ever,” he stated. Multiple benefits SASE offers an entirely new network architecture that brings applications closer to end-users worldwide, as well as providing secure access. “Connectivity and security services that were previously delivered from a ‘heavy branch’ are moving to a thin branch, cloud-delivered model where networking and security come together,” Adam said. “This [approach] simplifies network and security architecture and promotes a threat-aware network with access and security policies that follow users wherever they go.”
  • Vodafone UK begins commercial standalone 5G pilot
    The operator has switched on their standalone (SA) 5G network in London, Manchester, and Cardiff Today, Vodafone has announced that it has launched the UK’s first commercial SA 5G pilots, setting the networks live in London, Manchester, and Cardiff. As part of the deal, Ericsson will support Vodafone’s entire cloud-native 5G Core Standalone for packet core applications. According to Vodafone, the pilots will focus on testing the various new technologies that SA 5G unlocks, such as network slicing, as well as allowing partners to trial various SA-enabled devices. “Delivering 5G Standalone for the UK is an important step forward for our customers and our partners. The new features this delivers, such as new levels of reliability, latency and flexibility, are a gamechanger for customers and developers looking to create new applications,” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK. In the press release, Dona also drew attention to Vodafone’s investments in Multi-access edge compute (MEC) capabilities, the Internet of Things (IoT), Mobile Private Networks (MPN) and OpenRAN, suggesting that all these network elements are complementary and will benefit from SA 5G. “When we bring all these technologies together, we open up entirely new possibilities for customers, and move beyond being a core connectivity provider to being a true digital champion,” she said. Vodafone UK first showcased SA 5G technology with a new network built for Coventry University last summer. Now, as part of this pilot launch, a dedicated network slice has been configured for use by Coventry University in delivering virtual reality distance learning. Vodafone is also notably trialling a SA 5G core pre-commercial network in Spain, with the technology again provided by Ericsson
  • NHSX unveils new data strategy to support delivery of patient centred care
    NHSX has unveiled new data strategy to provide patients with better access and greater control over their health and care data. The draft strategy ‘Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data’ builds on the NHS’ work undertaken to provide treatments during the Covid-19 pandemic. The improved access to data is expected to help people in managing appointments, refill medications and speak with required health and care staff. Moreover, patients can safely access their test results, medication lists, procedures and care plans from across all parts of the health system. This can be done via patient apps, such as the NHS App. UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: “More effective use of data will deliver better patient focused care. It will free up staff time to focus on patients and allow clinicians to make better, more informed decisions on treatment and support. “This strategy seeks to put people in control of their own data, while supporting the NHS in creating a modernised system fit for the 21st century which puts patients and staff in pole position.” The draft strategy also proposes to provide easier access to the right information to health and care staff through shared records and simplified information governance.
  • Why Android is the OS of choice for emergency services
    As Microsoft phases out support for its mobile operating systems (OS) many Emergency Services that previously relied on Windows-based mobile computers are evaluating strategies to migrate to Android. Android has an 85% market share globally, which makes it very user-friendly. It also offers a number of key benefits to enterprise users that aren’t available with other OS options. Of course, migrating to a new technology is not as easy as buying a mobile device from a local retail store or wireless carrier. Emergency Services IT professionals should prioritize their unique security and operational needs when shopping for a new handheld mobility solution. Here are some key questions to ask when evaluating the various OS options and comparing consumer-grade, business-grade and enterprise-grade rugged mobile computers.
  • Remote working in the UK civil service: from emergency response to business as usual
    The Covid-19 pandemic precipitated a huge change in working practices across the civil service, with nearly 90% of the 430,000 staff dispatched to their homes for months on end. At a recent webinar, experts from the Government Property Agency and Dell discussed what this mass remote working experiment might mean for the future of the civil service workplace “In many ways, fixing the workplace and fixing the technology is easy. It costs money, but it’s relatively easy,” said Dominic Brankin, director of workplace services at the UK Cabinet Office’s Government Property Agency. “Supporting a change in behaviour and thinking and belief is much harder, and I think a longer road for us to travel.”
  • Ofcom Requires UK ISPs to Offer Emergency Video Relay Service
    Ofcom has today finalised their decision to force all UK broadband and phone providers – oddly including those that may not even deliver phone services – to offer a free (inc. zero-rated data usage), 24/7 video relay service for British Sign Language (BSL) users to contact the emergency services, via a dedicated mobile app and website. The changes, which were first proposed back in 2019, are designed to ensure that disabled people (particularly deaf users) can access the communications services they need in an emergency (i.e. the principle that disabled people should have equivalent access to emergency communications).
  • Virgin Media O2 provides ‘shot in the arm’ for small businesses with upload speed
    Virgin Media O2 is increasing upload speeds for its fibre business broadband customers in the first major service development since the £31 billion merger. The enlarged company says it wants to provide a boost for SMBs that have seen revenues drop during the pandemic and are now more reliant than ever on connectivity for continuity. Cloud applications, file sharing and video conferencing have all become essential tools to support distributed workforces and to deliver services to customers who are increasingly demanding digital experiences.
  • Civil service supremo praises use of data and tech in light of ‘tricky questions’ raised by Covid
    The reform plan unveiled this week will make government more “skilled, innovative and ambitious” but great commitment and discipline will be required to deliver on its goals, according to the country’s most senior civil servant. In an all-staff memo, cabinet secretary Simon Case said the civil service must build on its work during the coronavirus pandemic to cement “long-term transformation”, through the Declaration on Government Reform unveiled by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove. “In the crucible of the pandemic, our staff, systems and structures have been in constant flux, forcing us to look again at all our ways of working,” Case wrote. Comparing the civil service to a marathon runner who ends one race only to begin training for another, he added: “As many of you have found while wrestling with outdated processes and legacy systems, we will need an even more skilled, innovative and ambitious organisation to pull it off. Our plan is to create a modern civil service that works better for the people we serve, for the government we support and for us.” In particular, he praised civil servants for finding ways to use data and technology more effectively, and for working across silos.
  • Crown Commercial Service awards new Tech Services 3 framework
    Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has awarded the new Technology Services 3 (TS3) framework which has additional services and improved call-off terms. With the latest version of the framework, customers will be able to procure information and communication technology services across the entire lifecycle which ranges from strategy to transition and operational deployment. The latest agreement builds on the success of the Technology Services 2 (TS2) framework and makes it easier for customers to procure services related to IT. Set for launch in July 2021, TS3 will run for a period of four years and replaces TS2, which will expire in September. Call-off contract durations can be from two to seven years. Crown Commercial Service commercial director and chief technology procurement officer Philip Orumwense said: “Technology Services 3 has been designed and developed using an extensive discovery and consultative process with many of our customers, suppliers, and partners. “This framework truly reflects and represents their expectations and provides the platform for the country to build back better with the right mix of quality and innovative suppliers, including SME providers. “This is another example of how CCS is putting customers at the heart of everything we do to help support the public sector to continue on its digital transformation journey.” As part of the changes to the framework, sub-lots were removed from Lot 4, a new Service Integration and Management (SIAM) lot and new call-off terms have been designed ‘to better reflect the diversity of technology services offered’. The new agreement includes 253 suppliers, 64% of which are SMEs, and aims to build on the progress made on making it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to become suppliers.
  • Protecting your business from email compromise attacks
    Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a fast-growing cybersecurity threat that all businesses, especially small and medium-sized (SMB) ones, face. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported in their 2020 Internet Crime Report that they fielded 19,369 Business Email Compromise (BEC) complaints amounting to over $1.8 billion in adjusted losses in the United States for that year. BEC attacks primarily use email, but can be carried out using SMS messages, voice mail messages, and even phone calls. BEC attacks are notable because they rely heavily on so-called “social engineering” techniques, meaning they use trickery and deception against people.
  • Vodafone puts social and environmental responsibilities at heart of new strategy
    New Vodafone UK CEO Ahmed Essam has pledged to give the company a sense of purpose that extends beyond the mere provision of connectivity services, reflecting the elevated role of connectivity in society in a post-Covid world. Speaking at his first major event since replacing Nick Jeffery as UK chief executive in February 2021, Essam praised the achievements of his predecessor, who is credited with overseeing a turnaround at the company through network investments, new propositions, and improvements to customer service. The former Vodafone Group Chief Commercial Operations and Strategy Officer said he was joining a “resurgent” company and had inherited a platform that would allow the company to react to the changing needs of customers and businesses in an increasingly digital world.
  • Royal Navy uses artificial intelligence for the first time in test off the west coast of Scotland
    The Royal Navy has made its first at-sea use of artificial intelligence (AI) to track supersonic missile attacks, as part of a NATO exercise taking place off the west coast of Scotland. HMS Dragon, a destroyer, and frigate HMS Lancaster are testing how two AI software packages can support personnel in reacting to missile threats. Startle monitors airspace and generates alerts and recommendations, while Sycoiea builds on this to identify incoming missiles and recommend weapons to deal with them. The AI software is designed to help personnel react faster, rather than replacing humans. “I was able identify missile threats more quickly than usual and even outwit the operations room,” said above water tactician leading seaman Sean Brooks on HMS Lancaster. “Observing Startle and Sycoiea augment the human warfighter in real time against a live supersonic missile threat was truly impressive – a glimpse into our highly-autonomous future,” added the ship’s weapon engineer officer lieutenant commander Adam Leveridge.
  • What inflation tells us about the UK economy – and how you’re spending your cash
    With price changes in the public eye as Britain edges towards post-pandemic recovery, an ONS statistician explains what they mean. One of the key economic statistics we produce at the ONS is consumer price inflation, a measure of the prices people pay for goods and services. With this number slowly creeping up, partly as a response to the short-term effects of the pandemic, this metric is again being drawn to people’s attention. In the first two decades of this century, inflation – using our most comprehensive measure, CPIH – averaged around 2 per cent a year. On the surface, this sounds quite modest (and, dare I say, dull?). Of course, inflation has not remained steady throughout this period, from a high of 4.8 per cent in 2008 to a low of 0.2 per cent in 2015, so the 2 per cent figure is merely an average. But there are two points to remember. Firstly, inflation cumulates over time – in fact it ‘compounds’, to use the more technical language, so the 2 per cent a year means that prices in 2020 are 48 per cent higher than in 2000. A price increase of nearly one-half is much more dramatic: an item that cost £10 in 2000 would cost around £15 in 2020.
  • New government reform programme to ensure UK builds back better from COVID-19
    The programme will ensure that the government has the tools and resources it needs to deliver on its agenda to level up across the UK. It will rebalance government away from Whitehall, open up the Civil Service to fresh skills, talent and ideas, and embrace digital technology and data based decision-making. A first ever joint meeting of the Cabinet and departmental Permanent Secretaries agreed today the Declaration on Government Reform. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also delivered a speech entitled ‘The Obligations We Owe: Reforming government in the shadow of COVID-19’: He said: It’s been a consistent feature of our history that the national weaknesses, fissures or fractures that have been laid bare or exacerbated by crises should be addressed with the same energy and single-mindedness required for a successful response to the crisis itself. It is precisely because the Covid crisis revealed weaknesses in our government and society, because it also showcased strengths, because it forced government to adapt and improve delivery, because the public demand we build back better and because we have knowledge now that we did not possess before that this government is determined to deepen and accelerate our programme of reform. Key parts of the reform declaration include: Making the civil service more open to external talent, with all senior civil service roles advertised externally and new, flexible entry routes to the civil service Looking beyond London to all corners of the UK, relocating 22,000 civil service roles outside of the capital by 2030, including 50% of senior civil servant roles – rebalancing of the workforce as most senior and policy positions are currently in London Investing in new training for both civil servants and ministers, strengthening traditional skills and building expertise in digital, data, science, and project and commercial delivery. A new training campus will be established, the prestigious Fast Stream graduate scheme will be updated and new apprenticeships will be introduced Embracing digital technology and data to deliver better services, developing a single sign-on for online government services, making it easier for citizens to access the services they need, and improving data sharing across government Improving delivery of projects and programmes with more rigour and accountability, and launching a new Evaluation Task Force, based in the Cabinet Office, to ensure proper scrutiny of real world results A new system of pay, reward and performance management, including the introduction of capability based pay for the senior civil service will be brought in. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary will oversee the performance of Permanent Secretaries, ensuring that they are delivering within their departments More opportunities for interchange and secondments for civil servants between the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments and the Northern Ireland Civil Service
  • Most employees believe hybrid working is helping productivity
    Many employees believe hybrid working is good for productivity and overall mental state, and would love to see the practice kept on after the pandemic, according to a new report from Slack, which found that the majority (57%) of adults think employers should continue to offer hybrid working. Some workers are quite passionate about hybrid working, with almost a quarter (22%) saying they would think about changing jobs if it was no longer an option. Those aged 25-34 were the most passionate, with more than a third (35%) saying they would consider leaving their current role if there was a change.
  • IoT cloud services: How they stack up against DIY
    Eager to cash in on the massive potential for IoT-based data storage and analytics, public-cloud vendors are diving headlong into the IoT market, offering enterprises everything from individual building blocks to fully managed services and every combination in between. he amount of data that is expected to be generated by IoT devices is staggering. IDC predicts that by 2025, there will be 55.9 billion connected devices worldwide, 75% of which will be connected to an IoT platform. IDC estimates the amount of data generated from IoT devices will be 79.4 zettabytes by 2025. The hyperscalers certainly have the capacity to handle that amount of data, as well as the machine learning and AI expertise to perform the analytics. Most enterprises do not, and even if they did, organizations realize that machine-generated data is fundamentally different than human-generated data and should be handled in a different way.
  • Addressing business mobility in a post-pandemic world
    The pandemic continues to evolve and influence how we do business. Although, with the vaccine roll-out looking optimistic, there is hope that life will soon start returning to normal – with offices opening their doors and employees back at their desks. When the mass return to the workplace commences, and a newly flexible workforce emerges, addressing the new business mobility puzzle will become ever more important. However, said puzzle is increasingly complex. In the wake of the pandemic, organisations will need to navigate changing employee expectations when it comes to ways of working, new technology requirements and the challenges that come with adopting these.
  • The great cloud computing surge
    We reached a big milestone in 2020: Cloud services revenue finally surpassed enterprise spending on data centers, according to the Synergy Research Group. One of the longest-running trends in IT – moving to the cloud – has been turbocharged, driven in part by a pandemic that pushed enterprises to avoid the logistical challenges and capital expense of deploying on prem. But the endless capacity to add horsepower without provisioning your own infrastructure isn’t the biggest draw. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have become launchpads for the latest technology innovations, which developers can jump on to build innovative new applications. Machine learning libraries? Globally distributed databases? IoT platforms with all the bells and whistles? The big three clouds have ‘em all – ready, waiting, and API-accessible. It’s enough to make you wonder why you’d bother to build and maintain your own datacenter.
  • For 5G to succeed telcos must adopt a software mindset
    Over the next 15 years, it is estimated that 5G will grow global GDP by 10.8%. According to Qualcomm it will be the “unified connectivity fabric connecting people to everything.” It has the potential to unlock new technologies across every sector, from AR/VR-enabled healthcare, Intelligent Transport Systems and connected agriculture to real-time, remote controlled, smart factories and cities. That 5G will bring wider cultural change to society that 5G is commonly accepted. However, this evolution needs to be matched by an internal paradigm shift within the telcos themselves – they must look to adopt a ‘software mindset’. This means leaving their comfort zones behind and addressing the cultural changes required to deliver to the standard their customers will expect in the 5G-era. These customers will increasingly be enterprises rather than individuals, with diverse and complex expectations. To achieve success, internal alignment and coordination of people, processes and technology will be critical.
  • Altice UK Acquires 12.1 Percent Equity Stage in BT Group
    The UK telecoms giant, BT Group, has this morning confirmed that Altice UK, a business wholly owned by Patrick Drahi, has acquired a sizeable 12.1% equity stake in the operator (worth c.£2bn) and also issued a statement in support of the broadband and media firm’s current management and strategy. According to the website for Altice, the company delivers customer-centric products and solutions that “connect and unlock the limitless potential of its over 30 million customers over fibre networks and mobile broadband.” Altice is also a provider of enterprise digital solutions to millions of business customers, as well as a provider of original TV content and live broadcast premium sports events.
  • Government announces decision on Best Value Liverpool interventions
    The government has announced the full package of interventions for Liverpool City Council following the Best Value inspection earlier this year. Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, made the announcement in a written statement to the House of Commons. The changes will see: All-out elections every four years from 2023, with no elections to be held in 2022 The Mayoral election to be brought forward from 2024 to 2023 (dependent upon the outcome of a governance review over the future of the role) A move to one councillor per ward, except where it is deemed essential to have more than one ward member Four Commissioners, who will oversee the authority’s highways, regeneration and property management functions and improvement plan over the next three years have been named as: Mike Cunningham QPM – Lead Commissioner Joanna Killian – Local Government Improvement Commissioner Neil Gibson – Highways Commissioner Deborah McLaughlin – Regeneration Commissioner
  • Supporting the digital transformation of public services
    The Digital Outcomes & Specialists 5 (DOS 5) framework makes use of individuals or teams to support and build “the digital transformation of public services,” (1) in the view of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS). Netcompany is an approved supplier to this framework and Prahlad Koti, Partner there believes this helps the public sector buy, design, build and deliver bespoke digital solutions and services using an agile approach. Prahlad then explains to us why this framework is such a fantastic initiative.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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