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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.
  • Adopting a risk-based approach to government security
    The SolarWinds hack of the software supply chain, as well as the recent ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline, the critical energy infrastructure company, has elevated the importance of governments adopting a risk-based approach to cybersecurity. Not long after disclosing the SolarWinds attack, the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced its Systemic Cyber Risk Reduction Venture. This is an effort to develop actionable metrics and quantify cybersecurity risk across the US’s critical infrastructure sectors, focusing on the relationship between threat, vulnerability, and consequence. Shortly after this, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) provided advice and guidance to security teams and IT companies on what actions they should take to minimize the impact on them and their customers. Using tools such as the Cyber Information Sharing Programme (CiSP), they shared technical information on assessing if an organization was at risk and what actions they should take if they were. The industry and government initiative allowed UK organizations to share cyber threat information in a secure and confidential environment, providing organizations the ability to detect early warning of cyber threats and access to free network monitoring reports tailored to organizations’ requirements.
  • 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.
  • To end cyberterrorism, the government should extend a hand to the private sector
    It is said that the best way to lose the next war is to keep fighting the last one. The citadels of the medieval ages were an effective defense until gunpowder and cannons changed siege warfare forever. Battlefield superiority based on raw troop numbers ceded to the power of artillery and the machine gun. During World War I, tanks were the innovation that literally rolled over fortifications built using 19th-century technology. Throughout military history, innovators enjoyed the spoils of war while those who took too long to adapt were left crushed and defeated.
  • 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.
  • Openreach adds 551 locations to FTTP plans
    Openreach has outlined plans to bring its full fibre broadband to 551 additional towns and cities. This covers 5 million homes and businesses and forms part of the company’s £15 billion programme to reach 25 million premises across the UK. Planning work has already started, with further details and timescales to be published every quarter on the Openreach website as work progresses and detailed surveys are completed. The build will take place between now and December 2026, with work in these latest locations starting later this year. A full list of the new locations is available here. Clive Selley, CEO, Openreach CEO, said, “Our engineers and build partners are working flat-out to deliver this life-changing technology to rural, urban and suburban communities all over the country and we’re delighted to be fleshing out our plans with more details about where and when we’ll be building.” He explained that over one million customers are using the company’s FTTP solutions. He added, “It’s the next generation of internet that’s ready for anything. You can surf, shop, play, work and learn without skipping a beat.” Following a competitive tender process, partners including Kier, MJ Quinn and Telent will work with Openreach to support the upgrades and will play a crucial role in building the new network.
  • 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.
  • Nearly all companies plan on a hybrid workforce post-pandemic
    With most managers in the UK convinced of the positives of remote working, it seems as the practice is here to stay. A new report from Owl Labs based on a poll of 500 business leaders from the UK, states that 84% of the respondents plan on keeping either hybrid, flexible or remote workers once the pandemic subsides. Just 16% expect all of their employees to return to the offices, full-time, and those that do return to the office can expect a few changes.
  • 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.”
  • Wide range of gadgets at risk of damaging Bluetooth security flaw
    Cybersecurity researchers have shared details about eight vulnerabilities in the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) software stack of the open source real-time Zephyr OS. Developed under the aegis of the Linux Foundation, Zephyr started at Wind River before it was acquired by Intel and eventually open sourced. The OS supports over 200 boards and counts the likes of Intel, Linaro, Texas Instruments, Nordic Semiconductor, Bose, Facebook, Google, and others as members, many of whom have devices that run Zephyr. Security vendor Synopsys, who discovered the vulnerabilities, divides the flaws into three high-level categories. Some of the vulnerabilities can lead to remote code execution, while others could be exploited to grab confidential information like encryption keys.
  • DNS Providers May Be Forced to Block Internet Piracy Websites
    In a possible sign of things to come, Sony has won a key court case in Germany that could force Domain Name Service (DNS) providers, such as Quad9 and eventually others too (Google Public DNS, OpenDNS, Cloudflare etc.), to block access to a website due to internet copyright infringement (piracy). A DNS provider will typically work to convert Internet Protocol (IP) addresses into a human-readable form and back again (e.g. 123.56.32.1 to examplezfakedomain.co.uk). Most such services tend to be provided automatically by your broadband and mobile provider, thus operating seamlessly in the background, without you ever really being aware. However, it’s also possible to replace the DNS from your ISP with one from a free third-party service, such as those mentioned earlier (there are many more). The vast majority of you probably won’t feel a need to use custom DNS providers, but if your ISP starts to inject content (adverts etc.) and filtering systems into your website browsing, or suffers a fault / is slow with their own DNS system, then you may decide to try a third-party service.
  • London Underground Set for Full 4G Mobile Coverage by 2024
    The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) have today confirmed that, following a recent trial on the Jubilee Line (here), they intend to proceed with their proposed plan to deploy a 4G based mobile (mobile broadband) network across the entire London Underground (platforms and tube trains) by late 2024. The original non-commercial trial on the Jubilee Line (eastern half of the line) saw TfL install a neutral host distributed antenna system (DAS), which was supported by hundreds of kilometres of fibre optic cable that had been laid in tunnels – as well as similar surface assets to support ‘last mile’ connectivity.
  • 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).
  • DHSC announces more than six million users registered on NHS App
    The UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that more than six million users across the country are now registered on the NHS App. Over two million new users have been registered on the NHS App since 17 May update that added Covid-19 vaccination status service. It is also noted that more than five million distinct users had logged into the app in the past month alone, with over 600,000 prescriptions requested and over 50,000 GP appointments booked. The DHSC stated that more than 50,000 people have registered their organ donor preference, which will help NHS specialists to quickly understand and allows them to discuss this with their family. The NHS App provides a wide range of services that include GP appointment booking, ordering repeat prescriptions, viewing GP and hospital records as well as registering organ donation preference.
  • Steering digital projects to success
    For many businesses, the pandemic has necessitated massive changes as teams adjust to new ways of working. In fact, our own digital transformation research report showed that 61 per cent of businesses in the UK have introduced new digital solutions or fast-tracked plans to integrate digital projects purely in reaction to the changing landscape. Despite being implemented in order to adapt to issues caused by the pandemic, the changes businesses are making have brought about a wide range of innovations with improved security, a boost to productivity and better customer service perceived as some of the biggest benefits. However, the need to act quickly has caused problems for some, as our research shows 35 per cent of business leaders have witnessed a digital project fail. There are a number of factors that can cause a digital project to fail but our research shows the same types of issues crop up most often as blind spots for businesses. These areas should be carefully considered when embarking on new digital transformation projects: resourcing, budgeting, and the vision.
  • EU data regulators call for facial recognition ban in public spaces
    European Union data protection regulators have called for a general ban on using artificial intelligence for facial recognition and other “biometric and behavioral signals” in public spaces. In their joint opinion, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) also said using AI for social scoring should be outlawed. The EDPB and EDPS urged the bloc to prohibit AI “recognition of faces, gait, fingerprints, DNA, voice, keystrokes and other biometric or behavioral signals, in any context” in publicly accessible areas. They said it should be illegal for AI systems to use biometrics to categorize people “into clusters based on ethnicity, gender, political or sexual orientation,” or other types of classification under which they could be discriminated against.
  • Top tips to make sure hackers aren’t spying on your home office
    As many employers move towards a world of hybrid working, split between the office and home, the need to have the right technology set-up is vital. But aside from having a good office chair, laptop stand and second monitor, home workers also need to make sure they have the right security protection. With many companies slow to respond to the home working boom during the pandemic, criminals were quick to prey on insufficient or even non-existent home office security situations. But don’t fret – there are simple steps you can take to ensure you stay protected.
  • 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.
  • 10 things we did with mobile phones that will baffle the youth of today
    It’s the year 2000. The world is breathing a sigh of collective relief after the catastrophic plane-plummeting effects of the Y2K bug fail to materialize. The PlayStation 2 launches, captivating gamers around the world. And I walk into school with swag levels I’ll never come close to achieving again, thanks to the mobile phone I’ve got in my pocket. It’s a Nokia 8210, aka the mind-bogglingly miniature Charlie’s Angel phone. While it was originally a vivid red color, I’ve replaced the front and back covers with a textured basketball cover that looked and felt like the real deal. If anyone cares to look at the screen, they’ll notice that the “Orange” network logo has been replaced by an Xtreme “No Fear” logo instead. On the very rare occasion my phone rang, a crappy, monophonic rendition of Jumpin’ Jumpin’ by Destiny’s Child would emit from the speakers. I dread to think how much money I spent on this cavalcade of tackyness. If you’re reading this and connecting with me on a spiritual level, then this article will be a fuzzy, warm, and safe space, filled with the golden rays of comforting nostalgia. If, however, you’re from a more recent generation, and have stumbled upon this page accidentally in between shooting a new TikTok vid or looking for a way to earn more V-Bucks, then the following section will feel you with a mixture of confusion, disbelief, and pity for the generations that came before you.
  • 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.
  • NATO: Cyber attacks as serious as an armed attack
    NATO Member states are concerned about Russia and China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour in cyber space NATO has warned that the impact of significant cyber attacks against any member countries might be considered ‘as amounting to an armed attack’ in certain circumstances. The group issued a joint communiqué at the conclusion of the NATO summit in Brussels on Monday. The note states that Article 5 of the organisation’s treaty can apply to cyber attacks. Article 5 states that an armed attack against any one of the 30 member states will be considered an attack against them all. ‘Reaffirming NATO’s defensive mandate, the Alliance is determined to employ the full range of capabilities at all times to actively deter, defend against, and counter the full spectrum of cyber threats, including those conducted as part of hybrid campaigns, in accordance with international law,’ the communiqué said. The statement added that a cyber attack could lead to the invocation of Article 5. However, a decision as to when such attacks would warrant a response would be ‘taken by the North Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis’. ‘If necessary, we will impose costs on those who harm us,’ the group warned.
  • 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 Online Safety Bill puts the security of all citizens and communities at risk
    Prohibiting end-to-end encryption is not the way to keep people safe online in an increasingly unstable world. As we emerge from the grip of a pandemic that drove more people online than ever for work, school, business, and staying connected to loved ones, digital security has never been more important. And yet 68 million Britons are at risk of losing their greatest digital security shield: encryption. End-to-end encryption protects our family photographs, messages to friends and family, financial information, and the commercially sensitive data of British businesses. It keeps us safer in a world where connected devices are ubiquitous in our physical lives: end-to-end encryption secures connected homes, cars, children’s toys, and much more. It also secures the communications of MPs, ministers and civil servants.
  • DVLA takes advantage of government MoU to keep Microsoft in cloud mix
    he Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has become one of a handful of public sector bodies to take advantage of the discounts offered by the public sector-wide memorandum of understanding signed last year by the government and Microsoft. The agency has awarded an £885,600 contract for Azure cloud services to Microsoft reseller partner Insight. The deal came into effect on 19 May and lasts until 30 June 2024. It covers cloud hosting capacity, as well as “additional services from the Azure Marketplace and professional services, as and when required”. Such requirements are likely to include about 60 days of support from consultants and technical specialists over the course of the three-year term. The deal follows a one-year £300,000 contract for Azure services signed last year by the DVLA with another provider, Cloudreach. That arrangement expired at the end of last month and the incoming contract with Insight states that “the transition of services from the incumbent supplier shall take place during the period of 19 to 31 May”.
  • 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.
  • Evaluating Price In Tenders – New Guidance On New Practices
    The detailed technical methodology of evaluating bids is one of this overlooked areas of procurement for procurement lawyers. The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (“PCRs”) do not detail any specific methodologies and only provide that the contracting authority must ensure that the methodology and weightings must be fair and transparent. This means that the authority has a degree of flexibility in its price/quality evaluation model. The PCRs provide that the contract must be awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous ender (the “MEAT”). The MEAT may be identified on the basis of: price or cost alone, using a cost-effectiveness approach; a price-quality ratio; or fixed price or cost so that bidders compete on quality only. In evaluating price, as part of assessing the MEAT, contracting authorities invariably use a relative price-scoring methodology. This common “cheapest bid/ other bid” methodology, as set out on the Crown Commercial Service’s Digital Marketplace. The lowest price gets the highest score, and each of the other prices are marked relative to the lowest priced bid as follows: Fixed quotes To score fixed price quotes, you must divide the cheapest quote by each supplier’s quote.
  • What Makes Quantum Computing So Hard to Explain?
    QUANTUM COMPUTERS, YOU might have heard, are magical uber-machines that will soon cure cancer and global warming by trying all possible answers in different parallel universes. For 15 years, on my blog and elsewhere, I’ve railed against this cartoonish vision, trying to explain what I see as the subtler but ironically even more fascinating truth. I approach this as a public service and almost my moral duty as a quantum computing researcher. Alas, the work feels Sisyphean: The cringeworthy hype about quantum computers has only increased over the years, as corporations and governments have invested billions, and as the technology has progressed to programmable 50-qubit devices that (on certain contrived benchmarks) really can give the world’s biggest supercomputers a run for their money. And just as in cryptocurrency, machine learning and other trendy fields, with money have come hucksters.
  • 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.

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