CABINET CONSIDERS DIGITAL INITIATIVES
By William Peakin
A new series of initiatives harnessing technology in education, employment, health and social care will be considered by Scottish ministers next month.
The ideas will be presented to the Scottish Government’s Digital Cabinet Sub Committee chaired by Alex Neil.
They are the product of the Digital Participation Action Group (DPAG). It was set up after the launch of the Digital Participation Charter at the first GovCamp Scotland last November.
The aim of GovCamp was to develop links between academia, the private, public and third sectors. The charter committed signatories to helping increase digital participation levels in Scotland and to delivering the “associated economic, social and environmental benefits.”
It also committed DPAG to producing a supplement to the charter by April 2012, which would form the basis of an action plan.
So far around 40 public organisations and private sector companies have added their names to it. The Government has said that its success will be measured “by the contribution that the signatories to this charter make to delivering Scotland’s digital ambition”.
Comprising representatives from the technology and telecoms industry, local and central government, and the health, education and third sectors, DPAG has established fi ve teams initially covering education, youth employment, smart working, older people, and open data. Each team is working on a series of initiatives that would use technology to improve outcomes in those areas.
“Improving Scotland’s digital future is critical to the country’s longterm economic development,” said Tracey Bloomfi eld, Vice President, JP Morgan, who is leading the youth employment group.
“JP Morgan is proud to be an active participant in the GovCamp initiative to deliver this goal. The firm’s European Technology Centre is based in Glasgow and home to over 800 technologists.
“We are currently in dialogue with the public, private, and third sectors about harnessing technology as a powerful tool in helping to alleviate youth unemployment in Glasgow. We are optimistic this initiative will bring economic and social benefi ts to the city.”
The Scottish Government digital futures team has been expanded to support links within government and across the public sector for DPAG members. Civil servants are leading an additional initiative, supported by DPAG members’ expertise, to provide a more in-depth analysis of patterns of digital participation across Scotland.
The aim of DPAG founder members is to work closely across sectors, local and central government and the Scottish Parliament to identify targeted, collaborative interventions that can improve the quality of digital participation across Scotland.
An advisory group has been established with a programme offi ce supported by BT, Microsoft and Sopra group. Convener Melvyn Ingleson said: “Organisations interested in joining a wider alliance should contact us.”
DPAG programme office contact: PamMundt (email@example.com)
INDEPENDENCE NO ISSUE, SAYS DELL
By Bill Magee
Major technology company Dell has said that an independent Scotland would not affect its operations.
Steve Felice, its new global president and chief commercial officer, told Connect: “I want to reiterate Dell’s commitment to Scotland where we embarked on a journey in 2005 to establish here as a pretty signifi cant support point for the UK and it has gone extraordinarily well.”
When Felice was asked about Scotland remaining as part of the UK, or becoming independent, he replied: “I cannot think of any difference. We are an organisation that deals with one customer at a time.
“So the customer is the government here in Scotland and we will ask them what their needs are. We do not think it would affect our approach and strategy here in going to market.”
Felice was in Scotland earlier this month and met First Minister Alex Salmond.
He has taken over at a time when the personal computer manufacturer continues to reinvent its consumer brand. “We’re moving from a product hardwarecentric company to a solutions company and that is what lies at the heart of our transformation.” The transition has coincided with founder Michael Dell returning to become chairman and chief executive offi cer in 2006 to arrest slow growth and a 25 per cent loss in stock value that year.
“One of the fi rst things that Michael said was, ‘we have to be different’,” said Felice, “and that some of the things we thought were sacred cows were no longer that!” He added that Dell was eager to help with the “already excellent” technology graduate talent pool at Scottish universities, which the company has been tapping for some years now to fill positions within its 750-plus strong workforce at Glasgow and Edinburgh locations.
See Features: ‘Change is good’
GOVERNMENT TOLD TO AIM HIGHER ON BROADBAND
By William Peakin
MSPs have questioned whether the targets set by the Scottish Government in its broadband infrastructure plan “provide sufficient clarity of ambition”.
A report to be published this week by the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee highlights other European countries with similar challenges to Scotland that “have set out very clearly the high standards they aim to achieve”.
In Luxembourg, every house will have fi breto- the-premises (FTTP) by 2015 and connection speeds of 1Gbps by 2020. In Sweden, 40 per cent of households and businesses will have access to 100Mbps by 2015 and 90 per cent by 2020. And in Denmark, all households and businesses will have access to 100Mbps by 2020.
The Scottish Government recently announced its objectives to deliver broadband speeds of 40-80Mbps for 85 per cent to 90 per cent of premises in Scotland by 2015 and by 2020 “to deliver world-class digital infrastructure for Scotland”.
Committee Convener Maureen Watt MSP told Connect: “The ability to access fast broadband connections is becoming more and more important in all aspects of our lives.
“A reliable and fast broadband connection helps us in our social lives but it is especially crucial in enabling businesses to be able to compete on the world stage.
“High quality digital infrastructure in Scotland is essential and the committee welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to delivering this.
“The committee received evidence from a wide range of individuals, communities and businesses concerned about unreliable and slow internet connections. These issues were shown to have a particularly detrimental effect on small and medium-sized businesses outside the main urban centres of Scotland.
“To ensure that Scotland has the broadband services it needs, ambitious targets for the roll out of broadband infrastructure are needed, with a target of delivering a worldclass broadband infrastructure to 100 per cent of Scotland’s population by 2020.” The committee’s report highlights research showing that even small increases in broadband coverage and speed can have a signifi cant impact on the economic development of a country.
Studies undertaken by the OECD and the World Bank showed that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration increases GDP by 1 per cent and that a doubling of broadband speed represents 0.3 per cent GDP growth.
Research produced for the UK Digital Champion found that the average family would miss out on savings totalling £560 a year if it did not use the internet to shop around for the cheapest deals on products such as energy, insurance and household items.
And as more and more public services become available online, such as e-health, for example, it said that broadband connectivity was increasingly important in order to avoid digital exclusion.
See Features: ‘Aim higher’
CONNECTED DEVICES TRANSFORMING HEALTHCARE
By Staff Reporter
A new device allowing diabetics to manage their condition using their iPhone has gone on sale. The glucose monitor, being rolled out at Boots stores, attaches to the Apple iPhone and iPod touch and allows sufferers to check their blood sugar levels at any time.
The device, called the iBGStar, comes with a free diabetes manager app that makes it possible to store, track and analyse medical data. Accurate monitoring of blood glucose is essential to the management of diabetes, which affects 2.9 million people in the UK.
It is especially important for people with type-1 diabetes, an auto-immune disease that can lead to dangerousrises in blood sugar level. High blood sugar can lead to serious complications including damage to the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes.
Traditional blood glucose monitors (BGMs) are palm-sized devices that test drops of blood obtained by pricking the skin.
iBGStar works in the same way but is just one inch long and plugs straight into an iPhone or iPodtouch. Software carries out the analysis and fl ashes the results onto the screen.
It also allows users to follow changing trends and variations, and factors-in information such as carbohydrate intake, insulin injections and exercise.
Sarah Johnson, from the type-1 diabetes research charity JDRF, said: “Good blood glucose control is vital to reducing the long-term effects of diabetes, but it can be difficult and demanding to achieve. As such, we welcome all developments in technology that can help people with type-1 and type-2 diabetes take control of their condition.”
Dr Andrew Hockey, medical director for diabetes at the pharmaceutical company Sanofi , which produces the iBGStar, said the device was a “huge step forward”. He added: “It harnesses the power of the latest technology to empower people with diabetes to manage their condition on a dayto- day basis.”
Cardiologist Eric Topol said that digital medicine is producing a wealth of innovation. Pocket-sized ultrasound devices, at home sleep monitors, and air strip technology that can measure everything from calorie intake to oxygen level are currently available.
Topol, writing in this edition of Connect, said that nanosensors will be able to anticipate heart attacks and detect the first instance of cancer. Breath sensors that can track lung cancer and asthma are in development.
“Similarly, the sequencing of the human genome has opened a new door in medical discovery; as sequencing becomes both faster and more affordable,” he says. “It will become a routine procedure for every individual and the backbone of a patient’s medical history, determining both testing and treatment procedures.”
See Cover story: ‘Make way for the individual health service’
CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED AS TECH INDUSTRY FACES RECRUITMENT CRISIS
By William Peakin
The technology sector is under threat as it faces a significant skill shortages and a dwindling talent pipeline from schools and universities.
It comes at a time when youth unemployment is at a record high with nearly one in four 16-24 year olds unemployed. But pupils and students appear to be ignoring the tech sector.
The number of school pupils taking computer-related courses in Scotland has dropped by 13 per cent since 2006 and the number of applicants to computing-related higher education courses in Scotland has fallen by 33 per cent since 2002.
Although girls and women use technology to the same extent as boys and men, women are severely underrepresented in the IT profession; only 15 per cent of acceptances to computing degree courses are female.
Polly Purvis, Executive Director for ScotlandIS, the trade body for the digital technology industrues, commented: “Unlike many other industries, the software and IT industry has continued to take on new staff over the last three years, and young people with the right skills are in high demand.
“This growth is unlikely to slow in the foreseeable future, so we need to encourage many more young people to take the right career choices and ensure they are highly employable.
“At ScotlandIS, we’re addressing the employability issue through the e-Placement Scotland programme, which matches university and college students with employers so the students get real work experience before they qualify.
“This provides meaningful, paid work placements, for a minimum of three months, and often leads to the youngsters getting job offers from the employers they’ve worked with, so that once they qualify, they already have a job to go to.
“Making sure the industry has access to people with the right skills is a priority for us and we’ve contributed to the modernisation of the schools curriculum, and the development of BigAmbitionScotland and MyWorldofWork – dedicated online careers advice resources for young people.
“And we’ve just started a campaign to raise awareness of the career opportunities the industry provides for young men and women.”
“Technology is an integral part of our personal and professional lives and is developing rapidly,” said Marion Beattie, Manager, National Employers Service, Skills Development Scotland. “It is vital that Scotland’s young people are given access to the skills they will need to capitalise on the ever growing and expanding opportunities in this fi eld.
“The organisation is working closely with employers in the technology sector to understand their current and future skills demands as this is an area of projected growth within the Scottish economy for the foreseeable future. It is also working with key stakeholders in the public sector to ensure a cohesive approach to support a skills pipeline.
“We work closely with all areas of economic development relating to inward investment and sector growth – identifying future skills requirements to support business needs.
“SDS currently delivers Modern Apprenticeships in IT and many other support services relating to IT. We are a lead partner on the ICT Skills Group and recently co-funded the refreshed Skills Strategy which will be released next month.
“In 2011 SDS initiated a Labour Market Information event which brought together the IT sector and guidance and careers communities. This gave them a forum to exchange and understand each other’s requirements face to face. We work closely with industry groups in delivering activities to raise awareness of the sector and promote positive messages in schools.”
Connect surveyed private sector companies on what could be done: “Make it more attractive to make money by inventing things rather than to make money by just handling money,” commented John McGuire, Managing Director at Pulsion Technology.
“Our economy is too skewed towards financial services which was a darling whilst house prices and shares were rising. We need to now make it very attractive to produce things.
“This does seem to be changing as I notice more science on TV but firstclass honours graduates still seem to get paid more for programming spreadsheets for fi nancial services companies than for designing cutting-edge software systems. That needs to change.”
e-Placement Scotland programme: e-placementscotland.com
See Features: ‘Read, write, compute’
SOCIAL COULD TRANSFORM PUBLIC SECTOR, SAYS OBAMA CAMPAIGNER
By William Peakin
The public sector could soon be transformed by a Facebookstyle network, according to a communications expert.
Edward Saatchi, the son of advertising agency guru Maurice, told Connect: “In the technology we use, work is feeling more like our personal lives – which it should, because it’s embarrassing to go into the office and step back ten years.”
Saatchi worked on President Obama’s 2008 campaign; software he and two friends developed transformed the race to the White House. The so-called NationalField platform was designed to look and feel like Facebook.
At a celebration after winning, Obama told them: “Don’t let this go to waste.” The President urged them to make the platform available to companies and public organisations.
“NationalField has resonance with today’s workforce as it looks and feels like social networks such as Facebook,” said Saatchi.
“But it also gives managers a chance to see exactly what is happening in their organisation at any given time.
“Employees of all ages are now used to updating their status and getting instant feedback in their personal lives. We’re giving them an outlet to show what they are contributing to their company every day – not just once a year in their annual review.”
NationalField has been trialled by the NHS in England: “It’s going terrifically,” said Saatchi.
The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement has recently used NationalField to launch new public engagement campaigns.
The platform is being used by several large companies but Saatchi said: “The difference between government and enterprise isn’t as you might think. We have found people who are willing to be the early adopters in government as often as in enterprise.”
See Interview: ‘Putting social to work’