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Enterprises’ Lack of Strong Data Foundation Hinders Wide-Scale GenAI Adoption

Syniti and HFS Research report shares insights on how to increase data quality and reliability to help unleash full potential of GenAI

Syniti, a global leader in enterprise data management, today announced the results of a study developed with HFS Research to help organisations understand the value they can derive from their generative AI (GenAI) investments. The paper, titled “Don’t let your GenAI project fail before it begins,” provides four guidelines for how organisations can take a Data First approach to achieve better business outcomes, with input from real-world use cases.

While AI has been around for decades, generative AI solutions like ChatGPT have made this technology more accessible than ever before. ChatGPT has seen lightning-fast adoption, racking up 100 million monthly active users in its first two months, making it the fastest-growing consumer app ever. Since then, businesses have raced to adopt GenAI to glean its many advantages. However, organisations are quickly finding their data isn’t ready to reap the value due to lack of data quality and management. In fact, recent HFS research shows that one-third of executives believe less than half of their organisation’s data is actually consumable―highlighting just how many organisations aren’t ready for GenAI.

An improper data foundation can lead to real-world business consequences outside of just poor data quality outputs. If bias exists within the data fed into models, such as gender or racial bias, that bias can be quickly replicated at scale within an organisation. This could cause reputational damage, have regulatory implications, and concern investors. Syniti supports enterprises with a Data First approach, helping to ensure the right infrastructure is in place to break down silos and deliver trusted, usable data to fuel GenAI models.

Naveen Gupta, global data leader, IKEA, said: “The biggest challenge we’re facing in IKEA is having data management practices in place. We don’t have practices for data cleansing, strategy and governance. We need all of that to make sure GenAI is a success.”

Phil Fersht, CEO & chief analyst, HFS Research, said, “Data quality is the cornerstone of any successful AI initiative, particularly in the realm of generative AI. Our joint report with Syniti sheds light on a critical issue facing organisations today: the inadequacy of their data foundation. Without robust data management practices in place, the full potential of GenAI remains out of reach. It’s imperative for businesses to prioritise data quality and reliability to unlock the transformative power of AI.”

Kevin Campbell, CEO, Syniti, said: “GenAI’s potential can’t be overstated, but companies need to approach this technology with the wisdom and respect it deserves. Data quality is critical to all business transformation, including successful use of Generative AI, and it’s shocking how many organisations still don’t properly prepare their data ahead of these initiatives. Companies have a long way to go in terms of data quality and management, but a Data First approach will set organisations up for success.”

SHIMPAC® | Enhancing Roadworker Safety: Easy-to-Install Solutions for Long-Term Performance

Roadwork projects play a vital role in maintaining and improving our infrastructure. However, the safety of roadworkers is often compromised due to the inherent risks associated with working in close proximity to moving vehicles. However, this isn’t the only very real threat to operative safety.

In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the abuse faced by roadworkers from the public. To address these issues, it is crucial to implement easy-to-install solutions that not only enhance road safety but also reduce the exposure of roadworkers to potential harm.

Improved efficiency in these areas ultimately reduces frustration among drivers, decreasing the likelihood of abusive behaviours.

Reducing Exposure

There is only so much control contractors and authorities can assert over the public, and so focusing on overall level of exposure could be the real key. We hear about the danger of the people-plant interface on highways sites, but could it now be time to look at how we reduce the people-people interface?

The less time roadworkers spend on site, the less exposed they are to the public. It’s very simple; By implementing easy-to-install solutions with long-term performance capabilities, roadworker safety is inherently enhanced.

This decrease in exposure helps create a safer working environment and promotes better overall well-being for roadworkers.

The Importance of Easy-to-Install Solutions

When it comes to protecting roadworkers, time is of the essence. The installation process for products should be as quick and hassle-free as possible. Easy-to-install solutions significantly reduce the time spent on-site for operatives, minimising their exposure to the public. By streamlining the installation process, roadworkers can focus more on their primary tasks, ensuring efficiency while reducing the potential for accidents and abuse.

The Role of Performance and Usability

While quick installation is essential, it can’t be at the cost of an effective solution. It is important to consider the long-term performance of safety solutions from an asset life cycle perspective, protecting budgets with decreased repair costs.

Long-Term Performance

However, products that require frequent maintenance, repairs, or replacement can lead to increased exposure for roadworkers. At this point, the risk of abuse returns. The more frequently a solution fails, the more potential for operatives to face abuse during repairs.

Although not all products directly address roadworker abuse, their performance, efficiency, and usability can indirectly contribute positively. Opting for high-quality, durable solutions can help minimise these risks and provide sustained protection over an extended period.

Ironwork: The solution

SHIMPAC®’s Roadshims, a pioneering solution for ironwork seating, has been specifically developed with the factors of efficient installation, durability, and longevity in mind. Recognising the broader impact of these benefits on the safety and wellbeing of roadworkers, SHIMPAC® is dedicated to delivering enhanced protection against potential abuse throughout the UK.

SHIMPAC® understands that the significance of its products goes beyond its technical features. By providing roadworkers with reliable and robust solutions, SHIMPAC® products contribute to creating a safer working environment. When roadworkers can increase overall efficiency of roadwork projects, it leads to smoother traffic flow and reduced frustration among drivers. Consequently, this decreases the likelihood of abusive behaviours directed towards roadworkers, ensuring their wellbeing and fostering a more harmonious relationship between roadworkers and the public.

Quality & correct training means installations are quicker and cause less disruption, and in turn leads to right-first-time installations. This in turn leads to reduced need for more frequent repair. Reducing the people-people interface.

Please visit: www.shimpac.com

Canary Wharf Group closes £84m affordable housing deal with CBRE Investment Management

Canary Wharf Group (‘CWG’) raised £84m through a forward sale of 294 Affordable rent homes to the CBRE UK Affordable Housing Fund (‘AHF’), a fund sponsored by CBRE Investment Management.

Wood Wharf

The affordable homes are part of CWG’s Wood Wharf residential development due to be completed in 2027. The residential community at Canary Wharf, currently numbering 3,500 people, is set to double in size over the next few years as CWG completes Wood Wharf including a 1,308-home private build-to-rent (BTR) scheme and affordable housing in the local area.

The homes are to be acquired by AHF a specialist Affordable Housing Fund delivering affordable and sustainable housing across the United Kingdom. The Homes will be managed by Pinnacle Group in conjunction with CBRE Investment Management (CBRE IM).

The 23 acre development at Wood Wharf is an important part of the ongoing evolution of Canary Wharf from a global financial hub into a vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood offering waterside living with easy access to green spaces, shopping, work and leisure including open water swimming, FairGame, electric go karting, and the premium padel club Padium as well as popular restaurants such as Dishoom, Hawksmoor, Mallow and Fish Game.

CWG’s owners, Brookfield and QIA, recently invested a further £400m to advance its pipeline of development.

John Mulqueen, CIO, CWG, said:

“We are delighted to work with CBRE IM to create high quality, affordable homes at Canary Wharf for the benefit of the local community. This agreement between CWG and CBRE IM demonstrates the appeal of the residential developments being constructed as part of the vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood CWG has created, with award-winning buildings, world-class amenities and exceptional transport links.”

Andrew Davey, Head of Liability Matching Solutions and Affordable Housing, CBRE IM, said:

“It’s been a pleasure working with CWG to deliver state of the art, truly affordable, housing in one of the most vibrant and exciting communities in London. The scheme will deliver on the fund’s objectives to make a positive social impact and achieve our investor’s financial goals.”

The Cabinet Secretary has appointed Cat Little as the new Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office

The Cabinet Secretary was pleased to announce last week the appointment of Cat Little as the new Civil Service Chief Operating Officer and Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office. 

Cat Little

Cat, who is currently Second Permanent Secretary at HM Treasury and Head of the Government Finance Function, was appointed by the Cabinet Secretary with the approval of the Prime Minister following an open competition. Cat will take up the role on the 2nd April. 

Cat brings to the role a unique combination of experience from both within government and a decade spent in the private sector. As well as leading a Government function, Cat has been involved in policy and strategy making at the highest levels in major departments such as the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice and has also spent four years working in the centre of government in HM Treasury.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: 

“I am grateful to Sir Alex for his years of public service, particularly in the Cabinet Office where he has been a champion for reform. I am delighted to see Cat Little bring her extensive experience from both the private and public sectors to this role. I look forward to working with her as we forge a leaner, more modern Civil Service that will deliver this Government’s plan for the future of the United Kingdom.”

The Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, Simon Case said:

“I am delighted to appoint Cat to this role. Cat’s experience makes her uniquely positioned to lead the Cabinet Office through the next stage of its development, ensuring excellence in both the Cabinet Office’s historic role supporting the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet, and excellence in the delivery of cross-government functions. Cat will also continue to lead reform of the Civil Service, working hand-in-hand with senior leaders across the Civil Service to ensure we are equipped to provide the very best support to the government of the day. I wish Cat every success in her new role and look forward to working with her

“I would also like to thank Alex Chisholm for his dedication and service over the last four years, and for his many years of public service before joining the Cabinet Office. I am personally very grateful to Alex for his leadership of the department and his commitment to driving reform across government.” 

Government learning lessons about AI from GOV.UK Chat experiment

By Sascha Giese, Tech Evangelist, SolarWinds

The Government Digital Service (GDS) – part of the Cabinet Office responsible for digital transformation in the UK – is exploring how generative artificial intelligence (AI) could improve the user experience of the government’s website.

Public sector IT experts are using generative large language models (LLMs) – the same technology behind chatbots such as ChatGPT- to come up with a more intuitive way for people to interact with government departments and agencies.

Instead of searching for information – or scrolling through pages of documents – GOV.UK Chat, as it’s known, allows people to simply tap in a question and wait for an answer.

As you’d expect with an experiment on this scale, the results have been mixed.

Early analysis has found that while most people liked using GOV.UK Chat, there were a few teething problems. One of the issues highlighted centred on the accuracy of some of the replies.

As a blog published in January explains, some of the answers “did not reach the highest level of accuracy demanded for a site like GOV.UK, where factual accuracy is crucial.”

It went on: “We also observed a few cases of hallucination – where the system generated responses containing incorrect information presented as fact – mostly in response to users’ ambiguous or inappropriate queries.”

Our AI journey has only really just begun

For me, the findings – supported by another excellent article from the multidisciplinary team running the experiment – are fascinating and provide insights into a project like this.

As they explain: “Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about artificial intelligence (AI). So, it’s clear the spotlight is on the opportunities and risks AI presents to governments – and what can be done collectively to use AI for good.”

This is good to hear. The rapid pace of development around AI shows no sign of easing. And I get the sense that many people are running just to keep up.

Take regulation, for example. Yes, AI is exciting, and developments are happening at a fast pace. In that regard, I’m pro-innovation – but not at all costs.

That’s why I’m also a huge advocate for regulating AI. Not at some indeterminable point in the future, but now. Why? Because from where I’m standing, I believe we’ve reached a level where if we don’t, things could get dangerous.

At some point, humanity needs to get a grip on AI in all its iterations to ensure the positive effects it could have are realised.

Regulation and greater knowledge are essential to make AI work

After all, ‘AI for good’ – as highlighted by the GDS team – could have plenty of positive outcomes. It could ease the burden on IT teams, for example, by automating routine tasks like password resets and network troubleshooting. Not only would this be timesaving, but it would also liberate employees to concentrate on high-value tasks.

AI used in this way is like having an extra set of hands, but ones that never tire or falter in their accuracy.

But, we must also accept that not all types of AI technology are equal.

When you train AI, for example, it’s like teaching a child – you’re giving it your view of the world. This is why we need people from different backgrounds to train and prepare AI to get a better understanding of our diversity across the world.

I’m sure those working on GOV.UK Chat are finding out about these issues – and many more besides – for themselves. It’s one of the reasons why their work on GOV.UK Chat is so important.

All the lessons learned will help expand our knowledge of how best to implement this technology. This will be particularly important if it’s to address some of the fearmongering around jobs and other issues.

After all, if we’re to make any headway, the general population needs to understand the benefits of AI, understand the privacy concerns, and understand what it means for their daily lives.

ICO orders Serco Leisure to stop using facial recognition technology to monitor attendance of leisure centre employees

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ordered public service provider Serco Leisure, Serco Jersey and seven associated community leisure trusts to stop using facial recognition technology (FRT) and fingerprint scanning to monitor employee attendance.  

The ICO’s investigation found that Serco Leisure and the trusts have been unlawfully processing the biometric data of more than 2,000 employees at 38 leisure facilities for the purpose of attendance checks and subsequent payment for their time.  

They failed to show why it is necessary or proportionate to use FRT and fingerprint scanning for this purpose, when there are less intrusive means available such as ID cards or fobs. 

Employees have not been proactively offered an alternative to having their faces and fingers scanned to clock in and out of their place of work, and it has been presented as a requirement in order to get paid. Due to the imbalance of power between Serco Leisure and its employees, it is unlikely that they would feel able to say no to the collection and use of their biometric data for attendance checks. 

The ICO has now issued enforcement notices instructing Serco Leisure and the trusts to stop all processing of biometric data for monitoring employees’ attendance at work, as well as to destroy all biometric data that they are not legally obliged to retain. This must be done within three months of the enforcement notices being issued. 

John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, said: “Biometric data is wholly unique to a person so the risks of harm in the event of inaccuracies or a security breach are much greater – you can’t reset someone’s face or fingerprint like you can reset a password.  

“Serco Leisure did not fully consider the risks before introducing biometric technology to monitor staff attendance, prioritising business interests over its employees’ privacy. There is no clear way for staff to opt out of the system, increasing the power imbalance in the workplace and putting people in a position where they feel like they have to hand over their biometric data to work there.   

“This is neither fair nor proportionate under data protection law, and, as the UK regulator, we will closely scrutinise organisations and act decisively if we believe biometric data is being used unlawfully.” 

This enforcement action comes as the ICO today publishes new guidance for all organisations that are considering using people’s biometric data. The guidance outlines how organisations can comply with data protection law when using biometric data to identify people. 

Mr Edwards added: “This action serves to put industry on notice that biometric technologies cannot be deployed lightly. We will intervene and demand accountability, and evidence that they are proportional to the problem organisations are seeking to solve.  

“Our latest guidance is clear that organisations must mitigate any potential risks that come with using biometric data, such as errors identifying people accurately and bias if a system detects some physical characteristics better than others.”    

A Serco Leisure spokesperson told GPSJ in a statement:

“We value the hard work of all our team members delivering services for our customers. 

“This technology was introduced at the leisure centres we manage nearly five years ago to make clocking-in and out easier and simpler for colleagues. We engaged with our team members in advance of its roll-out and its introduction was well-received by colleagues. The introduction also followed external legal advice which said use of the technology was permitted.

“Despite being aware of Serco Leisure’s use of this technology for some years, the ICO have only this week issued an enforcement notice and requested that we take action. We now understand this coincides with the publication of new guidance for organisations on processing of biometric data which we anticipate will provide greater clarity in this area”

“We take this matter seriously and confirm we will fully comply with the enforcement notice”

Last year, the ICO also published guidance on monitoring employees and called on organisations to consider both their legal obligations and their employee’s rights to privacy before they implement any monitoring. 

WAN Trends 2024: The Need for AI and WAN Acceleration Remains in the Public Sector

By David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks

In 2023, generative AI became steadfastly part of the lexicon. The applications for the technology are potentially vast, but this was also overshadowed by concerns about the impact that artificial intelligence may have on society. Elon Musk, an investor in AI, was among the people calling for a halt in the technology to encourage a discussion about whether there is a need to place limitations on how it should be used and deployed in the near and long-term future.

David Trossell

The Verge revealed on 6th December 2023 that his company, xAI, “seeks to raise up to $1 billion in equity investments, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (as spotted by CoinDesk). The company has raised $134.7 million so far. Founded in April, xAI is Musk’s attempt at jumping on the AI hype train.”

Prior to starting up, xAI, Musk backed Open AI – the company behind ChatGPT – in which he reportedly committed £1bn before walking away from the company over disagreements relating to the speed of OpenAI’s advancements. In total, however, he invested around $50m. The disagreements included his concern about safe AI development, which it is said, he believed OpenAI wasn’t pursuing. Musk then left its board, and backed xAI, which is now a rival to OpenAI.

So, Musk’s thirst for artificial intelligence remains – despite his concerns and the power struggle with other OpenAI board members that contributed to his departure from the firm. You could be forgiven for asking why he contradicts itself. Yes, there is a need to consider the commercial and moral cases for how artificial intelligence and machine learning will impact society, but the technology is beneficial – including to businesses that wish to transport ever-growing amounts of encrypted data over thousands of miles. It can also be used, as xAI proclaims, to better understand the universe.

Public Sector AI

The Alan Turing Institute says artificial intelligence offers huge potential for the delivery of government and public sector services. It argues that AI can make them more responsive, more efficient and more personalised.

The projects it discusses on its website range from using artificial intelligence and machine learning to automated bureaucracy; estimating the potential of AI in government services by quantifying transaction dynamics and by estimating the potential of automation; conceptualising the use of AI in government with a novel typology; using the technology to generate actionable insights from satellite imagery, to understanding the use and impacts of preceptive, predictive and generative AI in the public sector by “surveying workers to understand their perceptions and experiences of AI systems…”

Lord Jonathan Evans also believes. His article by this title on .Gov adds:

“Chat GPT and other AI tools are starting to transform our interactions with a range of organisations, including in the public sector. The benefits and risks involved were highlighted in the media recently by educationalists concerned about the lack of advice for schools on handling developments in AI.

Back in 2020, pre-pandemic, the Committee produced a report and recommendations on how we ensure that high ethical standards can be upheld as technologically assisted decision making is adopted more widely across the public sector.

Honesty, integrity, objectivity, openness, leadership, selflessness and accountability were first outlined by Lord Nolan in 1995 as the standards expected of all those who act on the public’s behalf. They are the basis for codes and rules guiding conduct and decision making across the public sector. But what happens when decisions are made or assisted by a machine?

Our 2020 report argues that adherence to high public standards will help fully realise the potential benefits of AI in public service delivery. All seven Nolan principles are relevant and valid, as AI is increasingly used for public service delivery, but we found AI poses a challenge to three Principles in particular: openness, accountability and objectivity.”

The 2020 report highlighted the need for public sector organisations to improve the transparency around their use of AI and machine learning. The report’s authors – including Lord Evans – called on the government to “to establish a coherent regulatory and governance framework for AI in the public sector, and to produce practical guidance and enforceable regulation on transparency and data bias as a matter of urgency.” While no AI regulator was created, existing regulators were asked to step up to the challenges that AI and ML can present to ensure that they comply with the law.

Elevating capabilities

From an SD-WAN networking perspective, Mushroom Networks says: “Integrating AI into SD-WAN elevates its capabilities [too], enabling more intelligent routing decisions, enhanced performance and improved security. AI-driven SD-WAN solutions can analyse network traffic in real-time, predictively identifying potential issues and autonomously rerouting traffic to ensure optimal performance.”

Ayesha Mumtaz, writing for BNN Breaking, claims: ‘SD-WAN: The Game Changer in Networking and Security’, even though SD-WANs are exactly new.  However, she is right to suggest that they have become the preferred solution for many IT leaders who want to tackle the belligerence of latency, packet loss and poor bandwidth utilisation with a virtual WAN architecture that’s proclaimed to be service provider agnostic and highly secure in nature.

She adds: “SD-WAN is no longer an emerging trend; it has proven its worth and is reshaping the modern business landscape. Unlike traditional WAN, SD-WAN offers a network overlay, effectively separating network software services from the underlying WAN links. This innovative approach allows for cost-effective, adaptable and manageable networking options tailored to the demands of contemporary enterprises.”

Networking trends

As for networking trends in 2024, as revealed by Hewlett Packard Enterprises, she comments that SD-WANs highlight the dynamic nature of networking, and she claims there is a need for businesses to stay abreast of technological advancements to remain competitive and secure in today’s digital landscape.” She says the trends include: “the demise of standalone firewalls, the acceleration of zero trust principles, the critical nature of measuring end user experience and the skyrocketing adoption of 6GHz Wi-Fi. These developments will significantly impact the networking and security objectives of organisations, as well as user experience and application performance.”

There is also talk about intelligent WANs, the iWAN, a CISCO product that offers customers capabilities similar to MPLS VPN, such as quality of service (QoS), WAN optimisation and VPN tunnelling. However, Mindsight believes it’s not a new category of networking. It is essentially CISCO’s SD-WAN solution, and yet it’s thought that it won’t be like any other SD-WAN solution.

Sean Michael Kerner’s article for SDXCentral, published on 37th December 2023, ‘10 networking technology predictions for 2024’, predicts that AI will make networking much more intelligent in 2024. He cites Carolina Bessega, innovation lead – Office of the CTO, at Extreme Networks, whom he says forecasts that “AI-based networking tools will help predict, prevent and remediate issues that affect user experience, service availability and service quality.”

He comments that she also thinks machine learning will go beyond present-state network optimisations to “make the business of the network simpler and easier, faster and, as a result, better”, with large language models being paired with “other types of machine learning and networking big data to create new opportunities between vendors, customers and partners to co-innovate as they create solutions that transform the network into a strategic asset.”

Performant WANs are essential

Yet, the network isn’t just a strategic asset. Without a highly performing WAN, businesses are dead in the water. So, while SD-WANs and WAN Optimisation are good technologies, they often fall short of their promises. This is why, for example, most SD-WANs will still need a WAN Acceleration overlay in 2024.

Unlike anything on the networking market, and while we’ll see how Cisco’s iWANs fare, WAN Acceleration does mitigate the effects of latency and packet loss. In doing so, it accelerates the transfer of encrypted data and WAN performance over thousands of miles. It can also increase bandwidth utilisation – meaning that there may not be a need to buy new and larger pipes. Buying more bandwidth often doesn’t resolve the problem associated with bandwidth being underused.

This doesn’t mean that WAN Acceleration replaces SD-WANs. In 2024, like in previous years, this technology, which uses artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML, and data parallelisation, can be used as an overlay on top of SD-WANs to further improve their performance. Arguably, WAN Acceleration creates an ‘intelligent WAN’ because of its use of AI and ML.

Therefore, enterprises need it in 2024 as much as they did in recent years. To date, it is being used by organisations such as CVS Healthcare, the National Institutes of Health in the US, an F1 company and a household cyber-security firm, amongst  others, to ensure that their data is safe, that they can back up and restore data rapidly over large distances and with high volumes of data. This year – 2024 – should therefore be the year of WAN Acceleration, as its use of AI is beneficial to enterprises and society.

Schools, communities and homes across the capital to reap the benefits of superfast multi-gigabit digital network

Supercharging educational technology in schools . Free internet connection for disadvantaged families . Free 1Gbps connections for community-led initiatives

Schools, communities and homes across the capital are set to reap the benefits of a safe, highly resilient1, superfast2, multi-gigabit, digital network to be installed over the next five years by edtech charity LGfL–The National Grid for Learning and its partner, award-winning Internet Service Provider (ISP) Community Fibre. 

The unique partnership with Community Fibre enables LGfL to install a second, diversely routed fibre connection into schools delivering a level of unrivalled resilience which is now critical given the dependence of a modern curriculum on continuously available internet access.  Unplanned outages severely disrupt schools and lessons,” said John Jackson3, CEO, LGfL-The National Grid for Learning.

John Jackson, CEO, LGfL-The National Grid for Learning

“LGfL’s investment means that London will benefit from an advanced , fast and resilient education network that is amongst the best in Europe, if not the world. Building a network of this standard would not be possible without Community Fibre,” he said.

Roll out has already begun with the aim of providing back-up internet services to 500 sites this year.  Each school will be serviced with a 100% full fibre installation, which uses 70% less energy than traditional copper, making it a future-proof energy efficient and sustainable solution.

Graeme Oxby, Chief Executive Officer of Community Fibre, said, “We’re delighted that LGfL-The National Grid for Learning has appointed Community Fibre to provide London schools with fibre support. Stable and reliable connectivity is vital for teachers and school children across the capital, and we’re thrilled to roll out a 100% full fibre network to each location using the UK’s most reliable broadband technology.”

LGfL and Community Fibre will also work together on the broadband provider’s Community Investment Programme – to provide free 1Gbps full fibre connection for community-led initiatives and free digital skills training for Londoners. 580 free connections for community-led initiatives have already been installed.

“Digital inclusion and removing the barriers to education are top of our agenda at LGfL,” said John Jackson. “There are an estimated 2.2 million Londoners living in poverty – 25 per cent of its population4. Our intention is to work in partnership with Community Fibre to help identify children and families in need, and pair them with the broadband provider who will deliver free and safe connectivity into homes and community centres. Community Fibre has significant resources as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility programme, and we are delighted to be working with them on this initiative.”

Commenting on the announcement, Theo Blackwell, London’s first Chief Digital Officer – who leads on London-wide digital transformation, data and smart city initiatives at City Hall – said, “This initiative will provide hundreds of London schools with full fibre connections, supporting teaching and learning. It goes hand in hand with our efforts to promote investment in gigabit connectivity to homes, businesses and public buildings – up from only four per cent in 2017 to 89 per cent today.  Better digital access is a priority for the Mayor and an important part of making a better London for everyone.” 

Further to the completion of the London-wide network, LGfL plans to secure strategic alliances with other telecoms providers and to roll out its multi-gigabit network across the nation. In rural areas without existing internet connectivity, LGfL will offer Starlink, the world’s first and largest satellite constellation using a low Earth orbit to deliver broadband internet capable of supporting streaming, online gaming, video calls and more.”

Schools keen to join LGfL’s network should visit lgfl.net/smartbuy/connectivity  or call 0208 408 4455, option 5.

1. Source: Community Fibre’s network has been running for over 99.9% of the time every month since March 2022. Data is measured monthly across all consumer connected homes on Community Fibre’s network.

2. Source: Fastest consumer broadband speeds independently verified by FDM on behalf of Community Fibre 30th November 2023. Community Fibre 3 Gbps Fibre Broadband package offers average download speeds of 3000 Mbps. All other providers listed offer the maximum download speed of 1,600 Mbps or less: Virgin Media, Openreach, Hyperoptic, G Network, 4th Utility, FibreNest, Hey Broadband, Gigaclear, OFNL, Pure Fibre & Switch Fibre.

3.John Jackson – 2022 ERA Outstanding Achievement Award winner, recognised for accelerating the adoption of new technology in schools and his dedication to saving them money, keeping children safe, tackling inequality, energising teaching and learning and promoting wellbeing.

4.The estimated number of Londoners living in poverty for 2019/20–2021/22 was 2.2 million, or 25 per cent of the population

Bridgeworks shortlisted for Computing DevOps Excellence Awards

WAN Acceleration company Bridgeworks, has been shortlisted in this year’s Computing DevOps Excellence Awards, which will be hosted on Thursday 14 March 2024 at The Montcalm, Marble Arch in London. IT industry magazine Computing writes that year-on-year, DevOps Excellence Awards showcase achievements from organisations, personalities and solutions that have successfully applied DevOps methodologies. The publication adds: “It’s an outstanding achievement to be shortlisted for Best AI/Automation Project, a very competitive category during the entry stage and to be shortlisted as a finalist is a phenomenal milestone for Bridgeworks.”

Tackling digital infrastructure deficits in South and East London

Over 150,000* premises in south and east London do not have access to high speed – Gigabit capable – internet connections.

Contrary to perception, hundreds of thousands of addresses in London are affected by slow digital connectivity, causing digital inequalities that impede the lives of people and businesses.

The ‘Sub-regional Digital Infrastructure Strategy’ launched today by Local London and the South London Partnership, identifies gaps in 14 south and east London boroughs. It includes recommendations for driving up the quality and accessibility of services in them and will help channel investment to areas of economic opportunity.

With an estimated population of 3.8 million, Local London and South London Partnership are two of London’s four sub-regions, representing the interests of the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Bromley, Enfield, Greenwich, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Croydon, Kingston-upon-Thames, Merton, Richmond-upon-Thames and Sutton.

There are over 103,000 premises in Local London and 53,000 in the South London Partnership sub-region unable to obtain a Gigabit capable broadband service with many sitting in a ‘not spot,’ unable to receive even a 30 Mbps service.

Mapping out the digitally poor postcodes, the strategy highlights best practices, learning and actions that the public and private sector can take together to build world-leading digital infrastructure for some of the fastest growing parts of London. 

Commissioned by the Mayor of London’s Infrastructure Coordination Service, the ‘Sub-regional Digital Infrastructure Strategy’ is part of a wider pilot which will deliver an interactive mapping tool and an online digital toolkit that will assist borough officers to deliver digital infrastructure to their sites and leverage additional commercial digital infrastructure investment in the sub-regions.

The ‘Sub-regional Digital Infrastructure Strategy’ provides a compelling argument for actively pursuing digital investment along with step-by-step guidance to public sector officers to attract investment and promote better quality and more accessible services, including:

  • Map and statistics illustrating clearly where poor digital infrastructure issues lie.
  • Recommendations for public sector resourcing and roles, industry engagement, procurement options and commercial models, and key components of a successful delivery strategy.
  • Case studies and examples from across the UK demonstrating successful ways of working and benefits gained.
  • The strategic, commercial, financial, management case and options analysis.

Theo Blackwell MBE, Chief Digital Officer, Greater London Authority said “Widely available, easily accessible digital connectivity is essential for people to reach public services and is key to helping cities grow through driving innovation and the creation of new businesses.

“Yet there are still parts of London that suffer from a lack of commercial investment in digital infrastructure, and this results in gaps in internet coverage or ‘not spots’.

“We must address these gaps and drive up the quality and accessibility of the services that are already available, to help the capital to be a fairer, more prosperous, and more equal London for everyone.”

Cllr Baroness O’Neill of Bexley OBE, Chairman of Local London and Leader of London Borough of Bexley said “We are delighted to launch the ‘Sub-regional Digital Infrastructure Strategy’ with our colleagues at South London Partnership. This provides step-by-step guidance to public sector colleagues for unlocking inward investment and maximising existing infrastructure to benefit people and businesses in the area. Along with the database and digital toolkit, this pilot approach will help all 14 boroughs tackle the digital divide, whilst also creating a legacy of learning that have even wider benefits.”     

Cllr Gareth Roberts, Chair, South London Partnership and Leader of London Borough of Richmond upon Thames Council commented “This joint strategy demonstrates the benefits of a cross-boundary approach. Addressing the issues at a sub-regional level, with colleagues at Local London, this strategy provides clear guidance for unlocking rapid deployment of next generation wireless infrastructure and gigabit capable full fibre, to align us with other urban areas in the UK, whilst responding to the distinct social and economic needs of each borough.”  

Find out more: londondigitaltoolkit.org.uk 

*Figures based Ofcom Connected Nations research published December 2023.

CONCRETE ASSURANCE FOR BUILDING FIRE SAFETY

A new guide outlining how concrete construction is best placed to meet the requirements of the Building Safety Regulator has been published by the British Association of Reinforcement (BAR).

The Building Safety Regulator is the Building Control Authority for higher-risk buildings. This includes buildings that are at least 18 metres in height or at least seven storeys.  The Regulator was a key requirement of the Building Safety Act 2022. The Building Safety Act forwards the majority of recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry – the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 tragically resulted in the death of 72 people in the worst UK residential fire since World War II

The Grenfell Tower tragedy underlined how fire safety must be an essential key consideration in the design and use of buildings and structures. The subsequent Building Safety Act is designed to provide greater safety, quality, transparency of the building process and accountability of the professionals involved and provide key stakeholders, such as residents, with reassurance and confidence that the buildings that they are utilising are safe.

BAR maintains that the inherent fire resistance of concrete enables owners, developers, designers and constructors fulfil their legislative and regulatory responsibilities and deliver, with confidence, the necessary fire safety.

Concrete is one of the most fire-resistant construction materials. Under European Standards (EN 13501-1:2007-A1:2009), it is classified as an A1 material – the highest grade of fire resistance. The construction fire safety of concrete is underlined by the fact that it is non-combustible, is non-toxic and has low thermal conductivity.

This means that concrete does not easily transfer thermal heat and does not react easily with other substances (meaning that in the event of a fire there are no noxious gases released). These inherent benefits make concrete one of the safest and most effective materials for structural fire protection. Indeed, in most cases, concrete does not require any additional fire-protection because of its built-in resistance to fire.

This resistance also means that concrete buildings can provide a high level of fire resistance and safety well above that required for life safety. This provides greater evacuation and rescue time plus increased structural integrity and safety for fire fighters entering burning buildings.

Steve Elliott, BAR Chairman, said: “The inherent fire resistance of concrete means that, compared with other building materials, it can meet the stringent requirements and inspections of the Building Safety Regulator with long-term assurance and provide the necessary safe built environment envisaged by the Building Safety Act.”

To view the guide visit: bit.ly/49xNPlm

Calls for greater data-led efficiency in the public sector

The Information Commissioner’s Office has just gone out to public consultation on its new data strategy.

The ICO teamed up with Oakland, an independent data consultancy, to develop its data strategy using the Government’s new Data Maturity Assessment for Government framework.

The data strategy sets out a clear vision for responsible innovation in the use of data, aiming to provide real value for the organisation and its customers.

Commenting on the project, Rob Holtom, executive director of digital, data, and technology (DDaT), transformation, and delivery at the ICO, said: “The data strategy is a hugely important piece of work that will put our own use of data at the heart of how we operate and transform as a regulator. It was important to seek external views, and we teamed up with an experienced team at Oakland to deliver this milestone project.”

“The collaborative partnership has developed a strong foundation on which we can build internally and with our external stakeholders. We hope sharing it will also inspire others to optimise how data is used to create value and improve outcomes in any organisation.”

The teams worked in partnership to develop the data strategy. The project identified the key initiatives and activities to improve data capability and set out the behaviours and beliefs needed to drive a better data culture.

Craig Lambert, senior data strategy consultant at Oakland Group, said: “The team at Oakland worked in a true partnership with the ICO on this project. Building a data strategy is a wide-ranging effort that covers an organisation’s capability, effectiveness, and readiness to use data fully. For the ICO, this data strategy is fundamental to delivering better public services and regulation of such a rapidly evolving market.”

UK PUBLIC SECTOR HARBOURS HIDDEN DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION ‘DEFICIT’

  • Almost all UK central and local government organisations are skipping key steps necessary to deliver successful major transformation programmes, according to new research from ArvatoConnect.
  • ArvatoConnect provides customer experience and business optimisation services to public and private organisations. 
  • The findings show that the majority of organisations don’t set key performance benchmarks, secure citizen and employee buy-in or have a data strategy in place.
  • Many organisations also admit their strategies are led by technology over citizens’ needs, or are driven by an effort to keep pace with other government departments or private businesses. 
  • ArvatoConnect says this is significantly elevating the risk of projects falling short of their potential or missing the mark completely.

Many UK public sector organisations are missing key steps necessary to achieving their digital transformation objectives, a new report reveals – creating the risk that public transformation projects fail to fully deliver their intended benefits. 

Nearly two thirds (65%) of public sector organisations currently delivering digital transformation projects don’t have an overarching data strategy, while 71% can’t effectively gather, collate and manage data and 68% aren’t confident they can protect it once they have it. 

The research, published by ArvatoConnect – formerly Arvato CRM Solutions – and which surveyed* 200 customer experience, IT and transformation decisionmakers in UK central and local government bodies also found that four in five (83%) haven’t gathered feedback from citizens on how their existing solutions are working and nearly nine in ten (87%) haven’t trained employees on new technologies or processes. 

Similar proportions admitted to not gaining employee or citizens’ buy-in on their transformation plans (both 79%), or even setting key performance indicators (KPIs) (78%).

ArvatoConnect, which provides customer experience and business optimisation services to central and local government organisations and other public sector bodies, says that organisations are misplacing their confidence and that skipping these important steps is creating a ‘digital deficit’ – a disconnect between transformation plans’ objectives, and the reality of what they are likely to achieve.

James Towner, Chief Growth Officer, ArvatoConnect, said: “While our research tells us that many public bodies are confident in delivering successful digital transformation projects and have such projects underway, this confidence may be misplaced. 

“Transformation is critical to delivering better and greater value public services, but the programmes that are missing steps like gathering citizen and employee feedback and even setting KPIs is concerning. 

“These steps constitute key foundations of successful digital transformation projects, and organisations must take this into account and focus on closing these ‘digital deficits’.”

ArvatoConnect’s report also uncovered that many public sector transformation strategies were being driven by technology or competitive impulse, rather than by organisations’ or citizens’ needs. 

Nearly three quarters (72%) of decisionmakers admitted that their transformation strategies were being led more by available digital solutions than what their citizens or organisations actually require. Meanwhile, two fifths said their plans were being shaped by simply trying to keep pace with other public bodies (40%), or even private businesses (36%). 

This type of transformation approach could mean that common customer experience problems are left unaddressed. A separate YouGov poll of UK adults**, commissioned by ArvatoConnect, found that nearly half (47%) of UK adults had experienced an issue when contacting a government body in the last 12 months, while more than two thirds (68%) had experienced an issue contacting a company.   

James Towner continued: “Any transformation programme needs to be grounded in a clear understanding of the needs of the organisation, its customers or its citizens. 

“Organisations mustn’t fall into the trap of spending time and money on developing solutions that are then left looking for a problem to ‘fix’.

“Taking the time to get the basics right – and seeking the right support with digital transformation planning – will only generate better results over the long term.”

The Digital Deficit report is the first launched by ArvatoConnect, formerly Arvato CRM Solutions. 

The business is a trusted partner to government departments and local authorities, with clients including Crown Commercial Services and the Department for Education.

The new brand – launched in February 2024 – reflects the expansion of the business’ proposition to incorporate both customer experience and business optimisation services, underpinned by innovative, technology-led solutions. 

To read the complete Digital Deficit report, click here: www.arvatoconnect.co.uk/arvatotalks/uncovering-the-uks-digital-deficit 

LUNAZ UPCYCLED ELECTRIC REFUSE TRUCKS GET GREEN LIGHT TO OPERATE ACROSS LONDON

  • Lunaz upcycled electric vehicles (UEVs) achieve the highest Direct Vision Standard (DVS) for driver visibility
  • Responds to ongoing demand from London borough councils
  • New tech maximises vision for operators; makes streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and other road users
  • Lunaz UEVs ready for deployment in the capital and other metropolitan areas
  • Supports long-term plan to increase production to 1,100 UEVs per year

Lunaz begins 2024 in a strong position to continue its journey towards producing 1,100 upcycled electric vehicles (UEVs) a year, with confirmation that its upcycled refuse trucks achieve the highest five-star Direct Vision Standard (DVS) rating for driver visibility.

The DVS has been developed by researchers, academics and representatives from the freight industry, Europe’s leading HGV manufacturers and regulatory bodies. Vehicles are rated from zero stars (poor) up to five stars (excellent).

The DVS five-star rating for Lunaz UEVs is significant because under Transport for London (TfL) rules, HGV operators can apply for a permit without needing to provide any additional evidence. However, from 28 October 2024, HGVs rated zero to two stars will need to be retro-fitted with a Progressive Safe System.

The five-star rating clears the way for Lunaz UEVs to enter service in London without any further documents or modifications being required.

Safety in focus

As a ‘better than new’ upcycled electric vehicle, each Lunaz refuse truck is equipped with a suite of technologies to help drivers see around the vehicle from all angles.

The external camera monitoring system comprises two assemblies containing three cameras mounted on the top corners of the vehicle, which send images to screens on the dashboard display. The original wing mirrors are replaced with digitised versions that eliminate rear and blind spots around the UEV.

Unlike standard mirrors, these mirrors operate under all conditions, including rain, snow and total darkness, dramatically increasing visibility and safety. The driver can also see what’s directly in front of and below the vehicle via a dedicated downward-facing camera.

In addition to the cameras and mirrors, an object detection system instantly picks out cyclists, pedestrians and other potential hazards, alerting the driver via the dashboard display screen.

Looking ahead

The green light for service in London is another major step towards the wider adoption of Lunaz UEVs by local authorities as replacements for their end-of-life diesel refuse trucks.

By reusing and recycling existing vehicles, Lunaz seeks to break the destructive replace-with-new cycle, preventing unnecessary landfill and minimising the overall lifetime environmental impact of operating commercial vehicle fleets. A Lunaz UEV is cleaner and better equipped than an all-new electric equivalent, while the restoration and conversion process captures more than 80% of its embedded carbon.

Better for the taxpayer

It can also deliver a 25% lifetime capital saving over its as-new equivalent, providing greater value for money for local authorities, business operators and taxpayers. Indeed, over a normal seven year life-cycle a Lunaz UEV matches a polluting diesel refuse truck for ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ (TCO) meaning Local Authorities and private operators can make the transition to zero emissions vehicles without pressurising existing budgets.

Lunaz has pioneered commercial vehicle upcycling and electrification, a sector predicted to grow tenfold over the next five years, driven by the global transition to net zero and clean-air mobility. Lunaz itself expects to employ 350 staff by the end of 2024 – up from just five when it was founded in 2018 – in pursuit of its stated long-term goal of producing 1,100 vehicles per year.

OIX launches short videos to help businesses understand what digital ID will mean for them

  • It is becoming more urgent that organisations take steps to understand how digital ID will impact them, says OIX.  

The Open Identity Exchange (OIX), a non-profit organisation, has launched a series of short educational videos about digital ID for organisations that will come to accept and rely on digital ID as the primary way for their customers to access their products and services.

These are the organisations that need to know with confidence who their customers are when it comes to onboarding and managing them. For them, digital ID will be a gamechanger. However, digital ID is complex and confusing, and the OIX continues to see high levels of uncertainty among those organisations that will come to rely on it the most.

According to the OIX, many do not truly understand what digital ID is, how it will work for them or what the benefits for their business and their customers will be. It is also shrouded in myths about fraud and privacy issues that need dispelling.  

The OIX believes that it has now become increasingly urgent that these organisations – across various sectors including, finance, property, employment, travel, gambling, telcos, insurance, legal and any age restricted service – understand what digital ID is all about and why it will be a positive development for them.

Some of the benefits include enabling instant access to services for customers, moving away from forgettable passwords, no longer needing customers to find and provide paper ID documents and being able to easily update details as customer data changes.

Ensuring that digital ID works well for these organisations is a key focus for the OIX, so as part of its education work, the OIX has launched a series of short and clear educational videos to provide clarity on the key questions being asked.

Nick Mothershaw, Chief Identity Strategist at OIX, said: “All businesses are going to be impacted by digital ID one way or another. It’s a major focus all around the world. Specifically in the UK, the government is certifying private sector digital ID providers to start working with the businesses that will come to accept and rely on these digital IDs. In some countries, it is now the primary way people can access both public and private sector services. 

“What this means for businesses is that there is digital ID ecosystem in place. They cannot ignore the fact that digital ID is ready to be adopted. The sooner they take steps to make it key part of onboarding and managing their customers, the better.”

The full series of videos about digital ID can be found here.

Highland Marketing welcomes Natasha Phillips to its advisory board   

Former national CNIO and founder of Future Nurse will bring passion for digital transformation to debates and discussions     

Natasha Phillips has joined the Highland Marketing advisory board, to contribute her passion for nursing and digital transformation to its debates on health and care technology and the guidance it provides to the agency and its clients.  

Phillips, who stepped down from her role as NHS England’s first chief nursing information officer last year to found her own company, Future Nurse, said: “My ambition for Future Nurse is as it was in my national role: to ensure nurses and midwives are well served with technology that makes it easier for them to do the right thing for the people in their care.  

Natasha Phillips

“We will do this by bringing nursing experience and expertise to all aspects of digital transformation of health and care.”   

“With its advisory board, Highland Marketing brings together an experienced and talented group for relevant and pertinent discussions. In publishing those discussions widely, it encourages further conversations and debate, influencing decisions made. I am delighted to be part of this group, bringing a wider clinical perspective to the discussion.  

“It is my ambition that wherever discussions about digital health and care policy are happening, a nurse, and indeed a diverse group of clinicians, are actively involved.” 

Phillips started her nursing career in London and has held many senior operational and strategic positions with a focus on improvement.  

She has led multiple technology and data enabled projects including Hospital@Night and the nationally recognised Exemplar Accreditation Improvement programme before she became CNIO at UCLH, leading the successful deployment of an enterprise wide EPR.  

As the first CNIO for England, she led the development of What Good Looks Like Framework for Nursing, the Digital Clinical Safety Strategy, and a Review of the Preparation of Nurses and Midwives for the Digital Age (awaiting publication). 

During her tenure, Phillips transformed the landscape of digital nursing leadership establishing a national team, a CNIO in every region, increasing the number of CNIO’s and NIO’s in provider organisations, and developing a vibrant community of over 1,300 digital nurses on NHS Futures. 

Future Nurse aims to bring nursing, midwifery & allied health professional priorities to the centre of digital and bio tech innovation, through a mix of practical project delivery and a global network of nurses, med tech, and bio tech employees who work together to develop the next generation of technology. 

“If you look at the red thread that runs through my career, it is a passion to improve services and the care we deliver to patients,” Phillips said. “I realised early-on that data is essential for improvement and that digital technology is critical for clinical colleagues who want to improve care.  

“So, my interest is not in IT, but in using data and digital to make the NHS better, improve the lives of clinicians, and make sure that patients get the great care we all want to deliver for them.”  

Highland Marketing is an established PR, marketing and content agency with more than 20 years’ experience in health and care tech and med tech. It employs or works with more than 30 experts in strategy, content creation, PR, and sales acceleration.  

The Highland Marketing advisory board is made up of NHS and industry experts. It holds regular debates on hot topics in health and care tech and provides advice and guidance to the agency and its clients on market issues and effective communications approaches.  

Susan Venables, co-founder and client services director at Highland Marketing, said: “It is always a privilege to welcome such skilled and qualified individuals like Natasha Phillips to join our advisory board. We work with many health tech companies who want to bring a clinical perspective to their work. But it is important to remember that ‘clinician’ does not just mean ‘doctor’.  

“As Natasha has already reminded us, nurses, midwives and allied professionals make up two-thirds of the NHS workforce, and she will bring a strong and experienced voice for them to discussions about the future of digital – which is more than ever up for debate as we go into an election year.” 

Reinventing Local Authorities To Leverage Transformative Ability Of Software

Local authorities across the country are struggling to fully embrace the use of software to improve efficiency, streamline operations and optimise decision-making. Historically, new software has been introduced to a process or system that has been used for decades. Bolt on approaches can work but in recent years, across the public sector, there have been huge failings in doing this which have caused chaos and mistrust around the use and reliability of software.

Rather the simply implementing a ‘software solution’, local authorities need to reinvent themselves to leverage what software, and big data, can do to help them deliver a greater service for public whilst also increasing the level of transparency and efficiency. But how can this be done?

Sascha Dobbelaere – Founder and CEO at Tweave.tech www.tweave.tech

Sascha Dobbelaere, founder and CEO at Tweave, gives his insights into the role of robotics in the retail industry. Tweave Is a specialist in optimising businesses results through digital means by becoming part of the team, developing intelligent software tools and supporting the change.

Streamlining Operations with Automation

Automation offers local authorities the ability to overhaul operations, amplify efficiency, and significantly mitigate the risk of human error.

AI serves as a powerful ally to local authorities, significantly empowering their decision-making capacities. By analysing and processing huge amounts of data quickly, AI provides an impressive platform for accurate predictions and robust risk management. This allows local authorities to approach decision-making with a level of confidence and precision previously unseen.

AI also offers the ability to model potential outcomes, exploring different scenarios and their possible implications. From urban planning to social services and everything in between, AI can be a game-changer for local authorities in helping anticipate challenges and opportunities.

Workflow management software could support workers with time-consuming, monotonous tasks. Automating routine processes would free up your team’s time, allowing them to concentrate on strategic tasks – reducing time and budget costs on unnecessary activities.

Software that can replace paper forms with a digital system, would significantly speed up data entry, and manage document filing. This one-stop shop would enable all departments to store, search, and retrieve digital records – creating a super slick user-friendly efficient system that not only reduces the risk of human error and but also increasing the overall accuracy of data.

Increased transparency is another invaluable benefit. With digital tools, every action and decision will become traceable. This produces a place of significant accountability – which leverages trust among your team and your community.

How To Choose The Right Software Solution

Finding the perfect software solution can feel like navigating a maze, and it’s crucial to choose a solution tailored to your local authority’s requirements. But where do you start? Once you have a organisational structure ready to integrate a software solution, ease of use is essential. The more user-friendly the system, the quicker your team can get up to speed and see its benefits. 

Scalability is also a key element of your chosen software – it needs to be able to grow with the organisation to ensure the investment remains future-proof. Customisation also plays a crucial role. A one-size-fits-all approach might not necessarily suit your local authority’s specific needs – a system that can be tailored to your operations will ensure a better fit and higher user acceptance.

The ability of your new system to integrate with your existing software infrastructure is another important consideration. Seamless integration facilitates a smooth flow of data across your systems, eliminating data silos and duplication of effort.

Software, AI and automation have the ability to collectively deliver seamless public services, AI intelligence guides impactful decision-making, and automation refines operational efficiency. It is a challenge to merge old and new systems together – but it is not impossible. Successful software integration isn’t just about installing the latest version of a software programme. What is key, is aligning this new way of working with the organisations key objectives – and its community’s needs. 

Looking Forward

In the face of the digital revolution, local authorities are presented with a unique opportunity to transform whilst embracing the strengths of software, AI and automation. It’s about more than just keeping pace with the times; it’s about optimising service delivery, enhancing decision-making, and streamlining operations for a more effective, efficient future.

However, it’s key that the approach to this transformation is strategic, measured, and gradual. The integration of digitalisation must align with the overall goals of the local authority – and must be tailored to suit the unique needs of the community. 

By adopting a proactive approach, local authorities can effectively ride the wave of the digital revolution. However, it’s important to remember that digital transformation isn’t just about adopting new technologies; it’s about changing mindsets and fostering a culture of innovation and agility.

By reinventing how local authorities communicate, engage, and serve their communities, we have the essence of truly transformative public service.

Tips for Evolving Your Public Sector Database Strategy in 2024

By SolarWinds Senior Vice President of Engineering Krishna Sai

Krishna Sai leads the engineering, technology and architecture teams at SolarWinds. He is a seasoned leader and entrepreneur with over two decades of experience scaling global engineering teams and building winning products across multiple industries. Sai has held leadership roles at Atlassian, Groupon, and Polycom, co-founded two technology companies, and holds several patents.  

Krishna Sai

New data is being created and accumulated at a relentless pace. One recent estimate found a whopping 328.77 million terabytes of data are created each day. Managing this flood of data in all its forms is no easy task – but the potential business insights that can be gleaned from this data are enormous.

Government organizations have opened their eyes to the vast amounts of data they generate and the various ways this data could be leveraged to improve citizen services. Deep learning technology, which leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology to mimic human learning and decision-making, is a critical tool for uncovering data insights and driving innovation. For example, the Home Office could use deep learning technology to help streamline intricate tasks like the handling of visa and immigration applications, improving employee productivity, and accelerating visa decisions. Meanwhile, air traffic controllers could leverage deep learning to more accurately predict short-term congestion spikes at busy airports, helping improve the safety and efficiency of the national airspace system.

As government organizations explore ways to harness deep learning technology, database managers should start to prepare. Here are four key considerations for database management in this era of big data and deep learning.

Strengthen Database Foundations

The foundation of successful deep learning initiatives lies in high-quality, real-world data and consistently high-performing databases. While AI can process massive datasets at unprecedented speeds, government databases must be able to support the complex processing requirements needed to extract actionable insights.

To meet the growing demands of advanced AI algorithms and deep learning, government IT teams need to plan and execute effective strategies for their data and databases. This could include upgrading to more powerful and efficient databases equipped with unlimited throughput, scalable processing power, and zero latency.

Harness the Cloud

Database managers are increasingly turning to cloud-hosted database services to help manage the vast amounts of data government organizations generate and collect. Unlike on-premises data centers, cloud-based solutions are less constrained by operational and technical requirements. This means cloud-hosted databases can more quickly and easily scale to process growing amounts of data. When managed effectively, cloud-hosted databases can also help organizations optimize IT spend and improve performance across the technology stack.

But Don’t Rule Out On-Premises

However, factors like an uncertain economy, budget constraints, and high up-front migration costs are causing some public sector organizations to hold back on cloud investments. And that is a valid choice. The reality is not all database workloads perform optimally in the cloud, and migrating might introduce unnecessary complexities. Additionally, inflationary pressures have impacted some pay-as-you-go cloud models, making on-premises database solutions an attractive and reliable option.

Prioritize Observability, Regardless of Environment

Government CIOs must manage concerns around cost, productivity, and efficiency whether they prioritize cloud-hosted or on-premises databases. That’s where observability technology can make a difference.

By implementing observability, IT pros can get a comprehensive view of the IT environment and databases – no matter if they’re on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment. Observability technology discovers and maps the data estate and provides health and daily performance metrics. Down-to-the-second data collection allows teams to uncover issues connected to an error or outage, accelerating root-cause analysis and remediation. With observability, database teams can help ensure the success of deep learning implementations, enabling the government to more effectively serve its citizens.

Fusion21 and Newlands Developments announce new partnership to drive social impact

National social enterprise Fusion21 has officially announced a new nationwide social value partnership with Rugby based developer Newlands Developments.

The ground-breaking collaboration will see social impact incorporated into all Newlands Developments’ projects at the pre-planning application stage to ensure multi-million pound developments benefit the local area and people who live there.

Fusion21, based in Merseyside, specialises in public sector procurement and social value services, and first joined forces with Newlands Developments in 2021 on their Brackmills Gateway project in Northamptonshire.

L-r Mark Chadwick and Sarah Maguire from Fusion21, Ben Taylor and Ed Pigott from Newlands Development

The support from Fusion21’s social value experts saw significant benefits delivered for the local community, including the creation of 45 full-time jobs, subcontracting packages awarded to 23 businesses within a 20-mile radius, and a dozen on-site training courses provided to local residents.

Impressed by the success of Brackmills Gateway, Newlands Developments approached Fusion21 for their help with projects nationwide.

Fusion21’s social value team is now working with the developer on extending their social value footprint with a number of major planned schemes.

The team is helping them to maximise social value within developments, which could be through creating jobs, offering work experience opportunities for young people, or reinvestment within the local borough through using local supply chains.

Ben Taylor, Planning Director at Newlands Developments, said: “This is an exciting partnership for Newlands who are fully committed to embed our schemes in the communities they serve.  Fusion21’s experience will assist us in meeting the social value objectives contained in our ESG & Sustainability Strategy published earlier this year, that includes preparing detailed Employment, Training and Skills Plans for all of our projects.”

Fusion21’s strong track record was also a key factor for Newland Developments.

They were involved in the £80 million Headbolt Lane infrastructure project in Kirkby, which resulted in £518,000 of local investment and jobs for 117 Knowsley residents.

Over the previous 12 months, Fusion21’s work to support developers and contractors linking social value to development resulted in over 300 jobs for local people and 16 new apprenticeship opportunities.  A further 30 young people benefited from work experience placements with a focus on inspiring the next generation to consider careers in construction. This generated almost £7 million in social return on investment.

The procurement and social value specialist is also working with a number of major house builders to monitor and support delivery of social value including Taylor Wimpey, Bellway, Equans, Redrow, Gleeson Homes, and Vistry.

Sarah Maguire, Head of Social Value at Fusion21, said, “Our partnership with Newlands Developments is reshaping how we approach social value on a large scale. Our expertise in social value linked to planning and new development is a real USP and Newlands is a developer who is keen to really give back to the local community.

“Together, we’re rewriting the rules of development to ensure we deliver lasting change for local people and businesses.

“Having a social value strategy embedded at the planning application stage is something we’re seeing more and more local authorities requesting. Our ambition is to become the social enterprise of choice for forward-thinking developers who want to embrace a transformative approach.”

For more information about how Fusion21 can support developers keen to add social value to their projects, visit www.fusion21.co.uk/social-value or contact sarah.maguire@fusion21.co.uk.

Tel. 0845 874 4082

Asset Alliance Group hires Strategic Development Manager to steer decarbonisation plans

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Robert Gwynn

Experienced transport policy and public affairs specialist, Robert Gwynn, has been appointed as Strategic Development Manager at Asset Alliance Group.

Gwynn joins the commercial vehicle specialist to support its plans to increase the number of alternatively fuelled vehicles across its fleet, as part of the company’s long-term commitment to serving customers’ changing needs.

Joining from Volta Trucks, where he was Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Gwynn previously spent more than six years at Hermes in operational and public affairs roles.

“I’m really excited to be joining a forward-thinking company that is keenly aware of the importance greener fuels have in a more sustainable future for the transport sector,” says Gwynn. “With financing one of the key challenges in the decarbonisation of transport, Asset Alliance Group has a huge part to play in facilitating operators’ transition to a cleaner and greener future.”

Bringing experience of policy analysis and lobbying campaigns in the transport industry, Gwynn will be responsible for developing strategy to transition Asset Alliance Group’s vehicle fleet from diesel to renewable alternative fuels.

Willie Paterson, Chief Executive of Asset Alliance Group, says: “Rob joins us at a pivotal moment in the company’s journey towards decarbonisation. By harnessing his expertise in environmental and sustainability issues, we will be better equipped to meet the changing needs of our customers.”

One of Gwynn’s immediate priorities is to bring fresh insights on alternative fuel technologies and government policy driving developments to advance the company’s ambitions on the road map to decarbonisation.

“With this knowledge, and working closely with vehicle manufacturers, we can determine what type of assets we need to have on our books, ensuring we offer expert advice to our customers on how alternative fuels can fit in with their own sustainability plans,” Gwynn adds.

Based in the Wolverhampton office, Gwynn will report to Asset Management Director, Marc Mellon.