Sopra Steria collaborates with The Scottish Government for a DevOps Hackathon

Today we are welcoming The Scottish Government Department of Agriculture and the Rural Economy (ARE) to our Edinburgh DigiLab for a DevOps Hackathon.

We are hosting this event in a similar manner to the internal hackathons we did a couple of months ago and we are very excited to have ARE on board to take them on this journey with us, using DevOps technologies including Red Hat OpenShift.

Today we will be providing a developer’s perspective, getting our hands dirty with the basics of DevOps using OpenShift and walking the attendees through a variety of tasks from the creation of projects and build of applications through to the use of pipelines for application deployment as well as processes to assist with application/environmental maintenance.

The attendees in our office today range from infrastructure analysts to technical management and developers – an open invite was distributed throughout ARE and we are very pleased to have a variety of skills on-board.

We are looking forward to sharing our knowledge of the platform with ARE and we hope to run a series of these hackathons, so watch this space!


Shehzad Nagi, Senior Technical Architect
Caitlin Toner, Architect

Sopra Steria gets involved in National Get Online Week

Sopra Steria employee volunteers have been at libraries in the London Borough of Harrow this week to help library users learn how to use the internet and technology in their everyday lives, all in support of National Get Online Week, a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of and take practical action on digital exclusion.

These gadget surgeries run by Sopra Steria volunteers will help users learn new tricks and get the most from their laptops, mobiles phones or tablets. Get help with internet searches, social media, apps, email, organising photos, online shopping, video calling, booking GP appointments and applying for jobs.

Today 4.3 million Britons still do not have basic digital skills, and 11.3 million only have basic abilities, according to the Good Things Foundation, the organisation behind Get Online Week.

Sopra Steria is committed to digital inclusion so that people of all backgrounds, no matter where they are in the UK, regardless of socio-economic status or age, have the skills, confidence and access to technology they need to make the most of all the digital world has to offer.

Scotsoft 2018. Smart people, community and trees

Last week I was proud to continue the tradition of Sopra Steria’s support of the Young Software Engineer of the year award, since its inception 20 years ago.  Once again the entrants were outstanding (though I confess the technicalities of some project went right over my head!).   Can Gafuroglu’s winning  project was entitled  ‘Joint prediction and Classification of Brain Image Evolution Trajectories from Baseline with Application to Early Dementia Diagnosis’.  Our industry is about solving problems and this project underlines the significance of what can be achieved by the smart use of technology by #smartpeople.

 

The buzz at the dinner was incredible and underlined the spirit of ScotlandIS – that of #community.   Our Sopra Steria table was no exception, with a mix of SMEs, customers and advisors. Plus Alison McLaughlin – now on secondment to Scottish Government Digital as part of the Digital Fellowship Programme.

And, #trees.  Lizzy Yarnold was an inspirational speaker on the evening and reminded us all of the importance of belief, ambition and team work.  She spoke about a book “The Inner Life of Trees”: What they feel, how they communicate.  A brilliant parallel to business life – the need for constant communication, mutual support and networking.

Well done to ScotlandIS.  The Scotsoft conference has once again reinforced our Smart Young People, Our Community and that we are a well-connected forest.


by Mags Moore, Head of Government for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

How Sustainable Community Impact Projects are Creating Generational Impact: My Week in India

Recently my colleague, Max Barker, and I spent some time in India to visit and film the schools and educational centres Sopra Steria supports, and meet some of the students, teachers, volunteers and recipients of our scholarships.  What I saw was transformational – demonstrable positive impact.

In only 8 days, we travelled to our three main Indian centres (Chennai, Pune and Noida).  Although it was a short visit, it doesn’t take long to get a sense for the scale of the need in India.  Until this year, India had for decades held the undesirable distinction as the country with the world’s largest proportion of its population living in extreme poverty, less than $1.90 per day.[1]  And of course the population we’re talking about is huge – over 1.3 billion – an unimaginable figure for most of us, but one that you start to get a feel for in the country’s frenetic cities, where even as gleaming new buildings and signs of development appear everywhere, so do heart-wrenching scenes of hardship.

But next to the scale of the need, I saw something else: in our visits to schools, and conversations with students, teachers, principals, volunteers and my colleagues, I saw determination and dedication like I’ve never seen.  The students, ranging in age from 6 to 17, came to school joyful, curious, anticipating their day of learning and ready to work hard.  Every day we visited at least two schools, and the warm welcome from students and staff, boisterous greetings from the children, and the visible commitment to learning was always inspiring and energizing.

We were also honoured by several of the scholars we are supporting through university to be invited to their homes, where we saw that despite extraordinarily challenging circumstances, these young people are the embodiment of hope and ambition.  They told us how they planned to do well in university, get a good job, then help support their families.  One scholar, pictured below, had lost her mother and had basically raised her sister while her father worked in low-paying jobs, still managing to come top in her class and get into a good college.  The three of them lived in one windowless room in a highrise slum in Noida, the possibility of complete destitution never far off.

The hundreds of people making our schools and scholarships programme also made an indelible impression on me, from the Sopra Steria volunteers who give their time to teach classes and are met with riotous cheers from the young pupils who love them, to the retired engineer who volunteers full time at a girls’ school in Noida, teaching maths.  Our programme works because of their dedication, too.

Our programme is special for another important reason: it takes a holistic approach that yields sustainable results.  All of the recipients of the Sopra Steria scholarships were once students in the schools that we support, which means we have been working with them, supporting them, getting to know them, their families and their circumstances before they apply for a scholarship.  We select our scholars based on academic performance and potential, and financial need, all of which we have real insight into because of the depth of our relationships with them.  Unlike other programmes that simply fund scholarships without that connection to the students, the schools, the teachers and principals, ours helps to ensure that our investment is not just in an individual, but in their family, their community and their collective future.  Our scholars are committed to building a better life not just for themselves, but for as many people as they can reach by getting into gainful employment and sharing their success.  Our relatively small gift is multiplied through their dedication and generosity of spirit.

Over the coming months, we’ll be releasing several videos from our time there to introduce you to the work of the Sopra Steria India Foundation and the Sopra Steria Scholarship programme.  Keep an eye out for these so you, too, can see how these powerful programmes are making a huge difference.


 

Citations

[1] From the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/07/10/india-is-no-longer-home-to-the-largest-number-of-poor-people-in-the-world-nigeria-is/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.445a07c16cb1

How many French Horn players does it take to change a light bulb?

I’m getting used to this kind of orchestral humour…!

It’s been ten years since I started working with the British Police Symphony Orchestra (BPSO) and twice that time that Sopra Steria has been sponsoring their annual Proms Night Spectacular concert. On Saturday 2 December, we’ll be at Symphony Hall, Birmingham again supporting this incredible amateur orchestra and enjoying a fantastic evening.

BPSO are passionate about helping others and sharing their love of music. The annual Proms Night Spectacular concert is all about raising money to help support their extensive annual programme in 2018. The rest of their concerts raise money for charity and over the years they’ve raised in excess of £150,000 for other charities and good causes.

BPSO also have an extensive outreach programme, “PlayOut!”, working with schools and children’s groups, to introduce young people into playing music and the joy it can bring. Have a read about BPSO’s 2016 project at Ingestre Hall. 

Don’t miss the fun!

This year’s Proms Night Spectacular, with its exciting programme, includes music from Pirates of the Caribbean, Magnificent Seven, Prokoviev – Romeo & Juliet, Out of Africa and Daphnis & Chloe.

Everyone gets involved with the traditional ‘Proms Night’ ending whether it’s letting off party poppers, throwing streamers, jingling bells, waving Union Jack flags or singing along. You’ll be sure enjoy a wonderful finale with Jerusalem, Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope & Glory – and BPSO’s flagship fireworks finish!

I’m always so impressed with the spectacular atmosphere that the orchestra brings to Symphony Hall and I’ve enjoyed some fabulous playing over the years, so I’m not going to apologise for this final sales plug! Join us…

Tickets are on sale and what’s better than a Special Offer? – BPSO are offering a   ‘4 for the price of 3’ special offer on their tickets priced at £23, £18 or £12 each (subject to availability). To take advantage of this fabulous offer, contact claire@bpso.net quoting ‘BPSO5’

And the answer to the joke?

Just one, but they’ll spend two hours checking the bulb for alignment and leaks!

Digital Inclusion: You hold the keys to IT literacy

by Andy Robinson, Change Manager

During Sopra Steria’s Community Matters Week, held every October, my colleagues and I used our company volunteering time to provide an IT Gadget Surgery at Pinner Library in the London Borough of Harrow. The objective was to share basic IT skills with members of the local community. When we arrived at the library we were greeted with open arms by the library staff – some of whom had already brought in their own laptops so we could help them – as well as regular library users!

The lost generation and Radio Harrow

A journalist from the local radio station interviewed my colleagues Darren Kampta and Jutta Fischer. The interview was part of a report explaining how older people are having difficulty keeping up with changing technology and how companies like Sopra Steria can help. It’s a well-known fact that a lot of people, particularly the elderly, are losing touch with modern life and modern ways of socialising due to technology. The digital divide and digital exclusion are names given to the gap in terms of usage of information and communication technology (ICT)[1].

 The government’s Digital Inclusion Task Force has estimated that 6 million people in the UK (13%) are both socially and digitally excluded[2]. This has been proven to cause economic and social inequality, as 90% of jobs in the UK now require basic IT literacy[3]. From this research it is clear that having a basic understanding of IT and current technology is becoming more and more necessary in order to be a functioning member of today’s society.

It’s a small world

The most memorable person I helped was an older gentleman who had come prepared with a long list of issues he had with his laptop. One by one we crossed off the items and he noted down how to resolve the issue for future use. During the time I spent with him, I discovered we had a common interest in badminton. He had coached badminton up to England international level and it turned out one of the people he had coached, a former international player, was my badminton coach (and friend) from university. It was a great feeling knowing that I was now helping some who had indirectly influenced my life.

The Surgery

 The tasks brought to our team of five IT surgeons differed in complexity. These ranged from attaching a photo from a digital camera to an email and sending it, to fixing Microsoft Licencing issues. We were very happy with the uptake and there was barely a moment we weren’t busy! By the end of the day we’d helped tens of people with their technology queries. Although the tasks may have appeared simple to us, they could make a real difference to their lives by enabling them to share memories with their families, stay connected with their friends, or even to stay safe online. The day taught me to be patient when it comes to teaching people these new skills that perhaps aren’t as obvious to them as they are to us. I became much better at breaking down my explanations into logical steps and realised that in order for learning to take place, I had to get them doing the task themselves. The Pinner Library staff asked us if we would do something like this again in the future. We unanimously agreed that we would like to be involved in a project such as this again.

Community Matters Week 2017 at Harrow Council

Our time at the library was but one of dozens of charitable events undertaken by Sopra Steria staff as part of the company-wide Community Matters Week – one week every year focused on making a positive impact for our communities and charities around the UK. Other activities included The Marathon Challenge – a charity race against Harrow staff, The Barber Shop – two charity head shaves, Wear It Pink (People In Need of Kindness) day and the highly successful Harrow Bake Off/Bake Sale. Our team raised £2,340 for charity – one half of this went to The Mayors Special Appeal – this year it’s Harrow Women’s Centre and Harrow Law Centre, with the other half going to MacMillan Cancer Research.

Lessons learned

 I found that the volunteering at Pinner Library was highly rewarding. I felt as though I had really made a difference to the confidence of several people who had been struggling with technology. All five of us predicted prior to the day that we would mostly be helping older people, and the reasons are obvious: schools and workplaces now teach a basic level of IT literacy which their generation missed out on. Most of us take these skills for granted but we are surrounded by technical devices in everyday life and it is now essential for our social circles. The government’s Digital Inclusion Strategy has an aim to get everyone who can be digitally able, online by 2020[2]. After volunteering myself, this is a topic I now feel much more strongly about, and I will play my part to make sure digital inclusion is possible within the UK.

See more information about Sopra Steria’s work with communities.

References:

[1] 21st Century Challenges, 2013. What is digital divide.

[2] Gov.uk, 2014. Government digital inclusion strategy.

[3] Hilbert, M., 2013. Technological information inequality as an incessantly moving target: The redistribution of information and communication capacities between 1986 and 2010. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology., I(65), p. 821–835.

The #DigiInventorsChallenge finalists face the Dragons: rather than breathing fire, we were blown away!

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” Jimmy Johnson – American Football Coach

In a Scottish competition, The #DigiInventorsChallenge in association with Andy Murray and the Digital Health & Care Institute (DHI), sponsored by Sopra Steria , six teams involving more than 30 teenagers across Scotland were shortlisted to compete in the final of the #DigiInventorsChallenge 2017.

I was honoured to be part of the #DigiInventorsBootcamp and judging panel to evaluate the six talented finalist team’s ideas that will transform health, fitness and wellbeing amongst Scotland’s young people. The teams all oozed confidence, passion and flair for their inventions and we really wished we could take all six from idea to invention!

I harnessed my inner ‘Dragon’ and took my seat in the judges den with my fellow judges from DHI, Vodafone, Microsoft, Toshiba and Aberlour Children’s Trust.  I was not prepared to be as blown away as I was by the innovation, insight, planning and forward thinking these young Scots had put into their pitches. It was very clear to me that finalists had learned loads from the masterclasses that included from ‘Idea to Invention’, ‘Developing your idea with users in mind’, ‘Marketing you and your product’, and meet the expert salons. I couldn’t help thinking how impressive this whole experience will be on all their CVs and personal statements and how much older I was than them before I gave my first pitch which was nowhere near as glossy or polished!

The 77 Group presented, which included a video message from Andy. In this he asked the teens to take on board all they’d heard and learned over the two days. It was great to hear one of them quote Sopra Steria’s keynote speaker, Head of Regional Government Alison McLaughlin, by repeating her mantra

“Work Hard – Have fun – Make a Difference”

We all recognised it was powerful to deliver strong messages to the  teens, giving them the drive and passion needed to make the most of their experience.

What’s next?

There can only be one winner and the winning team will be announced at Andy Murray Live  on 7 November 2017 where they will also get the chance to meet Andy himself. The winning team will receive iPads, a cheque for £2,000 and the opportunity to see their design developed into a prototype by DHI and Sopra Steria. I can’t wait to blog after the 7 November to share the winning idea and photos from the event.

Find out more about the inaugral #DigiInventorsChallenge and the six shortlisted teams.