Why Digital Skills should be top of the class in today’s schools

What will the jobs market be like in 5 years’ time (or even in 1 years’ time) – given the rapid changes that are going on right now?

Robotics and Intelligent Automation are becoming mainstream, chatbots and avatars are taking over call centres and new fintech banks such as Monzo and Starling are turning the traditional banking market on its head.  People of all ages will have to start acquiring new skills and approaches to working if they want an interesting, sustainable and well-paid job.

It’s a fact that digital is transforming the jobs market.  People with digital skills and knowledge are in high demand and are commanding high salaries.  Data is the major differentiator – and understanding how to gain insight from the increasingly huge volumes of data that we are all generating is crucial to every business right now.  Universities and many Financial Services organisations have already started investing in digital and data.  There are a plethora of courses and training available – but until recently – digital wasn’t really taught in schools – leaving young people who didn’t choose (or couldn’t afford) to go to university woefully under skilled and unprepared for the new reality of employment in today’s demanding jobs market.

The first Digital School of Excellence

That’s why it’s great to see Newbattle High School in Midlothian launching the first Scottish-based Digital School of Excellence.  As well as teaching digital skills, Newbattle will be one of the first schools to also include Data Science as a core part of its curriculum. The Scottish Government, Edinburgh University’s School of Informatics as well as local businesses like Sopra Steria are investing in this landmark Digital School as they know it’s the only way to get the right ‘talent’ and skills into the jobs market.  The school doesn’t just teach digital and data skills – it also encourages its pupils to be entrepreneurial, to challenge the status quo and to understand the creation process of great products as well as instilling the right skills and techniques to ‘sell’ their ideas to a sceptical and highly demanding audience.

The Unified Schools Programme

In Scotland, the financial services industry is working on its ‘Unified Schools Programme’ under the leadership of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) and led by HSBC’s Colin Halpin. It’s an exciting project with a joint message about why financial services is an exciting, progressive and diverse industry to work in. The programme is focused on promoting the sector as THE digitally focused and customer centric place to be for young people, highlighting the advantages a career in digital can offer.

An SFE pilot project involving Newbattle High School and Queensferry High School kicked off in November 2018 to give young people opportunities to experience financial services through short placements. SFE members and Skills Development Scotland are fully supporting the initiative.  Why?  Big business knows it needs fresh talent and realises it needs to promote the financial services industry as a great place to work, highlighting the multiple opportunities that the sector can deliver if it’s to get the creative and talented people it needs to be future ready. There really is a job for everyone in financial services – and for young people with a positive attitude, creativity, enthusiasm and focus, it can be a fantastic first step into the world of work.

I used to be concerned for today’s young people facing an uncertain future in a demanding jobs market.  Now I can see exciting new career opportunities where the education system, with support from government and industry helps the next generation to think differently, to be brave and to create ideas that will shape our future.  Scotland is setting the pace for change – the question is – when will the rest of the UK catch up and put digital skills top of the agenda?

Learning happens best when organisations reach out to new partnership, test their knowledge and challenge their assumptions

Through the techUK Women into IT Group I was fortunate enough to meet Jen Rodvold from Sopra Steria, who alongside a number of passionate colleagues was intent on doing just that. My organisation, ELATT, is a digital skills charity based in Hackney, East London, and works with a group of talented, but often over-looked group of young people and adults, many with special needs and a background of disadvantage. Together with Sopra Steria we are now developing a programme that can help our students become not just confident in themselves but also the diverse and inclusive workforce of tomorrow that tech so desperately needs.

We are now working at a number of levels to reach that goal. So far, we have consulted on curriculum development to ensure that we are bringing the agile project management, team work and attitudinal skills into our courses that our students will need to demonstrate in their first digital job, as well methods and advice to best present yourself and your strengths at CV and interview stage in the employment process. 

The next stage to this exciting partnership is a visit to the Sopra Steria Digilab, where our students will have the chance to get their hands on cutting-edge Internet of Things technology, and I know that this will really bring to life what they’re learning in the classroom.  Watch this space!

Anthony Harmer, Chief Executive
ELATT | The Learning Community

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

Five significant public sector trends

We are told that government is transforming itself. The public sector is changing into a ‘public purpose’ sector. More of the service outcomes we expect should be co-produced, across complex delivery chains, which are more connected and collaborative. Success often depends on nudging the behaviours of citizens, communities and businesses. Prevention is increasingly the mantra, empowering people with the tools they need, addressing problems quickly and providing services in settings that suit needs.

Rules are slowly being changed to harness technology in a way that works for everyone. The promise is that innovative technologies provide an opportunity to move past a choice between improving outcomes, shifting costs on to individuals or increasing pressure on staff. They are a catalyst for greater connectivity and empowerment. Not only saving time and money but enhancing public value.

But there still seems to be an inverse relationship between the transformation rhetoric and the reality. Many of the traditional government tools, which emphasise predictability, control and distinct accountabilities, struggle to address ‘wicked challenges’ that are fluid, interconnected and unpredictable.

Public services are struggling to adapt to new demands in a world characterised by speed, intensity and connectedness. They are driven by short-term demands for results and a political fix, which undermines the ability of government to make the larger system work more effectively.

Productivity has gone up mainly by doing ‘more of the same’ rather than through reform. The easiest savings have been made and choices are getting harder. As the Institute for Government recently commented, ‘governments cannot continue for long to provide the same services by simply muddling through, with dollops of emergency cash’.

What does this mean in practice? And what are the implications for the reform of public services?

First, progress has been made when using digital tools to improve many of the more transactional dimensions of government. Improvements have been made to the convenience, speed and efficiency. However, too often complexity is resulting in technology silos and a miss-match with business needs. Transformation demands more radical change across operations, processes and technology. Digital thinking and technologies have to be tightly woven into the fabric of government. Simply replacing an existing manual operation with a digital one is NOT a viable approach.

Second, new demands are being placed on the ability of public services to combine the best available skills, expertise and resources – inside government and outside in the business, academic and community sectors – and point that firepower at the right place to achieve a transformative shift. A more discerning conversation is required about the best way of achieving policy, regulatory and service delivery outcomes. Including the role of private and community sector organisations in reform of public services.

Third, we are now used to platform business models that respond to the potential of distributed networking with organisations, institutions and individuals. Yet government is constrained by an age-old culture of centralised or, at best, decentralised structures. It needs to work out which approach – centralised, decentralised or distributed – makes most sense for different tasks and contexts.

Fourth, we all want solutions that are simpler, integrated and responsive to people and their lives. So we need to reconnect policy making and delivery. Which means that delivery people are ‘in the room’ from the start of the policy process. In particular, government has to confront the reality that much of the most important information needed for good policy making is to be found through interactions with frontline staff, customers and citizens.

Fifth, trust in government is in short supply. And many private and community sector organisations appear out of touch. Being more open, responding to citizen and user concerns, becoming more transparent are all part of the solution. But the work of trust rebuilding is unspectacular and slow.  It relies on leadership, daily habits, and clear thinking.

Success will be difficult but not impossible.  It requires government to think about the long term. And then invest in more collaborative and evidence based ‘platforms’. This type of change depends on transparency, of purpose and approach, so that we do not just observe what is happening but at least want to know why.

Sopra Steria Launch Smart i3

This week Sopra Steria launched a new open source intelligence gathering platform, Smart i3, at the Internet Intelligence and Investigations Conference held by the National Police Chiefs Council. As platinum sponsors of the event, which brings together around 350 law enforcement and Government officials, the team hosted a workshop, delivered a key note speech and conducted live demonstrations on the exhibition stand.

Introducing Smart i3

Conducting online investigations in a fast-paced and ever-evolving digital landscape can be complex and time intensive. Smart i3 is a powerful and disruptive tool with the ability to fuse disparate data sets and present connections in a meaningful way to investigators. The platform’s advanced algorithms sift through vast amounts of open-source data in minutes, reducing the time-to-intelligence from hours to minutes. Securely hosted in the UK, this open-source tool minimises manual search activity and speeds up evidence-case creation, supporting intelligence-led searches across the range of authorised investigation levels.

Sopra Steria has a proud history as a service provider to police forces and law enforcement agencies, as well as wider criminal justice organisations. Smart i3 is a demonstration of its commitment to investing in technology and services that will transform our public sector.

Vern Davis, Managing Director of the Sopra Steria’s Aerospace, Defence and Security sector commented:

“Sopra Steria is a specialist in technology and digital transformation and is proud to be recognised as a strategic partner to Government and across the Public Sector. Transforming the way public services are delivered for the benefit of society is a vision in which we believe in. Bringing to market new and innovative technologies, such as Smart i3, is a demonstration of that commitment.”

Shona Wright, Head of ADS Marketing said:

“The Internet Intelligence and Investigations Conference was the ideal place for us to formally launch Smart i3 and we thank the National Police Chiefs’ Council for inviting industry to take part in this flagship event.”

To find out more and request a demo, please visit www.soprasteria.co.uk/smart-i3

Financial Inclusion, Digital Inclusion and Tech Displacement

In 1999 I worked at a major High Street Bank with the teams who developed Mobile Banking Via SMS  Who would have thought that as a consequence to us thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to get you balance on your mobile phone’ that it would contribute to the decline of the High Street? From getting your balance by text on a Nokia 3310, fast forward 20 years to the Banks opening up more and more services to their customers via the Smart Phone Apps that we all use on a daily basis. This combined with Telephone Banking has led to reduced branch usage and therefore Branch closure. At the end of 2017 in the UK there are about 9500 bank branches a reduction of about 600 on 2016 with about 500 to close in 2019.

Branch closure then has a knock on affect to Small Businesses. A small Business can not afford to close their doors for an hour round trip to their nearest branch. Which means that Businesses may choose another location. In a report for Scottish Government , by mapping bank branch closures against postcode lending data, it found that bank lending to small firms fell by 63 per cent on average in postcodes that lose a bank branch. This figure grows to 104 per cent for postcodes that lose the last bank in town. “On average, postcodes that lose their last bank in town receive almost £1.6 million less lending over the course of a year,” the report concluded.

Where Banks have left the High Street, Communities feel Financially Isolated, It causes major concern for Small Business and people who are Digitally Excluded i.e. those with Little to No Access to Technology and therefore have to travel to a Bank. Within affected communities there is strong feeling that banking should be viewed as a basic part of the local infrastructure and therefore should be available as standard provision.

Add to the Banks shutting down

  • 75% of rural and 10 % of urban areas do not have satisfactory broadband
  • 9 million adults in the UK have never used the internet
  • 1 million adults living in social housing that are offline
  • 27% of disabled adults (3.3 million) had never used the internet

Offline households are missing out on estimated savings of £560 per year from shopping and paying bills online.

Cash: is still the second most popular payment method,(just behind debit cards) accounting for 34% of all payments last year. Around 2.2 million customers mainly used cash for their day-to-day shopping in 2017, although nine out of 10 of them had a debit card they could use, but cash is still an important part of their daily spend preferred by many.

Combine Branch Closure with Cash machines disappearing at a rate of 300 a month, with rural areas hardest hit. As Link ATM Network has lowered the fees it charges to Banks and Building Societies. experts are warning that it could mean closures of free-to-use ATM machines across Britain if they become unprofitable to run, leaving access to cash for millions of people in doubt.  There are 957 areas in the UK with at least 500k customer dependant upon benefits whose cash machine is more than 1km away. The Customers who use “pay for” Cash Machines, regularly incur charges of between £3.70 and £9.25 a week.

Potential closures of Bank Branches and Free Cash Machines risk leaving whole communities without access to cash, harming over two million people who are dependent on cash for their day-to-day shopping.

The Financial Services gap is widening between the Technical Haves and Have Nots – Digital Exclusion. In addition to High Street Closures, the latest Regulations of PSD2 (Payment Services Directive 2) leading to Open Banking in the UK,  allows regulated 3rd parties to access your Bank Account data to deliver a regulated service if you have provided consent to do so. The services currently being provided using Open Banking protocols are for example Comparison Engines, Personal Financial Management apps which can determine trends in your spending habits, or Apps to identify personalised offers. These latest Apps and Services are obviously not available to those who don’t have access to Tech.

As a society we need a way to ensure that advances in Technology and changes to the High Street, do not exclude people from the latest innovation in Financial services.  How do we as an industry ensure the poorest in our society, those that don’t have tech or can’t afford tech, can access the range of comparison engines to get cheaper deals, can take advantage of Digital Payment options to gain discount, and find the best deals, that are readily available to the rest of us? Do the Tech and Financial world have an obligation to provide the tools to ensure accessibility for all and if so how do we work together to ensure Financial Inclusion?

As a footnote, I’m currently Working with a Consultation group in Manchester to define Tech Displacement and how you assess the disruption of your Innovation on People and Places and we are looking to develop  a toolset to evaluate. We are at the start of the this consultation period, so please follow me on Twitter to find out how we progress or maybe to trial our toolset for us. @NJMarham


 

References:

https://www.cdrc.ac.uk/case-study/measuring-the-impact-of-online-shopping-on-high-streets-across-england

http://www.parliament.scot/S5_EconomyJobsFairWork/Inquiries/BC025-SFE.pdf

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/108241.aspx

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.