The following are announcements and commentary from the institute regarding issues in the news and new developments at the institute. The commentary represents the opinions of individuals in the institute and this is identified in the by line.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has downgraded its 2017 growth forecast for the UK to 1.5% from a 1.6% estimate made in September, making Britain the weakest economy in the G7. The office for budget responsibility had taken the rosy view that after 2008 UK productivity growth would return to previous levels of around 2% It has now admitted, after years of getting it wrong, that it is likely to sit around 1.3-1.5% until 2020. Last week’s budget reverberated with the recurring issue of low productivity growth. The solution presented was an industrial strategy. Something that had fallen out of favour as Government interference.
The announcements based on borrowing came thick and fast:
Digital skills and startup funding to reinvigorate the UK’s waning productivity.
£3 billion to cushion the landing of a potential hard Brexit, the chancellor said: “This Budget is about much more than Brexit. For the first time in decades Britain is genuinely at the forefront of this technological revolution. Not just in our universities and research institutes, but this time in the commercial development labs of our great companies, and on factory floors and business parks across this land. But we must invest to secure that bright future for Britain.”
Last year’s £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund was to provide £31 billion in funding over six years, compared to the originally planned five. R&D to receive another £2.3 billion investment, under the government’s Industrial Strategy aim to ramp up R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP.
To double the number of tech startups founded in Britain with the goal to see one created every half an hour.
A £10 million Regulators’ Pioneers Fund to help regulators find new ways to bring emerging tech – AI and 5G – to market.
Tech City UK, to be rebranded as Tech Nation, a body with a remit to spend £21 million on developing the UK’s various startup hubs.
In a bid to tackle the UK’s stark digital skills gap, the chancellor also outlined fresh cash to retrain people and provide a greater focus on maths and computing for children and teenagers.
The idea of a strategy and a long list of funding opportunities for new technology seems to overlook some very important evidence. Figures for various IT projects (some of the figures originating from the National Audit Office no less) demonstrate a persistent gap between the projected benefits and the reality:
Magistrates Court LIBRA – £232 million estimated loss;
HM Prison Service C-NOMIS – £690 million estimated loss;
Fire and Rescue FiReControl – £469 million estimated loss;
NHS NPfIT – £20 billion estimated loss.
As we borrow money to fuel a technological “hail Mary pass,” it would seem a good time to think about why we fail to convert so many such passes to a touchdown. The Bayswater Institute has been extensively involved in embedding and evaluating digital technologies in health and social care over several decades. Over the last decade alone there have been hundreds of initiatives to improve productivity in care provision by elevating the use of technology to 21st century standards. Although there has not been an overall assessment of the impact of these initiatives the experience of care provision points to low impact from these initiatives. From seeing these projects from the inside, we have developed a level of understanding of why they struggle – and it is not the technology. Two things work against the use of technology in many of these scenarios:
The technology does not exist in isolation it is part of a system that involves the people using it and the people receiving services. If it does not work for them it is not productive.
Where there is an increase in productivity it usually means a single person can handle more work or the workforce can be reduced. This inevitably generates resistance.
Both of these challenges are rooted in social science and the interface between people and technology. Understanding these sociotechnical systems is essential in successfully capturing the benefits the technology can bring. Looking back over the announcements we cannot see where this is mentioned. Throwing money at the technology and expecting social transformation is an interesting approach but the evidence is – it has been done before and it will fail.
A third issue that recurs in productivity considerations. To know a system is more productive than it was before it must be measured in a meaningful way. This links back to point 1 above. If it works for the professional but not the citizen – it does not work. Hence, the outcomes of productivity must include social value and social impact otherwise public money is spent on making the system happy and the service recipient unhappy.
We spend much of our time providing summative evaluations of where the barriers and challenges are in technology projects that are trying to embed into practice. We have a special interest in formative evaluations of interventions where we can draw on our experience and anticipate some of the problems ahead of the development and have the opportunity to have an impact on the NAO estimated loss. If the focus remains on the technology and not the combined scoiotechnical system the return on investment is likely to be negative. The last thing that Phil wants.
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We are thrilled with the uptake of Wisdom in Groups (WiG) places for April 2018 – we are now fully booked for April 2018.
Which begs the question, should we run another WiG in the Autumn of 2018? Please do let us have your view (contact us here) – you never know we may have two events to talk about in 2018!
Look out for news of future events – please contact us if you would like to attend.
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It is just about a year since we met at the Hallam Conference Centre in London to consider the strategic options available to the Bayswater Institute. Since that time a lot has happened but it is only now coming together in a way that means we can pursue the strategic visions that we discussed. We have been successful in securing a number of contracts in our specialism of health and social care but for some time we were hampered by a lack of funds to take more strategic steps. The situation has now changed, however, and I am delighted to be able to tell you that at long last we have received our inheritance under the terms of Lisl Klein’s will. We now have a firm financial base, therefore, on which to build our future.
I can tell you that, as a result, we have already made two key appointments to the staff. The first is Professor Simon Bell, who will take up the position of CEO of the Institute from 1st September. Simon is well known to the Institute having been its director from 2007 to 2009. Simon is currently Professor of Innovation and Methodology at the Open University and his brief is to significantly broaden the reach of the Institute by developing new partnerships, expanding our professional development portfolio, extending and innovating the ‘Working Conference’ and developing our methods.
The second appointment is Adam Hoare as Executive Director of Sociotechnical Systems. Adam has extensive experience of technology development and implementation latterly working with health and social care providers. He was previously a client of the Institute when he was the managing director at Red Embedded Systems Ltd. It was then that he discovered that what he had been advocating for many years was a sociotechnical systems approach and that we were the place to join in order to really develop that approach. Adam’s role is to open up new lines of work for the Institute and in this capacity he will both broaden our client base and complement Simon in bringing fresh ideas and approaches to the Institute.
Simon and Adam are now working with Bill and Ken to put flesh on our strategic ambitions and to present a new more contemporary image of the Institute (although very firmly rooted in the objectives and values Lisl set out for the Institute). Expect to see a new version of the website in the next month or so. Chris retired as the Institute Administrator last September and Priya Davda is now fulfilling an administrative role for the Institute although we hope she will resume as an active research member of staff before too long.
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