Tag Archives: politics

How education, healthcare and politics are going to be transformed in the new digital age

I’ve been working on a new presentation for Endava’s Future of Digital Payments event in London at the end of June. The talk will link the Government’s work on the Identity Assurance scheme with the architectural changes that retail banks have been implementing to enable mobile banking through APIs.

Imagine a digital identity as trusted as this paper book
Imagine a digital identity as trusted as this paper book

Banks have been relatively slow to implement APIs, but it will open up more opportunities than they would have imagined at the start of these programmes.

This got me thinking about how identity assurance and digital identity could transform other industries.

Continue reading How education, healthcare and politics are going to be transformed in the new digital age

Why we should have electronic voting for elections

I look forward to seeing the end of this form (hopefully in my lifetime)
I look forward to seeing the end of this form (hopefully in my lifetime)

We have UK local elections coming up in a couple of weeks’ time, and few things frustrate me as much as paper based postal voting.

Voting is a vital part of our democratic society, yet reading the history of postal voting highlights the bureaucracy and ancient thinking that we expect from government.

It took 83 years to enable postal voting for some people, to letting everyone vote by post.

So rolling out digital voting is going to be a challenge.

Continue reading Why we should have electronic voting for elections

Menshn – the new (British!) social network


Another month, another new social network. But this time there’s a difference – the new latest best thing is British. Menshn caught my attention on the BBC News website last Wednesday. It’s been launched by Conservative MP Louise Mensch who is actively participating on the new network (I can vouch for this because we had a quick digital exchange over the weekend).

Menshn is a combination between Twitter, mainly because of the 180 character limit on content updates, and classic discussion forums. 

At the moment the forums are fixed – in fact there are only 5 ‘topics’ – uselection, women, tech, ukpolitics and euro2012. I suspect that the latter topic will close down soon. 

In fact, that’s the point – if a topic doesn’t have any updates for a period of time, the plan is that it will automatically close.

Menshn has all the feeling of being created on a tight budget. There are several bugs in the platform, but I’m guessing that most early adopters almost embrace the 75% finished platform. More traffic will attract more funding, and more funding will iron out those bugs and provide more features (such as user generated topics).

Menshn was launched in the US apparently to help support the US election campaign. The original plan was to launch in the UK in the next few weeks, however I received an invite on Sunday morning and registered straight away. The first surprise is the amount of publicity and traffic (Menshn has had almost 200k uniques in a few days) and that each of the five topics only have a couple of hundred members.

It’s nice having the topics rather than the complete lack of structure that Twitter has survived with. I can’t quite put my finger on what Menshn provides over traditional forums and discussion boards, except to say it provides more of a real-time conversation ‘atmosphere’ than forums which feel like they happen more slowly.

Because of the conversation/ group style of Menshn, it means that if you provide a legible update, chances are someone will respond, rather than Twitter which can seems like a whoever-shouts-loudest approach, or sometimes like a mass-announcement platform rather than conversational.

Menshn appears to be moderated at the moment, and I’m not sure how much longer this will continue, or whether topic owners will be able to moderate their own areas.

In the meantime, I wish Louise and the rest of the team at Menshn the very best of luck with this British adventure, and hope it grows into a success story for them all. Contact me at @bradbox on Twitter or //bradbox on Menshn at any time!


Updating the voting system

via borisjohnsonftw.tumblr.com

The low voter turnout throughout the UK for the local elections last week is a sad statistic, especially when the news is also reporting Middle Eastern states where citizens are attempting to topple dictators and replace them with democratically elected leaders.

One of the main causes of low voting turnout is that people can’t be bothered to vote, and that the vote feels too far removed from their lives.

I think the whole voting system is woefully outdated. For the last couple of centuries it was perfectly fine, and probably very efficient, to ask citizens to go to a local meeting place and vote in a private booth. However it’s now one of the only things in modern life where we have to go to a specific place, at a specific time, to do something.

We should replace the now-inefficient voting process with an electronic system.

If it’s good enough for me to file a tax return (I’m letting myself calm down before writing a blog post on that topic after the ordeal I’ve recently been through!); fill in medical advice for my local doctor; and do all of my insurance, mortgage and banking online, why can’t I vote online?

For a while, security has been the main issue, however my bank feels the web is safe enough for me to lend me a mortgage, and I’ve even leased a car online from a company which I never met.

One of the dangers for politicians is that as soon as voting becomes electronic, it could become almost too quick and easy, and the public will then want to vote for smaller issues. For instance, imagine in say, 50 years’ time, there’s a debate in Parliament which then asks MPs to vote. The MP could then ask their constituents for their opinion using the public voting infrastructure on that debate.

Free news is [probably] fake news


In case you missed it, there was a news story that developed over Twitter yesterday where a “Canadian research company” announced that users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser had a lower IQ than users of other Internet browsers.

The story was found to be a fake after a few hours, and highlighted my concerns over citizen journalism.

In the past, we tuned into TV news services such as the BBC, CNN or ITN as well as newspapers and radio stations. We knew whether a media agency was biased towards one political persuasion or another, and made up our own mind how much to “rationalise” the news.

With “citizen journalism” where anyone can tweet 140 characters and be taken genuinely for other users to retweet and spread the message, our news sources have become unknown, which means we probably shouldn’t trust them. The public’s insatiable appetite for instant news means that news sources can’t be verified before shown on international news stations. The Internet Explorer story has highlighted this.

The problem facing news agencies is the requirement for second-by-second news and how to monetise quality, authentic reporting. Otherwise the news industry will become more unmoderated, unverified and will lead to more extreme and fake reporting.

Photo courtesy of Chris Metcalf

Wireless warfare


A friend of mine is a soldier in the army. His role as an engineer is to set up a wireless network as soon as his regiment has moved into a new position. Setting up the wireless network takes is one of the first priorities when the soldiers move because the generals need to understand where the soldiers are – all the time. They don’t use telephone networks because most of the time the war is being fought in a foreign land (and there’s probably some breach of the terms and conditions of using a roaming network whilst invading a country).

Yesterday a group of us at work listened to the Akamai State of the Internet report. Akamai publish the report each quarter. Akamai probably has a wider view of the global Internet than any other company because they work at a transport and application layer, across multiple Internet providers, and serve so much of the Internet traffic all the way to end users.

One of the sections of yesterday’s report showed that during the Egyptian and Libyan uprisings, the government switched off the Internet. Akamai showed their traffic patterns, and it showed a flat line during these ‘outages’.

Back to my friend in the army. In past wars, aircraft used to drop leaflets over the countries they were invading (or rescuing, depending on your viewpoint) to explain to citizens what they were doing and why they were doing it (your government are the bad guys). In the recent Israel-Gaza war, both sides used voice mails and text messages (as well as the old fashioned leaflets) to warn citizens what was going on.

In the future though, when foreign governments see uprisings such as Egypt and Libya, expect them to deploy Internet hot spots for the public when the host government switch it off. With the amount of mobile and YouTube video content being shown on the news stations at the moment from current middle east uprisings, it’s not unfeasible for the press to provide these hot spots.

Photo courtesy of Dunechaser on Flickr

Census completed


Last night I completed the census form online. If you haven’t filled in the census yet, I recommend completing it online because it will be a much quicker experience. No worrying about conditional questions such as ‘Now skip to question 7’.

The website is fast, and although I didn’t need them, there are helpful ‘bubbles’ on each questions.

Despite having many children, and the census needs to be completed for each one, the entire process took less than 10 minutes.

Well done to the Information Architect(s) and whoever implemented the website.

The next stage is voting. Why can’t we vote online? The census felt very secure (long PIN number to enter the site and SSL throughout the site). It’s 2011 – half the country should be voting online and via mobiles by now.

The next step after online voting is micro-voting. Richard Watson described this in his book, where citizens constantly vote on detailed topics. E.g. should the UK be involved in Libya? 

The step after that is where citizens of one country are able to vote on international issues – such as an English person voting on whether the US should be involved in Libya.

The technology is already here – as the census proves. Politics needs to catch up with the technology.


Politics on the web

It’s interesting how politics is starting to the use the web in different countries.

The press spend all their time discussing cyber-terrorism, flash mobs for riots, etc., and little time promoting the use of the web as a great way to interact with your local council or government.

In the States, Open Government has been relaunched which helps track bills, votes, and members of the CA Senate and Assembly as well as following specific issues and contacting politicians.

Here in the UK we have DirectGov and the Parliament website, which I’ve used a few times for different issues (on a professional note, the information architects had their work cut out for them on those sites!).

My local council is Barnet, and whilst most of their services are available through their very standard, functional website, they have an interesting new twist to generate new ideas.

For instance, here’s a video showing how Barnet council spend their (our) money:

And there’s also a website where residents can recommend new ideas to the council. How very Googley.

The ideas on the website allow others to then comment on them.

Whilst I’m remain sceptical about the use of User Generated Content to run my local council in this current time, I do believe this is the way of the future. For instance I’ve never understood people who moan about their local MP but don’t write to them considering their email addresses are publicly available.

And if they continue moaning about their MP, they can always try being a virtual one for a week!

A cheap answer to the impending UK cyber attacks


The news over the last week has been the biggest threat to the UK is cyber attacks on our power plants, transport infrastructure and water plants.

A simple solution – just disconnect them from the Internet. Anyway, why are they connected to the Internet in the first place?

Rupert Murdoch’s speech


I’m well aware of many of the regular readers of this blog aren’t exactly fans of Rupert Murdoch, so I’m on thin ice on this one…

Rupert Murdoch gave a speech last night to the Centre of Policy Studies in London. My favourite part of the speech is this excerpt:

If children in the poorest parts of the world can learn how to read and write – as well as do maths and science in schools with dirt floors and tattered textbooks – there is no excuse for the way British children are being failed by well-resourced schools. 

We must not stifle the growth of the brightest. 

As Margaret Thatcher exhorted: “Let our children grow tall, and some taller than others if they have it in them to do so.” 

In other words, we must celebrate a culture of success. The rise to prominence is too often accompanied by a surge in cynicism by the traditional elites. 

I am something of a parvenu, but we should welcome the iconoclastic and the unconventional. And we shouldn’t curb their enthusiasm or energy. 

That is what competition is all about. Yet when the upstart is too successful, somehow the old interests surface, and restrictions on growth are proposed or imposed. 

That’s an issue for my company. More important, it’s an issue for our broader society. 

These are the small thinkers who believe their job is to cut the cake up rather than make it bigger. 

In my own industry, for example, digital technology is offering a chance for British companies to make their mark here and across the world. 

When The Times was founded in 1785, its influence was confined to a handful of important people in this city. Today, its content echoes around the world every day. And it has digital competitors who were not even conceived a decade ago. 

In the past too, television programmes were confined to a single screen. Now they can be watched whenever you want and wherever you are – whether on a mobile phone, a tablet or a computer. For all the change, we are still at the early stages of this revolution. 

It’s not just media. This is an exciting period in every sector. And our competitive passions should be stirred by the sense of challenge and opportunity. 

In short, Britain needs companies robust enough to compete in this global market – whether in finance or pharmaceuticals, transport or telecommunications, retail or entertainment. And we need to attract the brightest talent, regardless of background and ethnicity. 

In other words, Britain should be a magnet for the best students and best workers from around the world. 

What might a successful Britain look like in this new century? 

A government that spends modestly, because it leaves its people free to make their own decisions for themselves … 

Citizens who look out at the world with confidence, because they have grown up accustomed to taking responsibility for themselves, and are allergic to the culture of dependency…. 

Corporate and technological sectors that thrive on change, and use the freedom of the market to innovate and grow. 

Above all, a successful Britain would have a society that cherishes opportunity and creativity – making opportunity available to all, and believing that there is creativity in all, where individuals do not feel guilty of wealth or being exceptional, but work hard and exercise humility. 


So there you go. It’s about education, which breathes creativity, which breeds opportunity, which leads to commercial success.

The full speech is available on News Corps’ website.