Category Archives: Digital Inclusion

Can Birmingham become a global leader of new transport technologies?

The event, organised by Innovation Birmingham and Transport Systems Catapult brought together speakers from a start-up, major IT company and the public sector, to try and establish whether Birmingham had the potential to become a global leader in new transport technologies.

Over the course of the afternoon, there were several strands of thought on the link between the institutions and characteristics of Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region and its suitability as a ‘living lab’ for new transport technologies.

Birmingham sits at the heart of England, giving it a geographical advantage as a transport hub – and by extension, a logical location to develop a smart, low carbon transport system. Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) Andy Street highlighted how this could feed into the city region’s ambitions for the HS2 project: not to be “the end of the line”, but the centre. This was not solely about location, but also a challenge to make Birmingham the home of the associated engineering and technological support, research and development that accompanies such a key infrastructure project.

An associated point to location is size: Birmingham is a large city, the largest local authority in Europe: solutions that work here will be applicable to other large conurbations. And as Paul Zanelli, Chief Technology Officer for the Transport Systems Catapult noted, these solutions are as much about identifying what you no longer need to travel for – for example, if high speed internet is regionally available, homeworking (or working in other spaces closer to home) becomes more viable.

Read full blog post here>> 

Connecting to communicate, collaborate and create economic success

Thought piece Dr David J Hardman MBE, CEO, Innovation Birmingham.

A well-documented fact is that cities create economic potential, but not all deliver to the fullest possible extent. In large cities – which by their very nature stimulate ideas and opportunities – individuals with related or complementary objectives become buried in city infrastructure. This limits connections and thwarts delivery of economic growth. The solution is in part visible clustering, or the establishment of knowledge quarters; but too often these fall victim to hype or become sector specific and limit serendipitous opportunity.

External influences on an ecology change the [genetic] diversity therein. In the same way, innovation ecosystems are intrinsically dynamic, subject to technological, socio-economic and political influences. Growth stimulation strategies often focus on single issues – key sectors, business support, skills and/or access to finance.  All are issues in their own right, but in reality they are components of a complex ecology across the city region; strengthen one component in isolation and the factor limiting successful growth just shifts elsewhere.

City-based support interventions needs to be considered as part of a connected web of activity – not a single linear intervention – and delivery must be achieved in a sustainable, additive and supportive manner that can move to reflect prevailing needs.

In the past, city economies were driven by local supply chains comprised of small and micro-businesses. Today too, the vast majority of businesses are micro or small; but especially in the knowledge economies. Supply chains are no longer local – like their markets, they are global. This means the types of connectivity have also changed.

We talk about smart cities; they need to be connected cities – connected internally and externally. As the importance of data as a commodity grows, sector boundaries become blurred. Opportunities derived from the application of data spread cross-sector and such horizontal approaches yield real and unique scope.

Cities generate data and the innovation community needs to be free to derive new and novel products and services. We pay tribute to the importance of entrepreneurs in terms of enterprise development, but are city administrators creating the fertile data rich environments – sufficiently free of red tape – to truly enable smart economic development?


A smart city is a city engaged with its citizens. To achieve this, innovation needs to be driven from the ground up – not top down; which will always limit outcomes through lack of ‘2020 vision’, or a crystal ball. New ideas and business concepts need to be connected into the innovation ecology, as well as to an environment and holistic services that meet local business needs. These need to be defined and supplied by groups that actively understand the clients, are intimately engaged with local economies, and can create complete innovation ecologies.

This is not about PR hype and coffee-shop discussions about entrepreneurship. It is about real and sustained connected support infrastructures that generate connectivity and catalyse communication and collaboration. More interconnected focal points need to be provided where like-minded creatives can access the sources of data, the skills and expertise to drive innovative new products and services, without unnecessary limitations on their potential.


New: Topical Trust Flow – Full Web Categorisation

In April Majestic announced that they have categorized the whole web. Not just by website – but every page and sub-domain as well. Majestic are showing data for the whole of our Fresh Index – data seen over the last 90 days of web crawling. It is the intention to extend this to its Historic index as well in the near future.

This is a huge leap forward for outreach and inbound marketers, advertising strategists, PR professionals, business analysts, SEOs and no doubt new audiences as well. Previously, the only practical way to look at a set of websites by category was to take them from a manually reviewed directory like the Open Directory Project. If a site was not in there, then it wasn’t classified. If it WAS in there, the whole site was usually tarred with the same category.

Now, we can show the proximity of any page within a site to any topic and we can show the trust we put in our prediction with a new score: Topical Trust Flow.

Post written by Dixon Jones, Marketing Director, Majestic SEO

Read the full post on the Innovation Birmingham website HERE>> 

How Big Data Will Break Traditional Business Intelligence Teams

The war has raged for as long as anyone can remember. Through countless cycles of off-shoring, acquisitions, out-sourcing, mergers and technological change; the battle between the standardisers and the disruptors has continued within companies all over the world.

The Standardisers

Brought up on a strict dogma of “don’t repeat yourself (DRY)” and “one version of the truth”, they pride themselves on efficiency and purity. There will only be one way to do anything, and each thing will be done by only one team. The result will be only one set of data regarding what has been done. Audits will be simple, metrics will be easy to calculate, the numbers will always add up and handing change will be — “I’m sorry, handling cha…what?”

The Disruptors

The disruptors, do not directly disagree with the standardisers, after all, the standardisers’ logic is hard to argue with. However, the disruptors were brought up on different doctrines. They prefer to “Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS)” and “ask for forgiveness, not permission”. They prefer to make money, rather than to save money.

The disruptors want to extend the company’s frontier rather then engage in direct conflict with the standardisers. The standardisers are often to be found chasing disruptors across newly gained territory, hoping one day to catch up. Occasionally though, a band of intrepid disruptors run into a native standardiser settlement. When that happens, things can get messy.

And so the war rumbles on, across open fields of Sales, canyons of new Product Development, oceans of IT and the dark and ominous forests of Human Resources and Legal.


Post written by Innovation Birmingham Campus based, Daniel Thompson
Daniel is the founder of Tech start-up – D4 Software and the creator of QueryTree. You can follow him on twitter: @d4nt and read more of his blog posts here>>

Visit by Sir Jon Cunliffe, Bank of England Deputy Governor

Sir Jon Cunliffe, the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor for Financial Stability, held a round table discussion at the Innovation Birmingham Campus on Wednesday 2nd April. A number of the CEOs and tech entrepreneurs based at the Campus were in attendance, with the main discussion topics being; the various ways growing companies are financed; access to loan and equity finance; and the economic environment facing the tech industry.  Sir Jon is a member of both the Bank’s Monetary Policy and Financial Policy Committees.

Debate: how technology skills can support a carer

Last Tuesday (18/3),  Digital Birmingham together with its UK Discover partners – Bham City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology , Health, Design & Technology Institute (HDTI) and The Open University held an event to spark dialogue about digital and ict related training for formal and informal carers, how new technologies and the use of technology can support them in their lives as a carer as well as those they care for.

There was a great mix of people in the audience, from carers (formal and non formal) to carer support agencies to health and care providers to skills agencies to Universities to training providers which encouraged an dialogue about the imorertance of it skills in this day and age.

With Bob Gann, from NHS England chairing, the event kicked off with its first presentation from Verina Waights (Discover PartnerOpen University) who spoke about the Discover EU project  ( and the benefits of digital skills to carers.

Madeleine Starr MBE of Carers UK then went on to speak about the key roles of technology in a caring environment bringing to light that even tech savvy people are not aware of how technology can support them as well as those that they care for. She also emphasised that statutory and private services need to adopt technoloigies and change skills of whole workforce to promote tech. View Madeleine’s presentation here

Matthew Kemp of Midland Heart went through a care plan for an older person outlining all possible interactions between family, friends, care authorites, NHS etc by way of a cleverly designed ‘web of care (or despair)’. He then went on to explain the 10 recommendations from the User and market analysis report: Planning and co-ordination of informal and formal care for older people (this will be made availaible shortly – currently pending final checks and signoff). View Matthew’s presentation here

A research study piece by Midland Heart and commissioned by Birmingham City Council through part funding from ERDF and Carillion, explores the relationship between care and technology capturing the challenges faced by informal and formal carers in managing care planning and coordination. Read the full report here

Nigel Wynne of Birmingham City University (Discover Partner) spoke the importance of embedding digi skills and technology in care  followed by a showcase of the Discover e-learning  platform (email if you’d like to trial this for yourself or for carers in your organisation).

Robin Vickers of Digital Life Sciences went on to speak about about exisitng technology enabled care tools (DALLAS programme) and what the future of digital healthcare will look like with the emphasis of the user at the heart of their health/caring journey.

Kevin Campbell-Wright of NIACE gave a presentation about technology and learning, spoke highly of digial champions in organisations and out there in the community to act as mentors to support learners. He also spoke about reluctance to want to use the internet for security (identity theft, online fraud etc) reasons however with the Digital by Default agenda, communities will have no choice but to do things online. View Kevin’s presentation here

Dame Philippa Russell DBE talked about improving lives of carers and the cared for through the use of  telehealth, and smart homes and about the importance of independence and well-being outlined by Norman Lamb MP and then followed on by explaining the challenges she sees; that 2/3 of carers unaware of benefits of assistive technologies; loss of community libraries, where will people go to use a computer and the internet; Digital by Default agenda and that many areas in the UK still do not have decent broadband connections. View Philippa’s presentation here

If you would like more information about the Discover digital skills for carers project, please email

New Cities Foundation

So what does the future hold? I would argue that, using technology, governments can co-create solutions to face urban challenges. They can identify and recognize the actors that understand community needs, and want to improve the city. Nevertheless, ideas alone aren’t enough to re-instate the importance of public space. To transform ideas into action, governments must find mechanisms for citizens to propose, create and help implement their solutions. If we make this possible, we can start to live in cities that think and act through community collaboration.


Soshi Games raises £285,000 through crowd-funding

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Soshi Games has secured £285,000 via the SyndicateRoom equity crowd-funding platform, taking the total investment in the business to £1.4 million since it was established in 2010.

SyndicateRoom’s blended model enabled the crowd investment to take place, alongside Soshi’s existing investors; Midven and private investors.

For more information and to read the full story, click here

Delivering Digital Inclusion: A Shared Vision for a Smarter City


With the recent introduction of the “Digital by Default” approach by Government which aims to make the majority of government services only available online and the introduction of the Welfare Reform Strategy which is one of the biggest changes to happen to the Welfare System in over 40 years there is now more than ever a requirement placed upon everyone in society to be able to use technology not just for communicating but in our everyday lives.

Digital inclusion is about ensuring that people, both as citizens and consumers benefit from the rapid pace of technological change that is taking place in our society.

The ability to use these technologies is paramount as those that do not have the skills to get online or do not see the relevance are likely to become economically and socially excluded.   As more people engage with technology and see the benefits there is a risk for those who are left behind becoming more excluded.

In the current economic climate, and with the increasing pressures on citizens, businesses, public and voluntary sector expenditure, there are significant long-term savings and efficiencies that can be made by accessing and delivering services through online channels.

The “Digital by Default” Agenda is here to stay and we as a City can either embrace it or refuse to accept it but by doing this our citizens, businesses etc., will not become competitive and the digital skills required by all of us not just now, but into the future will mean that we will be left behind and economic growth will stagnate.

In Birmingham there are currently over 1m people of which 20% have never used the internet (ONS Quarter 1 Stats 2013) and are not online, the majority of which fall within the Social Housing Sector and which are the ones that are most impacted by the Welfare Reform changes that are being made.

Birmingham City Council and it’s partners from public, private and voluntary sector are:-

  • Committed to help break down the barriers for the 40% of Birmingham Citizens who are digitally excluded.
  • While setting out a framework we want to provide a clear strategic framework for the City and a joint action plan that can help identify best practice in each sector which can help others to take identify their digital inclusion activities
  • Committed to ensuring that a wide range of stakeholders in the public, private and voluntary sectors are brought together to help create a digital inclusion strategy for Birmingham that everyone can buy into and align plans and co-ordinate activities to help maximise impact for citizens.
  • Committed to working closely with stakeholders to identify and deliver creative and collaborative approaches to getting people online to achieve the shared ambition of digital inclusion.

This draft framework will outline the challenges to be faced and the limitations that exist in order to avoid any gap between expectations and the capacity to deliver.

While the framework seeks to be ambitious it also needs to be realistic and therefore the plan is seen within the context of a 5 year timescale.

It is proposed that the initial draft framework once developed is put out for consultation across the sectors in order to identify where there is good work already being done in this area and to highlight best practice that can be replicated across the City and to identify any other suggestions or ideas that need to be considered or included within the current framework.


To create a shared vision – to ensure that everyone who wants to be online can get online and experience the benefits and advantages that being online can bring.

Achieving digital inclusion is only one of the elements towards the economic growth of the city as is financial and social inclusion but it is vital if we want to take up the benefits and opportunities that being online can bring.  What we want to achieve as part of this vision is for:-

  • citizens to acquire the confidence,  motivation,  skills and competences that all them to communicate more easily through digital technologies, reducing their isolation and social exclusion
  • creating new opportunities for people to contribute and participate in society, the economy and the life of the City.  Life challenges can be dealt with in new ways, learning can be personalised, democratic processes widened, and communities of interest can share information and provide support in new ways
  • enabling consumer to obtain goods more easily and more cheaply, particularly helping families on low income and individuals on benefits
  • citizens to have a greater say and get involved in democratic participation
  • offering citizens more access to public services online using different channels
  • citizens to improve their digital skills to gain better jobs

Birmingham City recognises that:-

  • the inclusion and participation of all citizens is central to its shared vision
  • all citizens should have affordable access, support and the right skills to benefit from developments in digital technologies
  • the digital inclusion of citizens is a key element of delivering a digital strategy for a smart city, along with business growth and competitiveness, a flexible forward looking future proofed network infrastructure, skills, and the delivering of public services more effectively and efficiently to meet the rising expectations of its citizens
  • the digital inclusion of citizens needs to be built into wider strategies for economic growth, prosperity, wealth creation and public service deliver.  It forms a key part of the development of a digital economy and society.
  • That market forces alone will not be sufficient to get people online
  • The digital inclusion of citizens will only be achieved by the efforts of the public, private and voluntary sectors combined, no one sector can deliver it alone
  • That central and local government strategies need to become more aligned towards delivering this digital vision.
  • That as this is an issues which affects a considerable proportion of the citizens of Birmingham, it relates to the activities of almost every organisation and that everyone from local authorities to older people networks to housing associations to private businesses have a contribution to make in achieving this shared vision.
  • Delivering the shared digital inclusion vision involves a number of different components and these are encompassed in an 9 C’s Model that encompasses the following themes:-
  • 1 – Customer
  • 2 – Channel
  • 3 – Choice
  • 4 – Cost
  • 5 – Connectivity
  • 6 – Communication
  • 7 – Capability
  • 8 – Content
  • 9 – Champion
  • Every element can be identified individually and every component can be addressed depending on the specific needs of individual citizens:-

To enable digital inclusion you must first be in touch with your customer.  You must understand their needs and wants and how they currently interact with your organisation.  This can be achieved by using research, customer profiling, customer insight data that may already be available to you to identify the propensity for your customer to channel shift or use technology.

If you do not currently have data on your customers then it is important that you start to collect this data, it may be very simple information that you ask for e.g. Do you have an email, do you have access to broadband at home using fixed line, only using mobile phone etc

I would value comments on any element of the 9Cs and will be posting each week information on each element.

We will also be highlighting best practice across the City so if you have case studies that link to any of the elements of the model please share so that we don’t all have to reinvent the wheel.

Do you know your customers and their digital identities? 

It may be useful that we have a standardised questionnaire, so that we can compare data in sectors.   What do you think?  What should it include?  How can we work together to create a shared vision?

Using public screens in Birmingham to actually inform?

This idea emerged from discussions at the Birmingham Music Industries Group. I’m thinking about using it to boost local music, but it could extend to other areas.

We have dozens and dozens of public screens around the city – in New Street, the Airport, in the Bullring, all over. They carry advertising. and sometimes a bit of Sky headlines.

Why can’t they be used to screen data listing local events?  A very simple list of – say – music gigs on tonight / tomorrow / coming up. Maybe display six events max, onscreen, for 30/40 seconds or so, or long enough for people to register the information.  The info could come across once every fifteen minutes. That would take up three minutes of time from any one hour.  I would want it to lean heavily towards supporting local talent – big international acts can pay for their own publicity.

Who pays? Someone has to collate the data. It then gets spat out to the screens, which is a  relatively trivial matter. It’s not a huge amount of work, which in some areas is already being done.   The big cost would be to find a sponsor to fund the purchase of screen time on screens all over town.