It’s not what we know, it’s the way that we look at it argues Eddie Copeland Policy Exchange

Eddie Copeland, of the Policy Exchange, argues the case that the information is there we just need to know how to use it.

“Big Data in the Big Apple” argues that London should establish a Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA), inspired by the model created under Mayor Bloomberg in New York City. MODA would be a small team of data analysts, based in City Hall, who could combine, analyse, and seek insights from datasets sourced from all London’s boroughs and public sector organisations. A London MODA could help with areas such as: increasing shared services; tackling ‘beds in sheds’ (illegally converted outbuildings); improving food safety inspections; identifying empty homes; helping new businesses decide where to set up shop, fighting tax and benefits fraud; and making open data financially sustainable. Using previously unseen materials, the report provides a deep dive into exactly how the MODA model works in NYC, and explains how it could be adapted for the specific context of London.

Monitoring different data sets including the amount of rubbish collected, energy bills and even sewage levels could help local authorities identify and combat ‘beds in sheds’, the illegal use of buildings usually built without planning permission that cost the taxpayer millions and make life a misery for Londoners.  To read more click HERE.

Eddie Copeland is Head of Technology Policy at the Policy Exchange.


Does technology rob us of our memory asks Chris Deery of Solihull

Does technology rob us of our memory asked Chris Deery, Head of Information and Communications Technology, at Solihull Council.

I recently read about a study that said people can’t commit information to memory anymore because tablets and smart phones mean the data is just a click away. They called the tendency “Digital Amnesia” — the experience of forgetting information that you trust a digital device to store and remember for you. The study said that 91% of those surveyed said they use the Internet as an online extension of their brain. In addition 44% said their smartphone serves as their memory; everything they need to remember is right there in their pocket.

“In many societies, having access to the Internet feels as stable as having access to electricity or running water,” says Dr. Kathryn Mills, with the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.

The on-line study was undertaken in May 2015 by research firm Opinion Matters. They surveyed 1,000 United States consumers, aged between 16 and 55+, split equally between male and female.

You might think that surveying 1,000 people in a country with a population of almost 325 million isn’t exactly statistically significant and to be honest  I am not sure I completely agree with the implied conclusion that we are all becoming reliant on technology to help us remember everyday information.

Anecdotally, I sometimes feel that I used to be able to remember things like telephone numbers a lot better when I was younger.  But in those days I only had my home landline number to remember. Now I have a home landline number, a work landline number, a personal mobile number and a work mobile number. Not only that, I have 3 different email addresses and probably more than a dozen different passwords that I need to remember. So my memory probably works harder now that it did when I was 20.

Of course I am lucky enough to have a reasonable memory. These days technology can be a really helpful tool to help those of us who are suffering from illnesses like Alzheimer’s.  Take Google Glass, for instance. This technology can take pictures, gives directions, and translates languages.

Through its Google GPS system, Google Glasses may be able to help people with Alzheimer’s. Prompting them with reminders on where they want to go and how to get there, Glass also supports memory function. Pensioners can keep up with daily walks, trips to the grocery store and other ventures that help them feel more independent and in control. Additionally, Google Glass provides facial recognition features that connect faces with names and relationships. So, older people who wear them would have immediate cues as to who is standing in front of them. What’s more, relatives and caregivers can use features of Glass to monitor a senior’s location.

All of this could help slow down the progression of the illness and allow people to live independently for longer.

So my personal view is that technology is probably not robbing us of our ability to remember everyday bits of information. In fact, for most of us it’s probably helping us to hang on to the cognitive skills we already have and for those people who have serious memory problems it can help the brain make new connections and allow people to live happy and independent lives for longer than they otherwise would have been able to.


Birmingham Strategic Housing Partnership 18th November

Nev Gill is presenting at the Birmingham Strategic Housing Partnership (BSHP) meeting, who represent over 40,000 tenants within the city.  Recent figures from the Citizens Advice Bureau for Birmingham showed that over the past 12 months they had supported over 26,900 citizens of Birmingham who came with over 72,000 issues. The single most common area of support requested is regarding welfare benefits, followed by debt support. We will be showing how the Digital Log Book can help social landlords to identify those that need financial support during pre-tenancy to help manage their new tenancies better.


South Staffordshire Housing & South Staffordshire Council workshop

We did a presentation last week with South Staffordshire Council and South Staffordshire Housing Association again a good group of people with a wide range of interests. We’re seeing common themes and issues across the country now as organisations, RSLs, councils grapple with the challenges of going fully digital, beyond just paying your rent on-line and where to start.  Our view being that starting with the customer is a good starting off point, what is it they want and what are they willing to do to engage with you on-line? One thing we are increasingly seeing is the growing collaboration between HAs and their Councils, a very important step forward as tenants are also customers of their Councils and by working together Councils and HAs can achieve a great deal with combined resources.


Blackpool Coastal Housing and Blackpool Council workshop

Had a really good workshop last week with a wide range of representatives from Blackpool Coastal Housing and Blackpool Council.  Of the 18 people attending 2 were BCH Board members which was a first for us.  Their input gave a whole different perspective as tenants and their views on all things digital and the potential benefits of the Digital Log Book for citizens.  Some common themes came out of this workshop around the ability for people to gain physical access to the Internet, issues around training and digital skills and of course continued engagement.


I know you don’t want to know about my shower habits but…

As part of the Scottish Water water & energy efficiency project  I have installed a ‘smart water meter’ which has nothing to do with billing.  What it does do though is tell me how many litres of water I used (male) 30.5 litres and 470 kWh of heat energy.  According to the instructions I can set individual energy efficiency goals which will be interesting taking into account the female make up of this household, as allegedly women take longer hotter showers.  So watch this space with interest and lets see if this little tool will lead to behaviour change i.e. shorter showers and less used energy and even save money.


Ladywood’s Beginning of the Future tenants evening

Ladywood Health & Community Centre held a ‘Beginning of the Future’ event last night bringing together local residents, community groups and health & well being groups to develop and share a vision for the centre.  There was a community pop up kitchen serving real healthy food and helping people to understand how much better and cheaper real food is compared to processed food.  There was face painting for the kids to keep them occupied, as well as Digital Den enabling people to set themselves up with a Digital Log Book, help with setting up an email or just getting on line.  More importantly the event was about talking to local residents and understanding what they wanted from their Health & Community Centre around activities, health and digital skills.


Family Mosaic sign up Digital Log Book for The Better Deal

The Better Deal is an initiative to support tenants in making social and financial progression during their 5 year Fixed Term Tenancy with Family Mosaic. During the fixed tenancy period they are offered help and assistance to make progress in gaining employment, learning new skills and furthering their education.

Following the probationary year, tenants are asked to sign up to an action plan which sets out what they will do to progress into work, training or education within their fixed tenancy period. They are offered employment advice, training or referrals to other organisations to support their personal progress.  If already in work, they have access to Family Mosaic’s own award winning Employment Service for information on career enhancement.

Tenants will be given their own Digital Log Book which is a secure digital portal designed to support them through their tenancy. It allows them to self document their goals, actions and progress made. It has additional features to help with writing a CV, budgeting, as well as self diagnostic tools around health, wellbeing, and community involvement.

The Digital Log Book records the tenant journey under The Better Deal from the initial let, which helps identify any barriers to work, setting goals to overcome them and recording all outcomes. Tenants will able to provide their Neighbourhood Managers with access to their Log Book to assist periodic tenancy reviews, and to evidence their engagement with The Better Deal.

“We are excited about working with Etive in piloting the Digital Log Book with our new tenants with fixed term tenancies over the coming year. It will provide our customers with a new digital platform to access our health and wellbeing services, whilst at the same time allowing them to independently document the steps of progress they make in improving their financial or social circumstances.” Jenny Mclean, Regional Housing Manager, Family Mosaic


Blackwood’s Cala Sona Court and water & energy efficiency

The Cala Sona development in Wishaw, completed in 2009, is a great development designed for people with limited mobility, general housing needs and for wheelchair users.  I was visiting Cala Sona Court today checking up on the water & energy efficiency project which Blackwood HA are taking part in for some of their tenants.  The Cala Sona development is in a lovely location over looking the Clyde Valley but it is the design of the properties that really stands out, spacious, plenty of light and gardens and for those who don’t have gardens there are balconies covered in glass providing that great open airy feel to them.


Local Authority Led Universal Credit Pilots Report

A review of the 8 local authority led Universal Credit pilots was published by the Local Government Authority (LGA).   This early stage report highlights some of the challenges and outcomes from these pilots.  These pilots really did test the role of a council and their ability to provide frontline support to UC claimants.   Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell, LGA Chairman, summarised some key findings;

  • The key role that councils play in establishing and leading partnerships to support claimants.
  • The role that councils have to play in delivering a digital inclusion agenda.
  • How working in partnership with DWP at a local level councils can deliver more joined up services to their citizens.

What was interesting to us was the constant referral to partnership working, service providers coming together to deliver solutions to citizens rather than pursuing isolated pilot projects, as was very well demonstrated by Birmingham City Council.

The report, Local Government and Universal Credit Report 2014, also provides some fascinating insights into ‘things to avoid’ as well as triaged and tailored services.  A very useful report for all local authorities.

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