Featured Digital Scots Archives - Digital Scotland
CivTech and Wallet.Services – Driving Blockchain Innovation in Government
Category: Featured Digital Scots Author: Digital Scotland Date: 4 weeks ago Comments: 0

CivTech

The ScotChain17 presentation from Wallet.Services is introduced by Alexander Holt of the Scottish Government’s CivTech Accelerator.

Alexander describes the challenges of slow and bureaucratic government procurement, and how their initiative is intended to speed things through a more innovative approach. Working around a number of shared challenges they then award contracts to for the best ideas.

CivTech works across the public sector to offer them this more dynamic procurement approach for agencies that know they need this new approach for key challenges.

Wallet.Services

Alexander also describes how CivTech has enabled the government to act quickly on its Digital Strategy goals – For example one being an intention to explore and master Blockchain technologies for public sector benefit. As part of the CivTech Cybersecurity challenge pitching Wallet.Services presented this opportunity and were contracted around a developed government requirement for a Blockchain Strategy, then procured through the Digital Marketplace.

[d12-global title=”Vendor Profile”]Read more about Featured Digital Scot Wallet.Services in their Vendor Profile.[/d12-global]

Digital Native Public Services

Peter Ferry of Wallet describes how despite the hype of the tech market we still live in a mostly analogue world, where government digital services are most just the ‘web page lipstick on the paper process pig’.

Highlighting the Equifax personal data loss Peter describes how we’re still at quite an immature state of online security for digital services, and asks the basic but fundamental question of why this is still happening despite our technological advances.

He arrives at the very nature of Government IT systems and their implementation models, in short how each department operates their own silo and at best they offer web interfaces to these applications. These silos are the same cause of why there is so still so much paper-based manual procedure, it provides the “middleware” that exchanges information between them. The financial and customer experience consequences of this manual bureaucracy are as ever huge for the public sector, and so major leaps in joining up systems offers massive potential for efficiency savings.

Hybrid Blockchain Platforms

The core idea at the heart of the solution and thus Wallet.Services concept is the use of DLT (Distributed Ledger Technologies, like Blockchain for example) Smart Contracts and Oracle technologies to facilitate new models for secure data exchange.

Like the public sector makes use of ‘Private Clouds’, and other different permutations of Cloud Security model, Peter envisages a similar approach to DLT platforms, where governments deploy hybrid combinations of open and private features, to meet their regulatory needs while also enabling the critical sharing functionality that addresses the root issue.

Become a Blockchain Builder

A tremendously powerful effect that Scotland can cultivate is one of an accelerating ecosystem, as CivTech is intending to build. New venture ideas and digital government apps that build on these existing investments and capabilities will start to engender a ‘network effect’, an amplification of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Not only would Scotland enjoy more efficient public sector IT systems but this adoption would finance a sector with massive global growth potential – All governments globally experience the same root issues and will adopt the same Blockchain solutions to address them.

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Cloud in Scotland’s Third Sector – Case study: Simon Community Scotland
Category: Best Practices,Featured Digital Scots Author: Digital Scotland Date: 4 weeks ago Comments: 0

Organisation Profile

Simon Community Scotland is a Glasgow-based charity which has been operating for over 50 years. Today it operates from 15 service locations throughout the West of Scotland.

The organisation’s mission is to combat the causes and effects of homelessness and work towards a vision that everyone should have a safe place to live and access to the support they need.

Challenges

Due to the physical distance between the services and head office, communication is a key challenge for Simon Community.

Before moving to the cloud, Simon Community were operating from a server based IT system. This was costly to support but such a setup presented many other challenges:

  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Difficult to get all stakeholders integrated into using technology
  • Flexibility & Scalability – being responsive to changing relief workers, staff members and service users
  • Mobile working plays a huge role in the operation of Simon Community as many team members carry out activities on the move – and the previous technology was not geared for working ‘on the go’
  • Ageing infrastructure

Solution

Simon Community decided to move to using G Suite after evaluating various options. They required a solution that would make remote communication and collaboration between teams effortless, that was intuitive for staff to use and offered new opportunities for improving the way they delivered services. In addition, access to unlimited licences for no cost under the Google for Nonprofits program provided significant cost savings. This also allows the team to scale easily at no direct extra cost. Cobry helped Simon Community make the technical switch from using an on-premise server to G Suite.

Working with Cobry

Training

“Cobry were able to deliver on site training pitched at the learning needs and expectations of the organisation supporting us to make a smooth transition from a Microsoft-dependent setup to G Suite”

Advice

“We have no in-house IT expertise so we need to trust the advice and support of external experts in determining our digital strategy. Cobry worked with us throughout the process not only in implementation of G Suite but in building a long-term digital inclusion strategy involving staff and people who are homeless”

On-Site

“Perhaps one of the biggest challenges and benefits was moving multiple sites onto a shared drive. For us the process was simple but we underestimated the challenges staff would experience in managing the shared drive. That was were Cobry came in, supporting managers and teams to work within a new filing structure and extract the benefits of this in a way that gained their commitment. There are always going to be challenges with a new system but continually heralding the benefits and ‘tricks of the trade’ helped people to buy into the change.”

End Results

Switching to a cloud-based system supports Simon Community’s vision of using the latest technologies to not only support their team but also open up these tools to our service users who are almost always excluded from access to IT.

Devices

“Significant cost savings in hardware as we were due to upgrade existing hardware in services. Cost of Chrome was half that of PC, as well as faster, more secure and mobile”.

Reliability

“Since moving to G Suite we have experienced no business interruptions. On rare occasions we’ve lost local wifi but staff have been able to tether their phones to Chromebooks so it’s been business as usual. Chromebooks are fast, light, immense battery length, simple to use and to date we’ve not had a single issue with their reliability. We are so confident in their reliability and performance we are in the process of replacing all PCs with Chromebooks.”

Availability

“The front facing simplicity of G Suite masks the enormous functionality the different apps bring to the whole. The ability to integrate into mobile environments and access anything, anywhere at any time is incredible.”

Roadmap

Cobry maintains an ongoing, supportive relationship with clients, helping them formulate a roadmap plan to expand their use of technology and the benefits they enjoy from doing so, such as:

  • Converting old laptops to run on Chrome OS and providing free wifi in all our accommodation services to give to service users access to the digital world.
  • Using our YouTube Channel to produce different ways to train and communicate with staff.
  • Using Hangouts to routinely connect staff and to build networks of staff from different geographical locations, in particular nightshift workers.
  • Apply the $10,000 adwords credit (part of the Google for Nonprofits programme) to reach an online audience will previously we would not be able to communicate with.

Solution delivered by: Cobry

Cobry specializes in helping organizations of any size adopt the latest Cloud best practices notably Google Cloud services.

This case study provides an example of how these services are especially helpful to non-profits, who may lack the in-house IT expertise of larger organizations but still need the same modern tools and practices.

Featured Digital Scot: Colin Bryce

Founded and led by Colin Bryce, Cobry focuses on the often overlooked change management challenges of moving to the Cloud, emphasizing the importance of essential success factors such as comprehensive user training and ongoing support.

Over 90% of Cobry clients said they would recommend Google apps for work and Cobry for their implementation.

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Banking as a Platform – Blueprint for Scotland’s Blockchain Economy
Category: Featured Digital Scots Author: Digital Scotland Date: 4 weeks ago Comments: 0

Furthermore there is the potential for disruption through entirely innovative new business models, those described as ‘Platforms’, marketplace models that leverage the crowd effect, such as Airbnb, Uber taxis and many more.

This summary guide (32 page PDF) of the 2017 MIT Platform Strategy Summit provides a detailed discussion of the concept, exploring the dynamics further via their web site in an article that explains how Airbnb will always be a better business than Uber.

Again it is the intersection of these technology and business model trends that offers enormous potential. Omri Barzilay writes on Forbes that the blockchain could be utilized to power next generation versions of these Sharing Economy businesses, making it cheaper to create and operate an online platform; for example, transactions could be coordinated by self-executing smart contracts.

In the banking sector ventures like TransferWise and many crowd lending startups leverage the peer to peer model, and investment activity further illustrates the technology niche opportunities, such as VISA investing in Marqeta, who provide a developers marketplace platform for virtual and physical corporate expense cards that directly services this hyper-growth sector. RailsBank is a startup specifically positioning itself as a BaaP venture.

In his Linkedin blog Pascal Bouvier offers a reference model, describing seven levels of ‘FinTech Platform‘, and the NextWeb describes it by focusing on a specific niche opportunity of PSD2 payments that it might be targeted towards, highlighting that this change is a natural fit for a platform approach.

In particular the super sweet spot of platforms is the intersection of mobile, social and Identity. TechCrunch writes your wallet will become the next platform, with every one from Facebook to Twitter potentially becoming a medium by where business models can exploit social relationships as a conduit for transactions, and Paypal similarly has also moved into peer to peer payments.

APIs and Open Banking Blockchain Platforms

As McKinsey describe the technology developments central to the Platform architecture are the APIs that enable open data sharing, and facilitate dynamic new business models.

Major market players like VISA and Citibank have pioneered early API programs, and the Open Banking Initiative has begun the industry-wide open standards work required to make this scalable and of course, truly open, such as publishing the first versions of the payment initiation specs and Open Data specifications.

The super sweet spot is where all these trends meet. For example Mastercard is building a set of blockchain APIs and ventures like Thought Machine are offering Vault OS to leveraging the blockchain to offer an entire banking system via the Cloud, an ‘operating system for banks’.

In the same fashion as the proposed idea of using the blockchain to power new Sharing Economy businesses, smart contracts are used to create products, so any type of loan or deposit account is entirely configurable. A component called Vault Gateway offers a single unified API to all large high street banks, enabling application developers to write apps for personal finance without having to take part in complex integration projects with each bank.

Featured Digital Scot: Wallet.Services

Scotland is uniquely positioned to exploit and prosper from the Blockchain Economy. The country is small enough to move quickly and is cultivating a skilled digital innovation industry, emulating other digital leaders like Estonia, while also boasting a major financial centre, a combination that could lead to the nation becoming the next financial hub of Europe.

Realizing this ambition will require substance and capabilities in the areas described above, and ventures like Wallet.Services are starting to bring this to market.

Offering a Platform model implementation, Wallet.Services is an API interacting with BlockChain through a simple Wallet concept, underpinned by BlockChain services in public or hybrid cloud. Its architecture supports full auditability of outsourced BlockChain operations.

Wallet.Services supports business operations through a ‘BlockChain business transaction language’, an intuitive high-level abstraction phrased in a manner accessible to the non-programmer business analyst.

With endorsements from Microsoft and the Scottish CivTech initiative, Wallet.Services is also quickly establishing an expertise in applying these innovations to other sectors such as government, partnering with Sopra Steria to develop paper-free, digital-first public service delivery and furthermore, they have been selected to advise the Scottish Governments blockchain strategy.

Conclusion

Although any and all sectors can benefit from the blockchain, it will be banking and government in particular where massive leaps will be made through applying the blockchain, enabling disruptive new banking business models and super streamlined government services. With such well conceived startups like Wallet.Services and early adoption support from the government, Scotland is demonstrating the progress required to achieve global leadership in this largest of market opportunities.

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Featured Digital Scot: Gavin Neate – The Neatebox
Category: Featured Digital Scots Author: Digital Scotland Date: 4 weeks ago Comments: 0

Pioneering Digital Scots

Gavin Neate is an inspiring example of the entrepreneurial ingenuity being cultivated in Scotland, and the Neatebox products he’s developing an exemplar case study of the concept of ‘Social Smart Cities’.

Building on his 18 years of experience of working with guide dogs he is pioneering technologies that make cities more accessible and helpful to disabled people.

The first product ‘Button‘ has now been followed that with the launch of their app ‘Welcome’ at a customer event at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre and The Falkirk Wheel on 27th July.

Button – Social Smart Cities

As described in this earlier blog Smart Cities is one of those IT domains that is somewhat guilty of obsessing about technology for technology’s sake, from self-driving cars, smart traffic lights through AI and the IoT (Internet of Things), but without any meaningful context or objective for how they will better enrich and improve the lives of those living in cities.

Gavin and the Neatebox innovations demonstrate that when you first define the user needs of specific social groups and then apply the technology towards those needs, tangible and socially valuable outcomes are much easier to identify and achieve.

As this BBC feature video demonstrates the first Neatebox application ‘Button’ is an example, a very simple concept that exploits smart devices and mobile phones, to automatically activate pedestrian crossings for disabled users, a simple process for others but for the blind or those in wheelchairs can prove to be a very difficult challenge. The app has already won the DfT Inclusive Transportation award for their initial installation in Largs.

Welcome

Gavin’s second product, the ‘Welcome‘ app, continues this theme of being sensitive to the societal challenges the disabled face, in this case their experiences of retail and office environments.

Described in this video it highlights how shockingly some can even experience humiliating treatment from high street stores, a terrible reflection upon those brands and thus what they should seek to avoid but more importantly do so as part of an overall customer-centric program of being welcoming and inviting to all social groups.

The Welcome app makes this easy for stores – The user downloads the app and inputs their details including the nature of their impairment, which then alerts the store and their staff upon their entry. It even transmits a summary of best practices for how best to accomodate and help, from expertise provided by relevant organizations in that field. Ie. it literally enables them to be more welcoming.

Inspiring Edinburgh

Gavin’s interview with Inspired Edinburgh is one of a series showcasing the dynamic entrepreneurs the city boasts.

With coverage such as this Scotsman interview, Gavin is trail-blazing inspiring leadership for other entrepreneurs to follow, in particular offering a real life demonstration of the principles of ‘Social Business‘. Scotland’s history of inventive entrepreneurship and inherently social nature makes it an ideal venue to pioneer what will become the most important business trend of the 21st century.

Neatebox is a winner of Edge funding, making possible their new Welcome product and demonstrating just how potent and valuable these types of awards are to encouraging and enabling small business innovation. The 11th round has now opened for their next cohort of new ventures similarly enabled to fast-track new product growth.

Follow Neatebox on Twitter and Facebook.

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