#TechTop3

By December 12, 2014EU

By the London technology team

The NHS’ IT virus

The Guardian’s Healthcare Network carried an intriguing and honest, post this week which claims that the current IT infrastructure of the NHS was never designed to operate at the level it currently is expected to.

This is not a new, nor necessarily untrue, observation. MPs on the Public Accounts Committee in 2013 heavily criticised the NHS and the Government for “systemic failure” in IT procurement within the NHS. The now abandoned NHS patient record system cost the taxpayer nearly £10bn; when the original plan was abandoned the total bill was expected to be £6.4bn.

The MPs report highlighted the new NHS computer system called ‘Lorenzo’ which was supposed to store data for 220 trusts in the north, eastern England and the Midlands at a cost of £3.1bn. But the final contract for that project alone cost the Department of Health £2.2bn and covered only 22 trusts.

The furore and debacle over the ‘care.data’ proposals earlier on this year marked a new nadir in the NHS’ relationship with IT. Eminently sensible proposals were announced with downright obfuscation and confusion over who would have access to our medical data. The research opportunities are huge, but the implementation was chaotic, with poor public information, partly because the checks and balances on who gets access to data – and how – were not yet devised or implemented. In medicine, data saves lives, and this was a shambles.

The NHS is seemingly impenetrable to new and emerging technologies. The grandiose political vision of a move to ‘e-health’ will never come to fruition unless such basic IT infrastructure is in place – with the necessary skilled staff to operate it. But when a health professional is writing in exasperation that she cannot even make a simple Google search on a hospital commuter, something is very wrong indeed.

The story was well covered by Ellie May in the Guardian Healthcare Network.

Are video games ‘culture’?

Should video games count as culture? Many developers think so, which is why the industry has called on the EU to officially reclassify games from being considered ‘software’ to ‘cultural products’ akin to how TV programmes and films are classified. Developers feel their products are creative works of art, and should be classified as such, but there’s a practical element to this too – ‘cultural products’ have less red tape.

As culture is considered a Member State competency, Governments are freer to assist their cultural industries. The UK has done so with TV and film (by introducing tax breaks and underwriting investment), which has seen the sector grow considerably. Games often generate more revenue than films, and developers would like more assistance and less regulation than currently is the case.

There are opponents to the idea of reclassifying games as ‘cultural products’, as it could result in more protectionism, Governmental interference in mergers and acquisitions and charges on foreign companies. Profits tend to go to parent companies and distributors based abroad, not where a game was made, and many of these large companies feel reclassifying will impact the flow of capital and their ability to invest.

The story was covered by Jonathan Blake for Radio 1 Newsbeat

Picture that; Instragram overtakes Twitter

Instagram, the photo-sharing social network owned by Facebook, announced on Wednesday it now has more than 300 million users. The update means Instagram has for the first time overtaken Twitter, which claimed 284 million active users at the end of September.

The trend has been prevalent for some time. Back in March of this year, Forbes noted that Instragram was already ahead of Twitter in terms of smartphone use.

In response, Twitter has introduced two new features designed to help users share more messages and images. Users can now tweet photographs with ten individuals tagged in them without using the @ mention sign and share up to four photos in a single tweet – in effect creating a mini online album. The changes are clearly designed to increase Twitter’s mainstream appeal, and rebut the surge in Instragram use.

The danger for Twitter will be that its community will not welcome the changes. Accusations of dumbing down and of allowing confused posts with multiple photos and hash tags in order to court new users, have already surfaced – with critics saying it will destroy the simplicity that made the service so popular in the first place.

The story was covered by Dave Neal for the Inquirer and by Andy Dawson for the Daily Mirror.