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Public access to ICT: Another reason why libraries matter!

The Technology and Social Change Group of the University of Washington’s Library School published its report of the five-year project exploring the impact of public access to ICT around the world.

The results show the impact that public libraries and cybercafés have when it comes to promoting digital inclusion and the development of ICT skills, particularly for marginalised populations.

Public access facilities bridge a number of digital divides.  They broaden access to both ICT infrastructure and to information resources.  For over half the users surveyed, libraries and cybercafés provided their very first contact with computers or the internet.  For over a third, they continued to be the only source of access to the internet.

The importance of empathy

The researchers explored in depth the role of ‘infomediaries’ to users in Bangladesh, Chile and Lithuania.  The findings showed that the ability of infomediaries to empathise with users is just as important as their technical skills.  This included giving them confidence to learn and to understand often unexpressed or unformed needs.

In-depth research amongst teenagers in Cape Town, South Africa showed that mobile phone internet access and public access computers were no substitutes for each other.  Indeed, interviewees had very often developed elaborate practices which combined the use of public access and personal devices.  The evidence shows that public access is not obsolete, even as mobile device ownership is growing.  They continued to use public access for help from staff and simply to ‘be alone together’ – a trend which is also emerging in newly designed academic libraries.

Recommendations

At a policy level the report calls for continuing support for public access to ICT, maximising the use of existing infrastructure.

Librarians should:

  • adopt a flexible approach to rules such as limiting time spent on machines or noise levels
  • be flexible to emerging needs.
  • embrace the mobile revolution
  • pay attention to venue design
  • focus on content awareness and market their resources

The full report is available for download here.

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Mobile users: data vs minutes

Data allowances are now more important that voice minutes.

Over 1600 respondents to a uSwitch survey in the UK reported what their priorities were when they last negotiated a mobile contract – and what will be their priorities next time.

  • 43% of respondents say that data allowances will be the most important feature of their next mobile contract (up from 35%)
  • 41% say voice minute allowances will be the most important feature (down from 47%)

Other interesting findings show how mobile usage patterns are changing:

  • 26% of respondents talk for less than 30 minutes per month.
  • 23% are using the web more than five hours a month
  • Only 9% are using voice for more than five hours a month

Respondents also nominated the most important functions on their phones and were asked what they couldn’t do without:

  • 54% said radio/music
  • Apps were nominated by 33.5%
  • 29.1% said email, closely followed by web browsing (26.8%)
  • 20.7% said camera
  • 24.5% said they needed every function on their phones

Meanwhile, Pew Internet has been researching the increased ownership of smartphones in the US.  56% of Americans now possess a smartphone, with the proportion increasing to 81% of 25-34 year-olds.

The global percentage of smartphone penetration amongst mobile users is expected to reach just under 33% and will reach 50% by 2017.   The first six countries to exceed this 50% rate were Australia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, the UK and the US.  France, Germany, Italy and Spain are expected to cross the 50% line in 2014, meaning that the whole of Western Europe will have exceeded 50% penetration.  This upward trend of smartphone ownership will impact on the demand for increased data allowances.

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Wearable technology and apps

Google Glass may have been garnering many column inches recently but wearable technology and apps are still relatively niche products.  18% of the 4,000 adults in the US and UK who participated in research (conducted by Rackspace and the Centre for Creative and Social Technology at Goldsmiths, University of London), reported using a wearable app – mainly for fitness or sleep monitoring.  In other research, (this time by Forrester) only 6% of online adults in the US report using a wearable device to monitor their sports performance.

However, those that were using such wearable apps were happy with their performance.  According to the Rackspace research, 82% of US respondents and 71% of UK respondents felt that the apps had made a positive impact on their lives.

The same research also suggests privacy issues were a concern for roughly one half of the respondents, although a significant minority expressed no concerns about some data and information sharing.  This included wearing devices that linked directly with healthcare providers.  Privacy concerns arise mainly from the fact that wearable apps are directly linked to cloud services.

Another piece of research suggests that the potential global market for smart glasses could reach 10 million units by 2016.  Growth will depend on what developers are making available.  This will included augmented reality apps that can easily integrate into other tools.

The future of wearables

In the late 1990s I heard a technologies futurist speak about the future of consumer goods. He predicted ‘intelligent shampoo bottles’ which collected usage data to provide feedback to the manufacturer.  The bottles would also know how often we were shampooing our hair and would send you a message when you needed to buy more. The speaker was predicting the internet of things and the power of data, sharable via portable devices.

In the same way that apps helped grow the adoption of smartphones, apps are key to the successful future of wearable technology.  Third party developers will enhance the performance of the technology.  Big name developers such as Twitter, Facebook and the New York Times are working to develop apps for Google Glass. Apple too will be seeking to replicate the success of iPhone aps and will work with its community of developers to do so.

We can look forward to contact lenses with Google Glass features; smart watches; smart textiles and much more.  Cosnumers are already predicting uses for wearables which go beyond the existing fitness applications.  44% of those who participated in Forrester research said they’d be interested in devices whch would unlock their homes and cars.  30% said they’d like a device to make media recommendations based on mood.  29% said they’d be interested in devices that tracked their children!

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BYOD – latest trends and predictions

Two new reports on the impact of BYOD on business and individuals have appeared this month.

BYOD strategies enable employees to use their own devices to access data and enterprise applications. Although security issues still cause concern for many organisations, BYOD can improve employee satisfaction, encourage innovation and reduce organisational costs.

Gartner’s latest report on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon reveals continued growth in the trend.  Gartner surveyed global Chief Information Officers asking them about their attitudes to the provision of mobile devices for employees.

Key findings 

  • BYOD most prevalent in medium-sized organisations (2,500–5000 employees)
  • US companies are twice as likely as European companies to allow BYOD
  • By 2016 38% of companies will not provide mobile devices to employees
  • Full employee reimbursement for costs will decline

With the likely decrease of organisations subsidising the purchase of devices, Gartner says that organisations need to ensure employees are given guidelines on the best possible devices for work.  When it comes to phones, employers should not subsidise the purchase of the device but should contribute to the service plan.

Employee time savings

Meanwhile, Cisco has published a report on the value of BYOD to companies in six countries (Brazil, China, Germany, India, the UK and the US).  Of the companies surveyed, 89% are already allowing BYOD.  According to Cisco, employees estimate they are saving an average of 37 minutes of productive work a week, although the figures for different countries vary wildly (81 minutes per week for the US; 4 minutes per week in Germany).

Making it work

Organisations need to ensure their workforce has the right skills, backed up by mobile and BYOD company strategies and guidelines.

See original Gartner press release.  See the Cisco report.

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Cities of opportunity – what makes a city ‘great’?

What makes a city great?  How can cities thrive economically and yet remain liveable?

PwC and the Partnership for New York City have published the latest edition of Cities of Opportunity, a report which analyses the performance of 27 of the world’s cities against ten broad social, economic and technological indicators.  As well as analysing the current situation, the report also looks forward to 2025 to consider future scenarios and key success factors.

The cities analysed in the report currently account for 8% of world GDP but are home to only 2.5% of the world population.

Healthy growth in a city relies on a combination of ‘quality of life’ factors (good education opportunities; healthcare; safety and housing) combined with strong business and solid infrastructure.

The ten indicators used by PwC:

  • City gateway
  • Cost
  • Demographics and liveability
  • Economic clout
  • Ease of doing business
  • Health, safety and security
  • Intellectual capital and innovation
  • Sustainability and the natural environment
  • Technology readiness
  • Transportation and infrastructure

Intellectual capital and innovation

Innovation generates both social and economic growth.  In order to measure each city’s performance a number of factors are considered and scored to create a league table.  These factors include average class size, maths, science skills attainment, literacy rates and percentage of population who receive a higher education.

Also included are:

  • Intellectual property protection (Singapore scores top points)
  • Research performance at top universities (London rates highest – and three Asian cities appear in the top ten)
  • Libraries with public access (Stockholm scores highest)

The key measures of ‘Technology readiness’ include:

  • Internet access in schools and Digital economy score (Stockholm is top in both of these)
  • Broadband quality
  • Software development

The report features case studies on a number of cities and is available for download here.

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The future of TV

Variety has published a story about a new reality show called @SummerBreak.  That might not sound too interesting, but what makes this show stand out is that it will unfold over four social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube) and completely bypass television.

The ways in which people view and interact with television are being completely transformed.

A number of providers are broadcasting ‘online’ only programmes and YouTube and Amazon have been investing in original programming.   The CEO of Netflix, purveyor of on demand programming, has published an opinion piece which outlines a vision for the future of television.   Netflix has seen a sharp rise in its share price and has added three million new viewers so far in 2013.

The document explores the drivers for a move away from so-called ‘linear’ TV towards ‘internet TV and apps’.  Although linear TV remains popular, the steady growth of such services as BBC i-player, HBO-GO and Watch ESPN demonstrates how TV viewing habits will continue to change.   Drivers for change in television viewing include:

  • Increased internet speeds and reliability
  • Increased sales of smart TVs – eventually all TVs will have Wi-Fi and apps
  • Mobile viewing will increase
  • Internet video advertising will become personalised
  • Innovative new entrants
  • Internet TV apps will improve rapidly, just as mobile phones have done over the last 20 years

Viewers are changing

While the technology is moving forward, consumers’ behaviours are also changing.  New research from the US shows that mobile app usage reaches its daily peak between 7pm and 9pm – traditionally TV prime time.  As app usage between these times increases (rising to 50 million during these two hours) viewing figures for almost all prime time TV shows are declining.  The only shows not losing out are those with older viewers.

TV is not simply losing out to apps of course.  Alternative providers (including HBO and Netflix) continue to grow their market share.  What is known as ‘long form video’ is the fastest growing content segment for tablets.    On demand/ internet TV services facilitate what is known as ‘binge viewing’ – where viewers may watch several episodes or indeed entire series of programmes in one go.

To quote the CEO of Netflix on the future of TV…  TV, as we know it is coming to an end.

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Digital Europe – the latest figures

In 1996, 66% of the world’s internet audience was based in the US.  By 2012 87% of the world’s internet audience was based outside the US.  Europe is now the world’s second largest internet audience (after Asia Pacific) with 27% of the total, putting on 7% growth in the last year.

In its latest report (Europe Digital Future in Focus) ComScore analyses the latest European statistics and trends.

Key findings

The internet

  • There are 408 million internet users in Europe
  • Russia accounts for 15% of all of Europe’s internet users
  • Italy (17%) and Russia (15%) have the fastest growth
  • Once again, the UK leads the way in user engagement with an average of just over 37 hours per user per month

Mobile and tablets

  • There are 241 million mobile devices in Europe
  • At the end of 2012 all EU5 countries had crossed the 50% smartphone penetration milestone
    • Of the EU5 countries, Germany has the most mobile devices, followed by:
      • UK
      • Italy
      • France
      • Spain
      • Almost one third of UK page views are made via mobiles or tablets
        • The European average is 20%
        • The most popular smartphone activities are:
          • Accessing personal email
          • Weather reports
          • Social networking
          • Instant messaging services
          • Search

Mobile video

The EU5 has seen rapid growth in the last 12 months

  • Mobile video has grown 162%
  • PC video grew by 5%

Search

  • Google sites account for 86% of Europe’s search engine market
  • The figures show that users are not simply using search engines – they are searching within sites such as Facebook, eBay and Amazon too

Shopping and banking

  • 146 million Europeans visited comparison shopping sites
  • The Netherlands lead the way in internet banking – 66% of all internet users accessed online banking sites.  Only 18.8% of those in Switzerland did so

Newspapers

Taking the UK as a case study, the report looks at increased reach for newspapers via video and mobile.

  • The Sun has increased its reach by 16.9%
  • The Mail Online has increased its reach by 11%

The report also features country scorecards outlining:

  • Top 20 internet sites for each country
  • Top news/information sites
  • Top retail sites
  • Top online banking sites

For more information, see the comScore website.

Dealing with mission impossible – a publishing case study

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) disseminates scientific information in the interdisciplinary fields of geophysics.  With over 60,000 members worldwide, the AGU publishes books, research journals, newspapers and other scientific periodicals.

In 2012 the AGU announced a publishing partnership with Wiley.  And in September 2012 Freddie Quek, Director of Engineering for Wiley, was given four months to integrate the AGU content onto a single Wiley platform.  He shared his story of coping with this ‘mission impossible’ with delegates at the Association of Subscription Agents conference in London.

Targets

By 2nd January 2013

  • Start revenue earning
  • Ensure systems ready to support entire content chain
  • Ensure system works in a familiar way for all AGU customers
  • Give AGU customers access to all licensed content

Challenges

  • 17 systems to check
  • Non-standard content formats (one publication had no page numbers; one journal had seven parts – three of which had sub-parts)
  • Over 700 special sections of content
  • What to do about unique identifiers; new ISSNs required
  • Unknown unknowns!
  • Ensuring discoverability
  • Development to start before all requirement were clear

What worked

  • Creation of a 60 day plan
  • Number one priority across the organisation – 52 people on the team
  • Sense of commitment, urgency and importance of the project
  • Rapid decision making at all levels
  • Team effort by everyone and a can-do attitude
  • Strong business lead and close cooperation

Lessons learned

  • Focus on people over process
  • Embrace the challenge
  • Break some rules
  • Be brave
  • Use your best people

Many of us will be asked to take on ‘impossible missions’ at work.  Freddie’s best advice?  Deal with it!

Broadband coverage in Europe

The European Union has published a report on broadband coverage in the EU (Europe) for 2011.

The report sets out to map progress towards the broadband coverage objectives of the Digital Agenda.  This includes ensuring all EU citizens have access to at least basic broadband coverage by 2013 and broadband speeds of at least 30 megabits per second by 2020.

The report looks at the coverage of nine broadband technologies grouped into two broad categories

  • Standard broadband
  • Next generation access (NGA)

in 29 countries (the entire EU plus Norway and Iceland).

Main findings

  • 95.7% of EU homes already have access to standard broadband
  • 50+% of EU homes already have NGA broadband available (target 100% by 2020)
  • Just over 12% of rural homes have access to NGA

Belgium, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK show 100% standard coverage as do many urban areas across the whole of the EU.  Indeed, many additional countries have already reached 95% standard coverage.   Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovenia have seized the opportunity to overcome the deficiencies of their legacy networks by rolling out fibre coverage.

Next generation access

The Netherlands leads the table with 100% availability followed by:

  • Malta 99.3%
  • Belgium 98%
  • Luxembourg 75%
  • Portugal 74.5%
  • Bulgaria 71.4%

The report includes data tables for each of the countries studied showing total coverage and coverage by technology type.

The pdf report can be downloaded by following the link on this page.

UK government – agile and digital by default

The UK has a tradition of excellence in public services.  However, this has not always translated into excellent online services.  The UK government is now pursuing a ‘digital first’ and ‘digital by default’ agenda which aims to design and deliver world class digital public services.

Mike Bracken is the Executive Director for the UK Government’s Digital Service, responsible for delivering ‘customer first’ digital services.  Speaking at the ‘Agenda Setters’ stream of seminars at this year’s Internet World event, he described how a transformed, agile approach to design and development is opening up online government services.

Gov.uk is the new single site for government services (replacing Direct.gov).  Currently in beta, the site provides simple, clear and fast answers and is designed with external users in mind.  An example of this customer focus can be seen in the contrasting treatment of the same information – in this case about public holidays in the UK.

On Direct.gov, this information is displayed in a table – the information is correct, it is simply not easy on the eye.  The new site answers the key question that most people searching for bank holiday information want answered – When is the next bank holiday?  It is a simple, yet revolutionary approach to delivering truly customer first information.

Key elements and principles of UK.gov

  • Digital first and digital by design
  • Users first!  The users ‘trump’ the government department(s) in all decisions
  • Digital services NOT websites
  • Less information – much of the ‘marginal’ information currently available on Direct.gov will not be transferred onto Gov.UK
  • Quick tasks and answers – for example, by answering four simple questions you can discover your maternity entitlements
  • Understand the user journey – 90% of users will come into the site via search engines, not via expensive ‘home pages’
  • Devices and mobile  - the content is designed for mobile delivery
  • Agile development – small teams are involved in iterative development.  These are not massive, long term IT projects  This approach means you can ‘fail in increments’ and do something about it
  • Learn from experience
  • Build a trusted network of partners – a contrast with previously strained relationships with large external providers.  Work with world class digital businesses

Today, the government has announced a new advisory board to help drive the next stage of Digital by Default.  Leading figures from academia, industry and retail will help the government deliver its digital transformation agenda.