Chair's Report - 2017/18

Dear Member,

I have been Chair for over a year and was Chair for many years prior to that in the mid 2000’s. Being chair of the branch is a pleasure as London Central Branch has always been active and well supported by its members. The Branch has a history of running a well-attended, topical and forward-looking Programme of events. It is a privilege to be able to contribute to the charitable purpose of the BCS. However, this second stint as chair was unplanned and unexpected and for personal reasons I shall be handing the baton on this year.

The Programme

The programme of events is our main concern as a committee and it is not just a wonderful source of professional development but is also a way to engage as a community. We cover a wide range of important topics, many of them close to the heart of our mission as a society, and we are privileged to be able to host leading speakers in their subject area.

Reflecting on the year, two themes stand out. Firstly, we have had a feast of engagement and audience participation. Secondly, we’ve explored our mission, ‘Making IT Good for Society’, in many contexts, from art to artificial intelligence, in a Programme full of opportunities for London’s professionals to think about how this idea turns up in practice.

Thank you

Our speakers generously share their insights, their time and not least their slide decks, which you can find on our site, and we are as ever enormously grateful.

Furthermore, members and the public attend, ask good questions, and actively engage with each other and our speakers. Thank you to all.

Speakers and Topics

Our year started in September with a topical subject not just for the students who attended for the prizegiving, but for so many of us these days, how to manage your career, given by Paul Martynenko, last year’s President.

This was followed in October with an appreciation of the wide interests of the ‘father of computing’, Alan Turing, by Jonathan Bowen, Emeritus Professor of Computing at London South Bank University.

In November we learned about a hot topic for the retail industry. David Sharp of Ocado, a leader in the field, explained with the help of some amazing videos how technology and process innovation is dramatically disrupting logistics and propelling online grocery into the future.

Continuing this theme in the new year, in January Harmony Kwawu of Waltham College and David D'Souza from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development got the audience up on their feet and fully involved in searching for answers to questions about the future impact of AI and software robots on society, asking whether AI and Software Robots are a force for good or a danger to job security and humanity.

The following month, February, in a popular talk on the 5G revolution, Paul Ceely from British Telecom explained the complications of the technology, the standardisation-led timeline and the potential for innovative applications arising from the next generation of mobile telecoms networks.

Artists have always exploited technology and computers provide a rich expressive medium. In March, in a joint meeting with the Computer Arts Society, Nick Lambert, Birkbeck, University of London, who is also Chair of the Society, opened our eyes to the way computers have been used to create things of beauty and to tell us about ourselves, our culture, creativity and society.

Nick Lambert, University of London

In another collaboration, this time with BCS Entrepreneurs and ELITE, and very appropriate for Science Week, in March, we engaged in a lively debate on whether we are ready for autonomous vehicles. Our high-powered panel was made up of Ajit Jaokar, Oxford University, who set the agenda for the evening, Claudio S. De Mutiis,, Maximillian Odendahl, Silexica, Grahame Bennett, Royal Mail and Charlie Henderson, PA Consulting Group

In the light of impending new privacy regulations (GDPR), we experienced another engaging format in April when Jeremy Kajendran, EY, invited the audience to direct the agenda of his energetic examination of the principles behind ‘privacy by design’ and how they might be positively demonstrated to have been used.

Finally, in May Rob Shapland, First Base Technologies, described to our open-mouthed amazement some of the wiles of ethical hacking, which, we learned, involves tricking his way past the security defences of some of the best protected companies before helping them understand what more they should be doing.

The Branch as a Community

Our Open Meetings are not just great professional development and a way to engage with important issues, they are also a wonderful way to network with other professionals. Each month I greatly enjoy seeing fellow professionals discussing the topic of the meeting, getting to know each other as a community, and enjoying the excellent food and drink provided by the staff at Southampton Street.

Student Prize Giving

Each year in September we organise a prize-giving for top students from eleven London Universities. At the beginning of the Branch’s year (September 2017), Mr Paul Martynenko, BCS President, presented the prizes. It is always a pleasure to attend this and to meet the inspiring next generation of technologists. The prizes are given for varied and universally impressive reasons provided by their Universities.

Michael Khong’s organisation meant it all ran very smoothly. Thank you Michael.

London University Student Prize Giving

Other Events

We continue to offer a greatly valued free online workshop about finding a new job, CV best practice; effective LinkedIn profiles; letters of application networking and interviewing.

We secured a discount for Central London Branch members attending a stimulating and well-attended series of two AI & Robotics discussion days, and for a GDPR conference.

Thanks and Recognition

Being a Committee Member is a significant commitment. I am sure you will join me in wanting the recognise the Committee’s work in organising the Programme and other events and to thank all last year’s Committee members for their time, their dedication and attendance at meetings after work.

The Secretary’s role is a vital one in managing the Branch’s affairs and procedures. Thank you, Sebnem, for your greatly valued contribution to the work of the Branch over the last two years.

The Treasurer role is equally important in helping us plan our finances and ensuring a proper account is maintained. Thank you, Alan, for your unerring efficiency over the several years you have served the Branch.

On behalf of the Branch and personally I’d like to thank retiring committee members. Funmi Adeusi contributed hugely to the Branch over many years as a highly effective secretary and chair, as well as fulfilling many other roles. Michael Khong liaised with London universities to make Student Prizes a successful event. And Shakeeb Niazi’s energy and drive connected us with BCS Entrepreneurs.

Last but not least, the staff at Southampton Street and in BCS HQ, especially Kerry Wear, are unfailingly helpful and supportive, for which we are always grateful.

Simon Jewell  MBCS CITP
11 October 2018