BCS Voices - Making your voice heard

July 2017

Man talkingA round-up of the best debates and observations about technology’s role in modern life, taken from the BCS Voices website. Check out the site and have your say too.

BCS Voices was created to give members a place to discuss the challenges and the opportunities that affect the IT industry. The forum is divided into four categories - health and care; education; personal data; and capability - these being, of course, the challenge areas that BCS is focussing on as part of its mandate to make IT good for society.

You can contribute to existing debates by visiting: www.voices.bcs.org. Or you can start a conversation of your own. This can be as simple as posting up a thought you think needs exploring or organising a coffee table debate and capturing the whole exchange so that other members can enjoy your insights.

To help you prompt, produce and promote your BCS Voices Conversation we’ve produced lots of free resources. You can find them here: www.bcs.org/voices-toolkit. They include templates, posters and social media resources.

Health and care

The health and care conversation channel on the BCS Voices website has seen a lot of activity with members starting, and contributing to, several different areas of debate.

One of the most widely viewed and commented upon was a conversation that centred on how technology is changing our GP consultations. Do you feel that your GP is somehow more interested in their computer than you? Or, do you feel that technology is freeing up GPs’ time and allowing them to make more effective use of their precious time? Is technology, in short, having a negative influence on the time you spend with your doctor? To further explore the debate, BCS commissioned a date-based infographic.

Twenty seven per cent of respondents agree strongly that technology wasn’t contributing positively to consultations. Thirteen per cent of people agreed. Taking an opposite position, at the time of writing, 47 per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement. Going further, 13 per cent of those who cast a vote disagreed strongly with the idea that technology was a negative influence in the surgery.

Mario John Carlo Brown - a retired GP - lamented the lack of personalisation that GP software systems appear to afford. ‘Electronic records seem to me to have a “one size fits all” design philosophy,’ he wrote on the BCS Voices website. ‘There is no place for a square peg in any of these round holes no matter even if they are ever-so technologically advanced... I trained in the days when a doctor gained respect and trust by learning about, and respecting, the individuality of each patient. There was no need to get a page from Google to secure the trust of a patient.’ Trust, he says, needs to be earned and it’s earned through ‘the personal touch.’

Leonard Henry Graves wrote: ‘Technology will and does add significantly to doctor-patient consultation and outcomes when used alongside other well established and proven approaches.’

Paul Welsh explored the patient’s perspective, saying: ‘Technology is now an important and integral part of the medical service, but as presently configured there are issues that need addressing. When seeing my consultants they grumble that the system isn’t configured to suit their speciality...’

By contrast, Philip Kien Loon Lim moved away from the patient’s view and addressed the GP’s perspective. He offered the following observations: ‘If we are asking whether the IT system of choice is adequate eg: TPP SystmOne, EMIS Web, InPS Vision or Microtest Evolution, then perhaps we should be asking the GP’s for their feedback about this. The NHS clearly seems to think it is getting it right... However, now is a good time to be asking about GP systems of choice as the current GPSoC contract ends in December 2018.’

Focus on the debate

The BCS Voices debate focussing on whether people would be happy to share data with their GP has been running since December 2016. The main body of responses can be paraphrased and summed up as follows: yes, but with caveats surrounding privacy. Fraser Douglas Ellis recently wrote: ‘As someone with a chronic illness, I would share the data stored within my wearable technologies with my GP and consultant. However as someone who works in IT, I would have reservations about how the quality of data would be interpreted and have issues around data security between multiple devices.’

Are schools doing a good job?

Moving focus to schools and education, one Voices contributor asked: ‘Do you believe schools are doing a good job? Should industry do more to help? How can we ensure that UK IT flourishes as we withdraw from Europe and, potentially, from its skills market?’

The debate was based on a report from the Baker Dearing Educational Trust called: From school work to real work, How education fails students in the real world.

Russell Macleod Middleton was first to join the debate. He recalls the following: ‘Back in the two-thousands, I was a mature student at Stirling University, studying computing. Myself and other mature students asked the then head of the computing department if it would be possible to establish contact with commercial IT firms. His reply was if that was what we were looking for we should have gone to college. We felt a little disappointed.’

Mario John Carlo Brown took a firm stance, stating: ‘If you can predict the future of jobs and industry for the next 30 years and can teach for it, good go ahead, but don’t expect industry, with both eyes firmly on the end-of-year balance sheet, and using methods and machines designed years ago, to help to train for the future. Yes, we need a new approach to STEM in schools, but I don’t believe that more of Baker’s “Baker Days” and Thatcherite mantra will improve matters one iota.’

The right to be forgotten

In the personal data section of BCS Voices, contributor Scott Milne began a conversation with the title: Do companies really delete our data when we close an account? He wrote: ‘Do you trust that your personal data has been deleted when you close an online account?

The Information Commissioner’s Office does provide guidance on the matter, but it’s not always clear what an organisation’s policy is. Should organisations do more to bolster our trust in this area? What steps could they take, and what would be the benefits and drawbacks to consumers?’

Dave Donaghy took a pragmatic approach to the debate. He wrote: ‘If (companies) did, how would we know? For that matter, how would they know? What procedures could a CIO put in place to ensure that all data that needs to be deleted has been deleted?... (IT) would seem like a sensible starting point for establishing test criteria to verify that an individual’s data has been “put beyond use".

Is fake news easy to spot?

Elsewhere, fake news was debated. Stephen Paul Boronski thought he’d seen it all before - in tabloid headlines. When it came to protection ourselves, John Albert Mitchell wondered whether IBM’s Watson could be trained to sort the wheat from the chaff. Others suggested technical and social solutions to the problem.

Image: iStock.com/funstock

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