Tag Archives: technology

15 October 2018 – today’s press releases…

It’s been suggested quite often in these pages that the media coverage we get as a Party isn’t that great. And, often, it is suggested that we need to crank up our media operation. So, for one week, I’ll be publishing all of the press releases that Liberal Democrat Voice receives from HQ, honouring the embargos as they are advised.

Today’s press releases are;

Welsh Lib Dems Urge Health Boards to Monitor Loneliness

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have urged health boards across Wales to monitor the scale of loneliness in their areas and treat loneliness and isolation as a health issue following an …

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Mobile phones: do parents need to turn them off as much as their children?

Today whilst sitting in a local café I saw something vaguely disturbing – which I seem to see almost every day now. This may be rather an unusual subject for a blog, but I just had to sit down and write this piece. A parent had obviously just picked up his daughter from school – she was maybe five or six year’s old – and taken her out for a well-meaning treat. But after five minutes or so, I noticed her just staring out of the window. The father was on his mobile phone for almost the entire length of the time that I was there – at least twenty minutes, if not longer.

The child would intermittently try to get her father’s attention, saying look at this or that, but he would glance across at her with a quick smile and then carry on scrolling – and scrolling, not taking any meaningful interest in what she was saying. They were in my line of sight so I could not escape the whole thing. The little girl was trying so hard to engage with her father, but his attention was elsewhere. In the end I think she just gave up. Maybe he had something very important to sort out, it is not for me to judge, but I have seen this pattern of behaviour repeated many times – especially on train journeys. It is strange how we so often criticise children and adolescents for spending too much time on their phones, when their parents can be at least as culpable. Sometimes there are also safety implications; I have seen the parents of small children using their phones whilst crossing the road, with their young charges walking ahead unsupervised.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 25 Comments

We’re turning away skilled workers

6,000 skilled people were denied entry to the UK last year due to visa caps. The Campaign for Science and Engineering reported on a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office which showed that thousands of workers had been denied entry between December 2017 and March 2018.

The Government have refused over 6,000 applications for skilled overseas workers holding a job offer due to an arbitrary cap on visas, including engineers, tech professionals, doctors and teachers.

Many posts up and down the country are being left unfilled because overseas workers can’t get entry. …

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Vince Cable speech: break-up the big tech monopolies

In a speech in London this morning entitled ‘Taming the Tech Titans’, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable has called for stronger international and domestic regulation of big tech companies. You can watch the speech here.

He has criticised the effective monopolies enjoyed by the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, comparing their market dominance to that of big oil companies in the past, and suggests ways they can be broken up.

The speech also focussed on how start-ups and innovative small and medium-sized tech firms can thrive in a more competitive market.

The text released in advance of the speech has Vince arguing that

Data is the new oil. Data is the raw material which drives these firms and it is control of data which gives them an advantage over competitors. These companies have acquired their pivotal position by providing a service or platform through which data can be extracted, collected and used.

Just as Standard Oil once cornered 85% of the refined oil market, today Google drives 89% of internet search, 95% of young adults on the internet use a Facebook product, Amazon accounts for 75% of E-book sales, while Google and Apple combined provide 99% of mobile operating systems. “

National government and, even more so, supranational bodies like the EU can and should look to break up enterprises where size is detrimental to the economic wellbeing of the country, its citizens and its capacity for innovation.

There is a case for splitting Amazon into three separate businesses – one offering cloud computing, one acting as a general retailer and one offering a third-party marketplace. Other examples would be Facebook being forced to divest itself of Instagram and WhatsApp as a condition for operating in the EU, creating two new social media networks. Divesting Google of YouTube would be another.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Robots here and now

We are living in an increasingly automated, digitalised and interconnected world. I recently had the opportunity to tour an exhibit on automation, robotics, and future technology in Belgium.

  • There was a robot for feeding babies:

Not sure that I’d want this to be common-place. Bonding between parent/carer and child is ever so important. There is definitely a role for human contact in feeding a child.

  • A robot doll for reminding older people when to take medicines and eat. I can see the practical benefits here, but I would not wish a robot

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

Blocked

Imagine waking up one morning in the not so distant future. You reach for your phone and none of your apps work, you can’t access your email, all your social media accounts have been deleted.

You can’t get any money out at the bank because your facial recognition is not working and you have no way of hailing an autonomous taxi.

You find out you have no job because you can no longer access the app that gives you shifts on a flexible basis.

People on the street avoid you, they all know you have been blocked.

Maybe you criticised the big monopoly tech …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 22 Comments

Time to ditch Connect?

The party has used two systems for computer based campaigning. EARS, developed in the UK for UK elections and more recently Connect, which was developed for use in US and Canadian election systems. Some elections ago the party made a decision to start using Connect instead of EARS as its main computer tool for digital and on the ground campaigns. This was largely because at that time EARS had not been able to demonstrate that it could provide an internet based service of the sort the party wanted.

So there began an experiment with this USA based computer tool that promised much but often failed to deliver it. I know umpteen people who after many training sessions on this election software are no nearer being able to use it than when they started. There are a number of things that make Connect a failure.

  1. As it is web based, with no backups on computers in each constituency, when it crashes or when the servers go down, we’re stuffed. There is reason to believe that Connect going offline during recent General Elections cost us seats we might otherwise have held or won. There is nothing worse than losing all your data on polling day and that has happened more than once, often for several hours.
  2. You can’t actually get the data you want to deal with on screen in front of you in an easy readable format.
  3. The Connect system seems unable to cope with the requirement for stable walk orders and printing out canvass cards that bear any relation to what’s on the ground is, if not impossible, beyond the ability of many of its users.

Now to be fair, the one part of Connect that made many of us willing to persevere with it is Minivan. It really is superb to be able to canvass, knock up and take numbers on a tablet or a phone and for it to go straight onto the system. Even then that only works if you are connected to the system via phone or wifi.

The reality is that this software developed for the US and Canadian election systems has adapted poorly to the UK. However, in line with the oft-cited inability of politicians to admit mistakes, those who continue to push Connect, seem blind to the difficulties experienced on a daily basis by many who use it.

So much time and party money has been invested that there is a reluctance to look at any alternative

I would argue that the time has come to abandon Connect, because the EARS platform is now superior to it.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 28 Comments

LibLInk: Nick Clegg: This is the future – the unstoppable march of machines

Nick Clegg’s latest Standard column starts off by setting out a number of current problems. One is very different from the others:

There’s a lot to worry about these days: hard Brexit, Trump’s protectionism, Diego Costa’s future at Chelsea, Putin’s manoeuvres, conflict in the South China Sea, Boris Johnson’s next gaffe, climate change.

It’s another that he focuses on, though. What happens to people as their jobs are replaced by machines. He uses the self-driving truck as an example:

According to one recent report, truck driving and related jobs employ more people than any other job in 29 out of America’s 50 states. It is estimated that there are 8.7 million trucking-related jobs in the US. It is one of the few jobs that still attracts a fairly decent income — about $40,000 (£32,000) a year — without requiring higher academic qualifications. In other words, it’s a precious ingredient in the American Dream: a dependable job, accessible to everyone.

It is a question of when, not if, American highways will be crisscrossed by thousands of similar self-driving trucks. And what then for the millions of truck drivers, their families and their communities? An economic earthquake, that’s what, which could leave millions of people out of work.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , , and | 16 Comments

How will the Liberal Democrats prepare the UK for emergent technologies?

 

Let’s take a brief look at the list of things that are on my Letter to Santa:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Quantum computing
  • In-vitro meat and vertical farming
  • Mass-commercialised 3D printing
  • Transparent solar panels
  • Li-Fi and 5G
  • Male contraception
  • Autonomous cars and electric cars
  • And so, so much more…

Yeah, I’m a nightmare to buy presents for.

Some of these are already causing stirs in the legal world.

Just the other week there were reports of telecoms companies promising 5G sooner if the EU crippled net neutrality. That’s a fairly clear statement of their desire that we need to be prepared to stand up to. The Lib Dem stance on that should be obvious: we can wait if it means maintaining net neutrality.

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Liberalism GO

Last week the new mobile phone game Pokémon Go was launched in the UK (you can download it on Apple and Android devices) and it seems to have been a great hit. The point of the game is to explore the real world to find these little Pocket Monsters (“Pokémon”) which show up on your phone. In addition to this, there are numerous “Pokéstops” and gyms placed throughout the world which allow players to collect in-game items and compete against other players in battles to become the very best.

Now this might sound silly to you or not your cup of tea but here are a few ways in which it could help you (at least over the next month or two).

Posted in News | Also tagged | 1 Comment

How Lib Dems are using Pokemon Go

This week I succumbed, only for the sake of family bonding, to the latest craze sweeping the planet, or at least that part of it that can afford a mobile phone with enough 4G data to do it. Pokemon Go is, actually, a good thing. If it does nothing other than get the nerds some Vitamin D, it will have succeeded. It’s also a pretty social occupation. It’s great to see crowds of people gathering around landmarks actually talking to each other. The speed at which phrases like “I only have to walk another 5k to hatch my egg” have become normal is quite staggering.

Everyone seems to be doing it. Even the Lib Dem Press Office claimed to me that they were hunting Pokemon in a London car park when they found this:

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LibLink: David Boyle – The future? We’ve seen it all before

 

Over on the Guardian’s Comment is Free, former editor of Liberal Democrat News and Liberal Democrat blogger of the year, David Boyle, argues that technological change is slowing and we are increasingly re-embracing old “real” ways:

…we cling to the real world ever more tightly as the virtual world presses its claims, a phenomenon predicted by the American philosopher Robert Nozick. A growing minority of us may not shun tablets or ebooks (I write them, for goodness sake). We might even drink instant coffee sometimes. But we are determined that the unspun, unmanipulated and unmarketed shall not perish from this Earth. Even if we have to wait in line for a hissing coffee machine.

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Have you downloaded your Spring Conference app yet?

The new Liberal Democrat conference app is now available on both Google Play and Apple’s app store. The instructions for downloading it in the Conference agenda are not ever so clear as they don’t tell you what its called –  Lib Dem Spring Conf 2014.

If you have a Blackberry or a Windows phone, you need to go here.

I downloaded mine this morning with more than a little apprehension. You see, it’s never worked for me before. I have always had problems getting the “My Schedule” part of it to work. To me, that part is the whole point. …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 16 Comments

Opinion: Open standards: a liberal approach to technology

As we look at how we use technology to campaign as Liberal Democrats, we should consider the use of open standards.

Most people know something very basic about the World Wide Web – it was invented by Tim Berners-Lee. But the key to its success was not just the skill of its inventor; the standards behind the web were open, meaning that anybody could write a web server, web browser or web page. Dozens of programmes sprung up, all of them able to talk to each …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 17 Comments

Twitter, trolling and the law

Last week I took part in a discussion on Voice of Russia radio about the problem of abuse and threats on Twitter. We talked about questions such as what the law should allow and what Twitter’s terms and conditions should permit.

You can listen to the full discussion, in which I joined Vanessa Barnett, a partner at Charles Russell LLP, Carl Gardner, a former government lawyer who writes about law at Head of Legal blog, and Ian Cram, a Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law at Leeds University:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

One Canadian online political campaigning rule unlikely to make it to the UK

Canada’s CBC News reports:

A politician running to lead the B.C. New Democrats says he is refusing to comply with a requirement of leadership hopefuls to hand over the passwords to their social media accounts.

Nicholas Simons, an NDP MLA who’s hoping to run in the leadership race, says he’s left that information off his nomination package.

The party’s intent is to try to ensure there are no skeletons hidden in candidates’ private profiles.

As the report mentions, leaving aside the gauche politics of this, it’s also rather unwise to demand someone hands over passwords when it is a common feature of terms …

Posted in Online politics | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Calling Kindle owners (and would-be owners)

Posted in Site news | Also tagged , , and | 5 Comments

Lib Dem MPs on Twitter

I spent at least some time this weekend mentally upbraiding Iain Dale for his paranoia in thinking that technical faults that got in the way of a David Cameron interview with Andrew Marr stemmed from Labour supporting techies pulling the plug.  Cameron had apparently insisted on being interviewed from home because the week before, Gordon Brown had been interviewed from 10 Downing Street.  Iain tells us further the Beeb were none to happy with the arrangement but Cameron insisted.

So clearly, the only rational explanation was that peeved techies forced to do OB work on a Sunday combined with Aunty’s …

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