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The Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum

PICTFOR Newsletter – January/February 2021


PICTFOR would like to thank our industry members, parliamentary Vice-Chairs, our Co-Chairs, Treasurer and Industry Chair for all of your support throughout 2020 and your contributions to our agenda for the year ahead. During this extended period of lockdown, PICTFOR continues to operate as a forum for discussion between Parliamentarians, industry, academics and other stakeholders on strategic issues facing the tech sector and we are grateful for your continued interest and support.

As the largest and most active APPG, PICTFOR is finding innovative ways to continue providing a forum for the internet, communications and technology sectors and interested parliamentarians to communicate on pressing topics.

We will be keeping you and all our members updated on our activities in regular newsletters to further promote and engage with the tech sector during these unprecedented times.

Event Recap

In January, PICTFOR hosted our first event of the year, which focused on Skills and Scale-Up: How Can the UK Nurture More Unicorns?

The event discussed the role that tech businesses have played in the nation’s pandemic response and highlighted the need for greater tech literacy and skills as we emerge from the lockdown period.

We were delighted to hear from Small Business Minister, Paul Scully MP, Chair of the All-Party Group for Digital Skills, and Labour MP for Sunderland Central, Julie Elliott MP, Founder of Tech Unicorn Babylon Health, Dr Ali Parsa, and Principal Investigator at TechUP Women, Professor Sue Black OBE, who each provided their insights on the priorities of the UK following the rapid switch to virtual behaviours.

You can catch up on the event here.

Welcoming New Members

PICTFOR are always looking for new members to broaden the scope of our discussions and to add to the diverse range of thought leaders we are proud to have in our community.

It is a great pleasure to welcome  Annalect, Ciena, Carnegie UK Trust, Moneypenny, OpenUK, the University of Huddersfield, UCL STEaPP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy), Tech Against Terrorism and Virgin Media as new PICTFOR members.

Contact the secretariat here to discuss membership

Members Update

PICTFOR is proud to have a diverse range of thought leaders amongst our membership and relishes the opportunity to celebrate their work – please see below for an update from PICTFOR members:

– Access Partnership’s report,  presents their predictions for the top ten tech policy trends to expect in 2021, from Covid-19 resilience and recovery to social justice, OpenRAN and global antitrust. This year, businesses and governments will face tech policy issues that are both familiar and novel, including the need to de-risk supply chains, drive social justice agendas, accelerate decarbonisation, safeguard competition and insert more fairness into the relationship between those who create technology and those who need it.

– Amazon announced the creation of 1,000 new full-time apprentice opportunities for this year across the UK, last week.

“There will be 25 different programmes lasting between 14 months and 4 years available across the country, with schemes ranging from IT, HR, health & safety through to software engineering, finance to fashion buying and creative digital design. This number includes two broadcast production assistant roles (a first for Amazon) which we are very excited about.

We are proud that this builds on our previous commitment in 2019 to deliver 1,000 apprenticeship opportunities over 2 years, and our 2021 commitment also includes the creation of 100 degree-level apprenticeships, focused on automation engineering, finance, project management, software development and senior leadership. Our 2021 vacancies are now live and links on social media are here and our blog is here

– BCS’ response to CMA’s invitation to comment on proposed ARM acquisition;

“Our survey last year found that 70% of BCS members agreed that the government should intervene in the sale of ARM to US Chip maker, Nvidia.

Last week, we responded to a call for evidence from the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) on the proposed deal, using this evidence base and other sources to suggest the deal is anti-competitive. We also worked with ARM co-founder Dr Hermann Hauser, a Distinguished Fellow of BCS, and CEPIS, the representative body of national informatics associations throughout greater Europe​, to co-ordinate the response.

You can read our full submission under the ‘Tech and Society’ section of our past papers webpage”: https://www.bcs.org/policy-and-influence/past-papers-and-reports/

– BCS and Coding Black Females (CBF) announce inclusion partnership with a joint bursary:

“As a part of our commitment to make IT more inclusive and engage with a greater diversity of people, BCS and CBF announced a joint bursary which will see over 70 individual members of CBF provided with BCS membership, as well as a range of mentoring and other career development benefits. Black women make up less than 1% of IT Professionals. BCS data and analysis on their under-representation barriers to progress in the IT industry was highlighted in the Guardian.

Our partnership with The Voice, the UK’s leading black newspaper has resulted in a range of BCS experts from ethnic monitoring groups being highlighted, including our Awkward Conversation webinar featuring Prof Dorothy Monekosso, of Leeds Beckett University, Nzube Ufodike, Vice chair of BCS, London Central Branch, and Dr Ip-Shing Fan  Chair of BCS Bedford Branch.”

International data transfer (IDT) and data flow:
“According to Bloomberg, the UK now has six months to negotiate an adequacy agreement or decide its future arrangements for Keeping EU-U.K. Data Flowing. We are continuing to work with our members and the BCS Law Specialist Group on this issue of adequacy and the issues of data flow relating to the Schrems ll judgement and will continue to publish guidance papers such as this one as the situation develops.”

Talent and skills:
“BCS has developed a web resource in relation to the UK Government’s Plan for Jobs and has been clear that at least part of our response to the challenges posed by Covid-19is in reskilling the UK workforce towards digital technologies. Our Virtual Festival of Digital Skills featured key political figures from across the UK, including Skills Minister Gillian Keegan who said this area was the ‘rocket fuel’ that would power our revival.

As illustrated in a recent article by BCS Council member Dave Donaghy, we are clear that removing digital poverty and creating digital capital should be pillars of our economic and social recovery post Covid-19″

BT launched a new mentoring scheme for small businesses: BT and Digital Boost launch free mentoring programme for UK small businesses. and have been supporting -alongside a number of other businesses – Small Business Britain in their publication of the following report: Small-Business-Britain-How-To-Be-Resilient.pdf. Headline findings from the report include;

  • 79% of Small Businesses are confident that their business will survive in the next 12 months
  • 45% are confident that their business will grow in the next 12 months
  • 66% had their profit going down (37% by over 50%)
  • Businesses have adapted and pivoted their business model or way they run their business in response to the crisis:
    • 42% of small Businesses are using new digital sales channel (website, social media sale…)
    • 38% have taken new services to market
    • 34% have taken new products to market
    • 58% of businesses increased their or their staff’s digital skills
    • 89% of those that did increase their digital skills feel they will survive in the next 12 months
    • 57% of those that did increase their digital skills expect to grow this year

Gamma “There is no doubt that 2020 accelerated the adoption of cloud collaboration and communication tools in the Public Sector. If we consider the quick adoption of Microsoft Teams to 1.2 million NHS workers and numerous other examples, it’s clear that these tools are very useful, promote flexible working and are here to stay. In this white paper, we look at how organisations can utilise Microsoft Teams to enable voice telephony to and from the Public Switched Telephone Network” (PSTN): Giving Teams A Voice – Enabling Telephony for MS Teams

Jisc‘s CEO Paul Feldman, talks about the findings from the organisation’s Learning and Teaching Reimaginedproject, in this blog piece.

The collaborative project saw the organisation engaging with university sector leaders, staff and students over a five-month period to understand the sector’s response to COVID-19. Building on that work, Jisc collaborated again with the sector this month in order to try get government to take action on digital poverty . Jisc also submitted a thorough response to the Government’s National Data Strategy Consultation, reflecting on the opportunity presented to level up the use of data in UK education and research, and highlighting Jisc’s critical role in enabling the better use of data across these sectors. A copy of Jisc’s response is readable in full here, where Jisc particularly focusses on the importance of ensuring robust data standards for education and research, as well as calling for a renewed focus on interoperability and trust. Karen Foster, Jisc’s Executive Director for Data, writes about this opportunity to level up the use of data and innovation for our sectors presented by National Data Strategy, in a blog available here.

Philip Virgo, Co-Founder of PITCOM, now Convenor Norwood Community Safety Partnership – has the below update;

“I have just agreed to help Keith Rosser, chairman of Safer Jobs identify those interested in working together to help address the current employment fraud pandemic by sorting out the ability of UK residents to “prove” their right to work and study in the UK at the same time as addressing the employment/education fraud pandemic.

I will do so as an unpaid volunteer, motivated by seeing the grief of those heartlessly defrauded as they seek to get back to work and/or to acquire new skills.  My aim is to contribute what I learned during the twenty five years that I helped run PITCOM (as well as what have learned since watching the youngsters at work). My first aim is to help identify MPs who are looking for answers to give to those coming to them for help after they have been defrauded and Corporate members who are interested in working together to provide those answers. O dop not mind if the main aim of the latter is to reduce the risk of legislation and regulation that gets in the way of good business while failing to remove the risks posed by bad actors.

The UK has a jungle of pupil, student, social security, health, welfare, tax and other reference numbers which reference the qualifications, experience, right to study and/or right to work of individuals. The situation facilitates abuse, fraud and impersonation at every level. Some claim this makes the case for a common digital identity, perhaps akin to those behind the ID cards and Government issued identities of in other nations. But experience has shown that most are too easily falsified or impersonated to provide serious protection against criminal activity.

Last year I blogged on the need for the UK to address the fogging (false obtaining of genuine) of the credentials issued by HMG or required by Home Office and Financial Services Regulators to control money laundering or to establish the right to work in the UK, before it wasted more time on yet another digital identity policy.

Now have to move rapidly to prevent programmes to help millions of those whose education and employment have been disrupted or destroyed from being looted, (as were the individual learning accounts two decade ago) at the same time as applicants and employers are defrauded by those with fake claims and identities.

How do we join up the exercises now under way in ways that provide practical solutions?

For example, how do we help those looking to fill the many vacancies for medical and care staff avoid being scammed by those making false promises of jobs of training in order to collect their money or their personal details? The converse is helping those looking for qualified staff or suitable trainees check the claims of applicant and/or establish their right to work in the UK .

I have proposed a “simple” three step solution to help move toward a solution:

1) Identify the sources of information used by those currently offering identity and authentication services and those which could be used, but are not (and the reasons given).

2) Identify the obstacles, (security, privacy, commercial etc.) to cross referencing, information sharing and audit/cleansing with regard to the sources/services.

3) Identify those willing to work together to create cross-cutting identity arbitrage and information sharing processes that meet their needs (and those of their customers/partners/suppliers), bearing in mind that one-size will not fit all, and persuade politicians/regulators to help rather than hinder.

I should add that I have no wish to hear about yet another digital identity system (federated, encrypted, blockchain or other). The technology is easy (comparatively). It is the departmental, regulatory, professional and corporate empire building and rivalries that are difficult.  As they always were.”

techUK: Growing local tech sectors across the Nations and Regions:

Over the last year techUK convened virtual discussions with over 260 business and civic leaders across the UK. These discussions took us to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humberside and West Midlands regions of England. In all these discussions businesses and local leaders across the UK stressed the need to grow their local digital sectors to help with the economic recovery and achieve the Government’s levelling up agenda. From these discussions techUK has produced reports for each Nation and Region as well as a UK wide report detailing what local leaders themselves say is needed to help them grow. Our Local Digital Capital reports can be found here, and to support this ongoing work techUK has launched a new Nations and Regions hub. For further information please contact neil.ross@techuk.org.

– TikTok: A platform for expression and connection

In 2020 creativity and talent shone bright on TikTok. The community take to the platform to share their creativity and talent in the most original of ways and come together to support important causes around the world. We are all excited to see how TikTokers continue to inspire, entertain and educate in 2021, but for now here are some highlights:

  • Scottish postman, @nathanevanss’ life changed overnight when he posted a TikTok video of him singing the famous sea shanty The Wellerman. Viewed over 9 million times (and counting), he has brought the wonderful tradition of sea shanties to the TikTok community (and got a record deal!), sparking the first major trend of 2021 on TikTok!
  • The #isolationgames partnership with Team GB got the nation doing at-home triathlons and raising funds for the British Red Cross.
  • With schools across the country closed and children learning at home and online, our community of creators jumped into action through #LearnOnTikTok, creating an A-Z of educational content about everything under the sun – from upcyling to baking and engineering.
  • Theatre creatives recently made headlines as they collaborated on grassroots musical of Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille. The one-of-a-kind virtual permormance raised $1 million for actors. Bridgerton is next up. Meanwhile, in the UK, TikTok launched the Future Theatre Fund with the Evening Standard to help kickstart the careers of 12 emerging theatre talents.
  • Most recently, the community came together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. TikTok worked with Jewish NGOs in the UK, Jewish creators and public figures to introduce an educational hub about the Holocaust, featuring moving survivor stories from Lily Ebert BEM and her grandson, facts about Jewish life before the Holocaust, and ways to fight antisemitism. To support the initiative, TikTok also introduced a new safety feature which will see users searching for TikTok banned keywords associated with Holocaust denial be redirected to an educational hub.

The University of Huddersfield have produced research on the shifts in consumer behaviour regarding Public Service Broadcasting and ‘Routes to Content’

“In May 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we returned to these same participants to see how Covid-19 had affected their television viewing. You can access our report, exploring how people’s viewing behaviour had changed from summer 2019 to May 2020 here.

We found a significant shift in behaviour as on-demand viewing had become more widespread and habitual. Our report examines why this has happened and what the long-term implications might be. It includes recommendations for broadcasters and regulators.

For more information on this project, or to discuss the research findings, please contact Professor Catherine Johnson.

The project is led by Professor Catherine Johnson, working with Lauren Dempsey and Professor Matt Hills, as part of the research conducted within the Centre for Participatory Culture. The research team consulted with Ofcom to shape the direction of the Routes to Content research, but the design and analysis of the research was conducted independently at the University of Huddersfield.”



PICTFOR is proud to be the largest and most active APPG, and we have been proud to maintain this activity during these changing times. To discuss further engagement opportunities and event sponsorship, contact the secretariat on admin@pictfor.org.uk. 


Upcoming events programme be found here



Please note: This is not an official publication of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. It has not been approved by either House or its committees. All- Party Parliamentary Groups are informal groups of Members of both Houses with a common interest in particular issues. The views expressed in this report are those of the group.

If you would like further information on this topic or about PICTFOR’s programme of events, please get in touch!

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