Huawei Leading The Way

One clear sign that the world economy is moving eastwards: Huawei…

Founded in the late 1980s as a telecommunications company, Huawei moved into smartphones in the late 2000s. By targeting the lower end of the global market, the company has acquired an 8.3% market share, coming in third behind Apple and Samsung. In the first quarter of 2016, it sold 10 million more units than the year before, as Apple saw decreasing sales.

And the secret to that success?

…some 80,000 employees have a direct stake in the company, receiving stock and dividends. Employees can get a greater stake for hard work, as long as they contribute to the company’s success. In a rare act of entrepreneurial charity, founder Ren Zhengfei has retained only 1.4% of his company.

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How NOT to Get Businesses Building

Much has been said of the Tories’ poor record in public services, but far too little on their business policy. A closer look at infrastructure suggests that Osborne and co. had little to no understanding of how business works:

Hoping to encourage more investment, the government launched two flagship programmes in the early 2010s: the Pensions Infrastructure Platform and UK Guarantees Scheme. Both have failed to meet their targets.

Each of these schemes illustrates precisely why the UK has failed to attract sufficient private sector investment. The Pensions Infrastructure Platform –  a scheme designed to pool the resources of UK pension funds in order to reduce the risk any individual fund takes on – has become the latest in a long line of ‘market reforms’ ignorant of the old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. When investors do want to invest in infrastructure – as in Australia and Canada – they will find their own means to spread risk and pool resources. The government does not need to do this for them.

Closer to solving the problem is the UK Guarantees Scheme, which insures investors against the enormous risks they take on when building new railway lines and power stations. Inadvertently, however, it neuters the central benefit that private investment brings. By preventing the full transfer of construction risk, private investors lose the incentive to deliver on time and to budget. The government might as well fund the building itself.

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Technology Won’t Save the NHS

Chief digital disruptor Google is now sticking its teeth into healthcare:

This week, the Royal Free London Foundation Trust signed a five-year deal with Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence unit, to continue the development of a real-time patient data tracking app. The app promises to drastically reduce the time it takes for doctors to respond to patient illnesses in hospital, saving thousands of lives.

While digital technology has the potential to transform healthcare for the better, there are significant organisational challenges to overcome first.

Exciting though all of this is, technology has a troubled relationships with healthcare. Big IT cockups under New Labour suggest that government should focus on organisational change before it jumps heart and soul into AI

Government should ensure common digital standards are used across the NHS, as the Government Digital Service did with GOV.UK. This could involve building them from scratch, but our research suggests that this should only be done where the market does not provide adequate alternatives. Instead, government should procure technologies which are compatible with IT systems across the 10,000 organisations of the NHS. It should aim to buy single technological solutions and use them everywhere.

Finish the article on Institute for Government

Female Prime Minister, Male Advisers

For those of you who think Theresa May stands for women: government special advisers are now more likely to be male and earn, on average, more than under David Cameron:

The proportion of female special advisers has declined significantly

The number of women employed as special advisers has decreased since Theresa May took office. Between 2010 and 2015, the proportion of female spads hovered around 35-40%, hitting 38% in December 2015. In December 2016, this number had fallen to 28%, the steepest decline since 2010. The decline in female spads is most pronounced in the Prime Minister’s Office. In 2015, 44% of the Prime Minister’s spads were women; in 2016 this fell to 28%.

Finish the article on Institute for Government.

Working Classes: Forgotten Again

Fast Stream applications rising but representation of the working class remains woefully poor. What is particularly striking is that the representation of non-Oxbridge students, ethnic minorities, disabled people and women has improved markedly since the year 2000. The working classes, it seems, have been forgotten:

Ethnic minorities, non-Oxbridge and working class backgrounds are less likely to be appointed to the Fast Stream.

Balance of applications and appointments

In terms of the diversity of applicants and appointees:

  • Gender: The ratio of men to women has fluctuated around 50:50 since the early 2000s, though women were slightly less likely to be appointed in 2015.
  • Disability: Historically, the Fast Stream represents disabilities well – 9.4% of applicants and 9.6% of appointees had a disability in 2015, but the ratio has been declining since 2011 when 4.7% of applicants and 14.7% of appointees were disabled.
  • Ethnic minorities: The Fast Stream has work to do. In 2015, 21% of candidates but only 15% of appointments were ethnic minorities.
  • University: In 2015, candidates with a degree from Oxford or Cambridge made up 9% of applicants but received 20% of appointments. This has improved since 1998 when 10% of applications and 35% of appointments were Oxbridge.
  • Socio-economic background: The Fast Stream performs worst on access for candidates from a lower socio-economic (working class) background: in 2015, only 7% of applicants and 4% of appointees had parents who worked in routine or manual work, compared with 70% and 80% for those whose parents worked in senior managerial, administrative or professional occupations. Following the Bridge Report in February 2016, the government committed to improving socio-economic representation, which led to the introduction of a new situational judgement test in the autumn 2016 application process. It is hoped that poor and ethnic minority applicants will benefit from this.

Finish the article on the Institute for Government

My very first post

So this is my first post. Finally, an opportunity to give something back to the world. Or is it just another chance to caress my ego?

I can understand why you might believe the latter. The internet is quite literally drowning in blogs these days. You can find blogs on current affairs, currency fairs, apples and pears, under the stairs …and even this. Seriously, wtf?

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: I invented this entire list before even checking that the blogs exist! But this is hardly surprising. There are hundreds of millions of blogs in existence, each putting out content all the time. On Tumblr alone there are some 300 million of them. WordPress (home of this blog) claims 53 million new posts every month and 21 billion independent page views. These are crazy figures, numbers reserved usually for national GDP and other Important Things. Then there is social media. Almost a third of the entire human population are active social media users at a time when over a third – some 2.7 billion individuals – survive on less than $2 per day. After a day of distracted trawling through Facebook and the blogosphere, I have to wonder whether any of this vast media output has any value at all?

As far as I can tell, this whole conundrum is just another reflection of our hyper-mediated society. Our access to media of any kind – printed, typed, recorded, filmed – has exploded in the last decade as a result of the rapid global expansion of the internet, now accessible wherever, whenever and however you might want. We ordinary folk were once passive consumers of the formulaic mainstream newsreel, glued to our TV screens in a self-induced coma of BBC News at Ten and Ian Hislop talking about trains. We read our Murdoch press and caught up with the weather after the news had finished. Things are truly different now. Ordinary folk can now become extraordinary; elevated to idol status for the quality of their output. They can even rake in 1 million views for describing their favourite drink. Who needs Murdoch anymore?

In principle, this should be a good thing. The mainstream media has always been monopolised by a select group of opinion-shapers – those with expertise sure, but also an axe to grind and a keen eye for exploitative commercial opportunity. The phone hacking scandal is just the most recent iteration of this condition. This is bad for democracy and for diversity of thought, both of which should be substantially strengthened by the new wave of digital media. When everyone publishes and no-one listens, opinions are harder to shape, marketing slogans skid off the slick reviews of Youtube ‘vloggers’ and the informed nods of their vast audiences. Diversity and authenticity abound.

But the flipside is abundantly clear. When one hundred million people are spilling the contents of their minds out on paper at the rate your drunk uncle burns through scratch cards you can bet your life that anything and everything has already been said. Oddly, this reminds me of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In one brilliant scene, the latest space gizmo – an ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’ – causes a bunch of monkeys to spontaneously appear with scripts of Hamlet that they had managed to string together from unintelligent key-bashing. What are the odds? Well, technically speaking, if you try something in large enough numbers for a long enough period of time, it is bound to happen. That, ladies and gentlemen, is where we are now. We might have only had the internet for 20 years, and used it widely for considerably less, but we still find ourselves adrift somewhere in an infinite mess of improbable nonsense, celebrity gossip and ugly Renaissance babies.

People, we are the monkeys.

So what can this very ordinary monkey contribute to an already overcrowded space? Let me think… I am a history graduate, so I could offer a historical take on the events of today. I work in marketing, so maybe I should offer ‘thought leadership’ and ‘best practice’ to help marketers at their jobs. Oh the buzzwords (synergy anyone?). But, in truth, I don’t really know enough about either to add anything valuable to the rather portly waistline of Mr. Blogosphere.

Perhaps, then, I should embrace my inner layman and reject the pretence to offer anything different or enlightening. I should ‘get with the times’. As Trump and Boris have shown on both sides of the Atlantic, we now live in a post-factual world where evidence is ignorance and expertise is impotence. Why offer new ideas when you can recycle those of greater people before you? Why tell an unpalatable truth when you can tell a ‘white’ lie? In fact, why tell any truth when you can always (and I really do mean always) lie? There is simply no need to offer anything original, accurate or faithful when the rewards for doing the opposite are so high.

So it is decided, I will not and cannot give you expertise. But I will give you humour, interesting ideas (partly substantiated) and the odd ironic reflection on blogging. If that sounds like your kind of thing, then read on. If it does not, turn back. Everything that lies before you is straight out of the horse’s arse.