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CivTech 3.0 Launches to Help Solve Scotland’s Public Sector Challenges

Duncan MacRae


Derek MacKay at CivTech

CivTech poses a number of challenges in order to encourage students and technology professionals to work together in an effort to solve public sector problems.

The third round of the Scottish Government’s CivTech digital accelerator programme was launched yesterday.

CivTech sets a series of challenges to solve public sector problems and ran as a pilot in 2016, with a second round in 2017.

Each challenge has a different public sector sponsor, which sets an open question that it is keen to find a solution to, instead of following the normal procurement process for a specific product.

This year, the challenges set by CivTech 3.0 included finding a solution to trade in stolen or fake goods, sponsored by the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group; how technology can improve understanding of the investment requirements of public buildings, sponsored by Stirling Council; and how to collect data ethically and use it to improve public transport, sponsored by Glasgow City Council.

In addition, the Scottish Housing Regulator was looking for suggestions for how data can be used to empower tenants of social rented housing, while SNH wanted input into how technology can enhance engagement with the natural environment.

Derek Mackay Finance Secretary, who was at the CivTech 3.0 launch, said the project brings “a transformative focus on different ways of working” to the public sector.

Challenge 1: How can tech help stop illicit trading?
Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group

Scotland has an issue with the widespread sale of illicit products. These include everything from unregulated, counterfeit and dangerous products such as footwear, aircraft parts, cosmetics and foodstuffs. It is not a problem for Scotland alone – 5% of all imported goods to the EU are counterfeit – indeed the production and sale of illicit goods is an issue worldwide.

The problems caused by illicit trade are numerous. Consumers are often unaware that they are buying these products, and the repercussions these transactions can have on themselves and their communities. Illicit products often fail to meet health and safety standards, with significant personal safety risks to the user. Much of revenue generated from illicit trade funds further criminal activity, for example – cigarette smuggling contributes about 20% of terrorist funds worldwide.

Police Scotland, Trading Standards Scotland, HMRC and the Scottish Anti Illicit Trade Group have identified that they, as partners, would like to investigate solutions that can analyse data and identify and/or predict illicit trading at a local community level. This might take the form of any data approach, or combination of approaches, but we believe it should not be a ‘surveillance society’. The key output of this challenge will be a solution that can do this, with its insights being used to educate communities on the dangers of illicit trade, what can they do to mitigate against it, and ultimately to support and enable law enforcement to prevent criminal activity.

So, can tech help stop illicit trade?

Challenge team: Get Market Fit

Get Market Fit is a team of highly experienced data professionals, each with a track record in getting innovative products to market. Entrepreneur and founder Vicky Brock was named Scotland’s Most Inspiring Business Person at the 2017 Entrepreneurial Scotland Awards, is a Women’s Enterprise Scotland Ambassador and sits on the Board of several non-profits, including Open Knowledge International. Alan Murray is highly experienced in developing new solutions and has built highly successful multiple businesses by harnessing the power of data and translating it into actionable intelligence. A Saltire Fellow, Stephen Budd has a track record creating innovative data-driven products.

Their solution
Get Market Fit will develop a data-driven early warning system that identifies patterns and anomalies around fake goods, and triggers messages that highlight the likely risks and impacts in order to help consumers make more informed choices. Our data capture tool and associated database and data models enable us to score the likelihood of a product/seller being fake, express relatable consumer ‘pain’ associated with it, and trigger appropriate messages to the end consumer so they can make informed choices.

Challenge 2: How can we better connect people and places through public transport to address social isolation?
Challenge Sponsor: Glasgow City Council

There is an opportunity to exploit public transport in Glasgow and use it as a key enabler for inclusive growth in the city. It can do this by improving access to services, learning opportunities and employment for all our citizens.

The Glasgow Community Plan identifies improvements to public transport as a major priority, including access to transport [cost, availability, frequency, location], accessibility and organisational planning. To make improvements, we need to understand how and where people travel in the city.

Challenge team: Mydex CIC

Mydex is a Community Interest Company, a social enterprise and zero-knowledge platform, working to improve outcomes for individuals and organisations alike. When Mydex was established in 2007, its founders decided that the personal data store service it operates would be free to individuals for life, that the data had to be under their control, and that Mydex had to be self-sustaining and protect its core values. These prerequisites guided the evolution of Mydex and remain true today. Security, transparency and control are the foundations of trust, and the way we are set up makes us a uniquely trustworthy platform.

Their solution
Our solution will enable organisations to better engage with citizens such as travellers to augment data that can be collected automatically, with full GDPR compliance. It will enable organisations to understand how the decisions they make – for example about public transport – affect policy agendas such as social isolation and inclusive growth. It addresses challenges in data capture and use by co-designing web-based apps with citizens, and placing the resulting datasets in personal data stores under citizens’ control. This provides citizens with a further benefit in that they can ‘collect once and share many times’ – removing friction, effort, risk and cost.

Challenge 3: How can technology help us improve services by better understanding investment requirements for our public buildings?
Challenge Sponsor: Stirling Council

Stirling Council owns and operates a huge range of public facilities and capital assets, including schools, libraries, offices, infrastructure and social housing. However the scope and profile of our assets, how they are managed and who they are managed by, makes them difficult to track as a single entity and restricts visibility of the total cost to manage and maintain. Some of the newer buildings might have BIM [building information management] systems but the vast majority do not, which means much of the information we have rests uncoordinated and disjointed in inefficient systems. We are by no means alone in having this issue.

We’d like to change things! We’d like to develop a solution that gives us a better understanding of our capital assets, and gathers data to help us design better services, processes and procedures. We want to understand our requirements for repairs, maintenance and property investment, and be able to calculate true costs.

We’d like to pro-actively engage with buildings when trends flag up issues or problems, uncover potential improvements, some of which may not be obvious, and be in a position to recognise new opportunities. In short, we’d like to harness the power of innovation so we can deliver better services, and save money, which can be reinvested to improve the lives of everyone who lives and works in – and visits – Stirling.

Challenge team: homelync

At homelync, we’re revolutionising how technology is used in social housing. Our Internet of Things integration platform enables social housing landlords to radically transform how they deliver services and how people interact with their home. We’re a values-driven company that exists to improve people’s lives and the environment, starting with those who could benefit the most but are sometimes the last to access it. homelync enables social landlords to access the latest connected technologies to reduce costs, improve services, save tenants money, reduce fuel poverty, and improve their environmental footprint.

Their solution
homelync is partnering with leading manufacturers to provide best-in-class sensors to create a stream of live data from properties. homelync has developed an Internet of Things Access Point that includes industry leading security, environmental sensors and cellular connectivity. The data across thousands of homes can then be simplified, prioritised and analysed to provide the landlord with actionable insight, enabling a proactive approach to property management and customer engagement. The potential benefits are groundbreaking and widespread.

Challenge 4: How can we use data to drive up standards in social rented housing?
Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Housing Regulator

Social housing tenants’ choice is constrained. They can’t easily choose to change their landlord the way that consumers can with other service providers. So we want to empower tenants and maximise their consumer power in other ways. Our data can help to do that, by enabling tenants to ask questions, and supporting meaningful dialogue between tenants and landlords about the services they get for the rent they pay. Improved, affordable landlord services will improve people’s lives.

We hold a huge amount of data about landlords’ services, rents and costs. This challenge is focused on unleashing the potential of this data, by presenting it in useful ways which can be easily accessed by tenants. We’re looking for consumer-facing proposals that aim to find innovative approaches to data, have the potential to support the landlord-tenant dynamic and that strongly support consumer empowerment.

So, how can we use data to empower tenants of social rented housing and drive improvements?

Challenge team: Active Information Design
Active Information Design is a software development company that thinks outside of the box. We build robust and affordable solutions to complex problems faced by today’s businesses. With 25 years of experience building software applications from design and architecture through to reliable, highly available hosting solutions, Active Information Design covers all the bases.

Their solution
The Challenge presented was to allow the tenants of social landlords to access and utilise the data that the Scottish Housing Regulator holds. The simplest method of accessing that data is through native language: we are building a conversational user interface that interacts with the data and answers and informs the tenants with the information they are looking for, and maybe something they weren’t when they started chatting as the conversation progresses. Combined with user-friendly graphically-visualised reports, this solution will give tenants the information they need, enabling them to communicate effectively with their landlord.

Challenge 5: How can we use tech to enhance engagement with the outdoor environment in Scotland?
Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Natural Heritage

Spending time in nature has enormous benefits for health and wellbeing, educational attainment and personal development.

Mental health, inactivity, disaffection and loneliness are or are becoming major public health problems in Scotland and across the world. This problem is particularly acute in young people.

A powerful way of combating these problems can be found in the natural world: people who experience the outdoors, even for relatively short times, benefit hugely – especially when that experience has context and meaning. This ‘natural health service’ has never been so important, in that it can significantly reduce the pressure on the NHS, education and social services.

So how can we use tech to enhance the experience of the outdoors, in a way that will deliver its benefits to young people?

Challenge team: Oxido
Oxido are a user-focused software development and consultancy company based in Glasgow. We work across a variety of public and private sector clients, and our products and approach put the user at the heart of any project. We design around their needs and aspirations, before using the pick of current technology to deliver the best possible experience on behalf of our clients.

Their solution
Oxido are developing a scaleable set of experiences for users to connect with the natural environment on their doorstep and across Scotland, through their mobile phone.

We’re focusing on urban natural environments at first, with a keen eye on scaling those out to the wilder parts of the country after MVP. Working with schools and outdoor learning specialists, and ensuring that content and experiences are re-usable, we aim to enhance people’s engagement with the natural environment through compelling use of technology.

Challenge 6: How can we transform the re-use of products for NHS Scotland?
Challenge Sponsor: NHS NSS

NHS Scotland buys over £2b worth of goods and services each year. Whilst a large amount of this spend focuses on single use medical products and pharmaceuticals, NHS Scotland also buys a lot of products (including medical devices) which could be re-used, but current systems mean that they often end up of waste.

Medical devices such as blood pressure monitors, blood glucose machines and walking aids are often allocated to an individual and at the end of their ‘first life cycle’ are discarded as waste. These items could be remanufactured and tested allowing re-use through multiple life-cycles. It is estimated that over 50% of all items purchased may be suitable for remanufacture.

Key to this is a way to keep track of the assets and this does not currently exist. So the Challenge is centred on creating an efficient and robust system to monitor NHS resources from first deployment through to return, tracking them through the refurbishment processes so that they become fully compliant with NHS standards and ready for re-use.

This is a huge area to consider, and any MVP developed might only tackle one aspect of an eventual ‘big solution’. But the Challenge Sponsor is keen to explore how that big solution might look, including approaches to the tracking of assets, the use of refurbishment hubs, and even ways to recover used equipment from non-NHS locations.

How can we transform refurbishment hubs, and the re-use of products for NHS Scotland?

Challenge team: Ditto Sustainability

Our mission is to empower present and future generations with the knowledge to improve the environments in which we live and work. Using Artificial Intelligence we capture and harness expert knowledge to deliver cutting-edge learning, compliance and data management platforms. Our team have been working in sustainability for over 30 years, representing a combination of consultants, software developers, and industry experts. We’re passionate about driving forward a sustainable agenda across a wide range of topics, encompassing environmental, social and governance factors.

Our vision is to be the new standard in sustainability software, education and advisory services.

Their solution
Ditto’s software solution aims to reduce waste, encourage efficiency and extend the lifecycle of resources by embedding Circular Economy principles inside the NHS. The project involves the development of a discrete new application called ‘The Loop’, which will advise users on how best to manage items throughout their differing lifecycles. This is achieved through the utilisation of our patented AI process to passively analyse existing data structures and provide automated best practice advice based on expert knowledge.

Challenge 7: How can we make the NHS waiting time system more efficient and effective?
Challenge Sponsor: NHS NSS

The NHS in Scotland has important requirement to manage the demand and supply of treatment at a local, regional and national level effectively. As our population lives longer, often with increasingly complex health needs, that brings even greater demand on these finite services and an even greater need to manage them well. Matching available health service capacity to demand is a long-recognised challenge that affects health boards in Scotland. The management of these processes is manual, and has remained unchanged for many years.

Solving this challenge is not simply about replacing current processes. We want to engage a company that can modernise, automate and optimise demand management for hospital services. We need a team that can bring a completely new point of view to the problem and bring a product or technologies with the potential to scale across Scotland.

Success will see NHS resources better used as time is saved, as well as a better experience for patients and staff. The overall benefits are expected to include reducing the time patients wait for appointments, reduction in overheads for hospital administration and more efficient use of the resources available.

Challenge team: COHESION
COHESION is a young award-winning technology company based in Glasgow offering leading-edge connected digital health solutions to global healthcare and life sciences. Our scalable integrated care solution captures and connects health data to generate real-world real-time data insights to assist patient self-management, increase workflow efficiency, improve service quality, manage population health and accelerate new research opportunities. COHESION has an experienced team of eight staff with specialist knowledge in healthcare technology, systems engineering, data modelling, software development and UX design, as well as commercial track records selling into the NHS and international healthcare and life science markets.

Their solution
The aim of this Challenge is to reduce NHS Scotland waiting times by making the system more efficient and effective. COHESION will develop a connected data-driven system with embedded artificial intelligence to reduce demand through improved patient self-management, while increasing service capacity through a more optimised use of healthcare resources [information, beds, rooms, equipment, staff]. This system will reduce delays and bottlenecks by streamlining processes and workflows while generating real-time data analytics with live data views. This generic system offers wide functionality, is scaleable to national levels, and is applicable across many services.

Challenge 8: How can we improve the monitoring of staff satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing?
Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Digital Directorate

The use of digital technology to improve the speed and effectiveness with which leaders can assess and take timely action to improve the motivation and engagement of their teams.

Staff engagement is a key performance of the Scottish Government, and of most organisations given the long established relationship between staff satisfaction and customer satisfaction. We want and value a happy and motivated staff which have a clear understanding of how their work contributes to the Scottish Government’s objectives.

Every year we undertake a detailed staff survey which allows us to measure staff attitudes to issues such as the direction of the organisation is taking; how valued they feel. Whether they have experienced bullying or discrimination and the quality of the training and working environment we provide. We analyse the results and our managers take action to improve our performance. It’s a core part of how we expect people to lead the organisation and a critical determinant of our success.

But we want to do more. We want to have insight of how these metrics evolve on a real time basis so we can be quicker to react to potential issues. To ensure that satisfaction and wellbeing levels never drop, keeping everyone motivated to deliver the services our citizens deserve.

Can tech help us improve the monitoring of staff satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing?

Challenge team: Trickle Data Insight
Passionate about putting people first, the team behind Trickle have developed a simple tool with a smart twist, bringing day-to-day, bottom-up improvement to the heart of organisations. Using a drip feed of suggestions, feedback and problems, Trickle’s data-driven approach pinpoints key emerging issues and enables early engagement and action.

It’s a step on from standard monitoring and survey tools: more inclusive, more transparent and more agile, building a people-centric culture that is essential in retaining and attracting top talent.

Their solution
Trickle will collaborate with the Scottish Government to extend our existing product beyond engagement into wellbeing, to surface the top issues to tackle, and to break down the barriers people can face when reaching out for help.

The Scottish Government acknowledges the importance of staff satisfaction in delivering its objectives. Trickle will help build a more inclusive, transparent and agile team.

Challenge 9: How can we use technology and data to improve the reach and quality of public engagement in the planning system?
Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Digital Planning

Scotland is determined to create a world leading digital planning system. The current system is in need of development to take advantage of all the advances in technology over the past decade. People care deeply about their communities and their local streets, spaces and places. However there is fairly limited demographic that engages with planning and the important decisions that affect communities. This Challenge is focused on supporting engagement, particularly at the early stage when local plans are being developed and there is the greatest opportunity to influence the outcome of the process. This way we can help to ensure places meet the needs and aspirations of the communities and citizens who will live and work in or visit them. Solving this will make the entire process more democratic and enable communities to genuinely shape the future of their places. There’s the opportunity to enhance understanding of the planning process, and encourage collaboration from the outset. So any potential solution will need to help communities and the individuals in them assess the impact of changes on local facilities and infrastructure, and provide a way for them to express their views and vision.

So, how can we use technology and data to improve the reach and quality of public engagement in the planning system?

Challenge team: The Future Fox
We are a transport technology startup with social impact. Our mission is to accelerate the development of smart, sustainable and people-focused cities. We want to solve transport infrastructure challenges faster, to improve the lives of millions of citizens within a generation. The way cities are developed can be changed. The way urban infrastructure is created can be turned into a collaborative process where everyone is able to contribute, right from the start. We want to give people the ability to influence change before change simply happens to them.

Their solution
PlaceBuilder is a digital tool that helps ordinary people engage meaningfully about future development in their area. It crowdsources scheme proposals from communities, and provides a neutral trial environment with key local data, in a novel application of co-creation.

It’s a web app that guides people from a problem or opportunity that they are concerned about, to a realistic solution that they can propose or support. Key local data – like housing numbers or changes to traffic – are presented through interactive graphs to the user, who can then test the technical and socioeconomic impact of possible solutions in a visually engaging and personalised way.

Challenge 10: How can tech help young people manage their digital footprint?
Challenge Sponsor: YoungScot

5Rights is a UK-wide initiative aimed to enable young people to access the digital world creatively, knowledgeably and fearlessly. Based on the rights already enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, its five core principles aim to ensure the rights that young people are already entitled to offline are also realised online:

The right to remove: to easily edit or delete online content they have created, and access simple and effective ways to dispute online content about them.
The right to know: to know who holds and profits from their information, what their information is being used for, and whether it is being copied, sold or traded.
The right to safety and support: to be confident they will be protected from illegal practices, and supported if confronted by troubling and upsetting scenarios online.
The right to informed and conscious use: to engage online but also to disengage at will and not have their attention held unknowingly.
The right to digital literacy: to be taught the appropriate skills to use and critique digital technologies and be confident in managing new social norms.
This challenge will focus on the Youth Commission’s recommendation 5.1 around cyber resilience, with a strong emphasis on their right to remove: ‘We call for a centralised point online for young people to review their digital footprints – using the data that we have already shared constructively and positively.’

Challenge team: Diddo Ltd
Diddo is an innovative Edinburgh-based software company founded in 2016 by directors with a wealth of experience in the military, security and government areas. Diddo will be working with the Youth Leaders from the 5 rights Leadership Group, to co-design an app which puts Young people in control of their data.

Their solution
The solution will allow young people to understand what data about them is held and exposed by social media and other platforms they subscribe to, but it will also put users in control of that data supporting them to remove, report and manage their privacy settings.

It is being developed from technology which Diddo has developed to protect businesses and corporations from cyber-attacks, and the co-development of this solution with Youth Leaders and young people will be key to ensuring Diddo delivers a solution which makes a real impact on the 5 Rights Agenda, and the young people of Scotland.

Challenge 11: Starting the Mental Health Conversation
Challenge Sponsors: NHS NSS, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Stirling Council

The world for young people is very different from the one most of their parents knew. The huge influences of technology, mainstream and social media, online and offline are just a few of the highly complex areas these people have to navigate while growing up.

It’s against this background that mental wellbeing is increasingly being highlighted as a key issue. Mental health challenges vary greatly from individual to individual and can affect relationships with friends and family, impact on achievement in every aspect of life including school and work, and can lead to serious problems, physical harm, and even suicide.

But addressing mental health difficulties is not an easy thing to do. While there are well established routes to access help, they are not automatically well known. And while there’s a lot of information online, many young people report feeling overwhelmed and confused by the information and the different types of advice. The subject can be difficult for young people to talk about. It can also be difficult for them to understand how they are feeling, and the stigma around such difficulties can affect how people feel about asking for help or advice.

So this CivTech Wildcard Challenge is asking you to consider how we cut through some of the complexity for young people in a highly personalised way and with the right kind of information, tools, support and guidance, so that each young person can know where to start the conversation about mental health, or help their friends and family do the same.

This Challenge is not about reducing or replacing any existing mental health support services for young people. Nor is it intended to be an awareness campaign. Instead, we want to see new innovative ways that technology can empower conversations about mental health by making things highly personalised, easy to navigate and truly accessible.

So how do we help young people access the support they need, when they need it?

Challenge team: Voxsio
Voxsio’s Conversational Search tool uses artificial intelligence to help people get personalised answers to complex questions. It turns each search into a conversation that delivers personalised results by understanding the question and the individual’s context, then connecting them the right answer. Just like a librarian does, when they help you find the right title for you in a library full of books. Following their successful participation in CivTech 2.0, Voxsio are currently working with the Scottish Government and Stirling, and have just been invited to take part in the Wayra and University of Edinburgh AI and Blockchain Accelerator.

Their solution
The majority of young people will face difficulties as they grow up: it’s a given. Most are healthy, despite these highs and lows. Yet accessing information about the mental health and wellbeing is often difficult. Voxsio will use conversational AI to provide assisted access to information and services about mental-health and wellbeing. Our product will create conversations that help young people, their friends, family and teachers access the personalised information and support they need. It’ll provide signposting and referrals to additional services and advice. And it’ll explore how conversational AI can provide on-going proactive support that helps young people monitor and maintain their mental wellbeing

Duncan MacRae


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