This week, Ryan chats with Freddie Quek, CTO at Times Higher Education, about the latest developments in the #joiningthedots initiative to end digital poverty.
Listen to the previous episodes on joining the dots for digital inclusion:
If you are interested in getting involved or sharing information about existing programmes, contact Freddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/freddiequek.
For more information, following along at https://uk.linkedin.com/company/digitalinclusion.
Meet Our Guest
Freddie Quek is CTO at Times Higher Education, responsible for data-driven products and solutions such as the World Universities Rankings and SDG Impact Dashboard which provides insights into universities’ impact in delivering the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. He is a disruptive, networked and agile leader who thrives in challenging environments and focuses on achieving and celebrating team successes. He is highly experienced and a multiple award-winning global technology leader who has worked in Singapore, US and UK, across automotive, higher education, publishing, loyalty, insurance, travel and financial services industries. As a consequence of Covid-19, he is a Founding Member and ambassador for Project Global Impact, and started the #joiningthedots initiative to address #digitalinclusion for disadvantaged school children in the UK.
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Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works Podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In the series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines. The problems they're facing, how they solve them. The areas they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took. That'll help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.
Of you Hi, Dave. How are you? Good to see you. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 0:31
Happy, happy New Year to
Ryan Purvis 0:33
you. Yes, we can still say that. Yes. Was to January, right. Yeah, that's it one month in almost four days to go. Start a year been for you?
Freddie Quek 0:44
Oh, it's like, you know, I think everybody's been saying the same thing. It's like it's gone. 100 miles an hour already?
Ryan Purvis 0:52
Yeah, it's like that is that is true. Gift to beat fast. Yeah. How's things going with the joining the dots?
Freddie Quek 1:00
It's been going good, I think I think, yeah, really, really pleased about lots of things coming together, which I think is the whole purpose. Right? Yeah, when you start seeing, you know, I've just done a post this morning, where, you know, again, a number of connections being made here from just a device to, to being environmental friendly to do with recycling to joining up with the National databank on like, this is this is what we're talking about, right? Joining up all the tours, because nobody can solve the problem on your own.
Ryan Purvis 1:33
Yeah, the first that I saw this morning was that it was it was tablets. I think we've been
Freddie Quek 1:37
Yeah, yeah, so Exactly. Right. And it's a loan scheme, but it's still something right. Because because the you know, the, the population, the audience that we're dealing with, whatever labor we used to call them, right? They are so varied. Right? And then you have people, different people helping to do different things, which I think is the best thing that could possibly happen. Because we, I mean, look, for example, if you're the council, right, or even you are doing a day job for your company, and your company tells you that you have 1000 priorities to deal with needs to go to start somewhere. Yeah, the more you can boil the ocean, you can say, Oh, let me think about it holistically. Give me two years. And by the way, here's the plan to solve this problem in the right way, but it's going to cost you millions of pounds. So you can't afford. That's not reality.
Ryan Purvis 2:26
Yeah, yeah. So now this, you mentioned a database that you linked up a national database, what does that national data bank, Data Bank? What is that?
Freddie Quek 2:38
Right. So remember, the whole narrative started with a, we need to do something about donating devices, right. And I think we've now gone beyond NSA, please don't talk about devices anymore. Because even if you're in the business of doing devices, it's so hard, it's not scalable, even when you've done it, the problem comes back because the end of life equipment is even shorter than a brand new one for somebody, right? So it doesn't go away. But not only that, now, what we are trying to say is that, but what we are really, what we really need to do to solve this problem is by thinking of it as we go to provide the right digital access for people who need them to be able to participate digitally, right, so that access and participation and therefore you're talking about linking device without data, you can use the device, by device and data, but no tech support, therefore you do not know how to use it doesn't work. But without if you go to tech support, we go you have no skills, no digital literacy skills, you can join it up. But you don't have cyber safe practices, then you get into trouble. But you don't have the right egg with the right content. Again, that's not gonna be helpful, some something for choice or something for a pensioner. So you see it goes on and on, which is why, you know, you've seen I've done the dashboard and the depth, that's what it's trying to find way to show people that, hey, there's at least eight dots to join. And that might be a good way to think about how to solve the problem and also a good way for people to get engaged because we want to give people things that they can say I'm interested in data, go to the national databank for the devices, I want to as you know, right, promote that national tech people from one of you rather than many. And then now we're moving to very exciting I just when I thought nobody is doing it, we're about to launch a pilot to deal with providing a national Tech Support Platform and is provided by our major tech vendor Unisys. Okay, amazing. Yeah. Yeah. So joining up dots, you know, be by beta.
Ryan Purvis 4:35
And what are they gonna do? They're gonna give like a call a call center number that people can phone her first line second line support.
Freddie Quek 4:40
Yeah, exactly. Because this is what they do for corporates, right. So they're offering this as part of their CSR. You know, we're doing this as a pilot initially, and then to learn to see what kinds of lessons learned to then scale it. And the first phase is to provide a support to the supporters of the beneficiaries, not the beneficiaries themselves directly, because they will not know what to do what to ask. They do not know who that person is, they will not talk, you know, I mean, because part of the challenge here is that to really get to those beneficiary, you need people who knows them, you need people who knows what their problem is. And their problems tend to be fairly complex, meaning that it's not just about a device, it's usually about food, poverty, about family problems, lots of things. And if you work through that support, you stand a better chance of making a connection with the person that needs help, right? Yeah, so we want to provide help to those people who are directly in contact with those beneficiaries.
Ryan Purvis 5:42
Wow, that's gonna be quite powerful.
Freddie Quek 5:44
Yeah, and we already had, and we already have a few charities that beneficiary groups that we've lined up to be part of this pilot, so one is YMCA. So just imagine if we tackle young adults 16 to 24. Starting one YMCA that goes well guess what? We scaled to the rest of YMCA, the UK we skill to globally YMCA. So test test. Test one does young adults, there are candidate group is pension. And so this is Age Concern. UK, but we're starting with the South End branch. So again, same thing, right. If you can start with one area, then now you're talking about targeting to population, the young adults and the pensioners. Yeah, that's fantastic. Yeah. And these are only the ones that I know, right?
Ryan Purvis 6:29
Yes, for sure. And when you you mentioned tablets that's going to come from I can't remember who the vendor was that was providing the templates. The tablets online?
Freddie Quek 6:38
Yeah. So it's, I think it's it's a charity organizations call habia. And I think they deal with recycling by in a very environmentally friendly way. Right. So I don't have the details here. But, but, but at least I'm really delighted to see that, you know, we don't see another campaign, which is to say, Okay, I'm going to provide devices, but they join a few dots, right, they join with the databank. And now then now, guess what even AWS got into the air, that's how I got to know about this right release is doing very well, this is championing this. So we now have at least two within the joining the dots thing to say, hey, let's help other people to know about this, right? Because, again, if that works for them, why should you not go for the rest of the regions in the UK?
Ryan Purvis 7:28
Yes, definitely. And with the the journey does convey when we last spoke, the DPA just been launched. Yeah. Have you done much work with them at all?
Freddie Quek 7:39
Yeah, so I'm a so many of us are advised ambassador. So I would encourage you to if you want to be an ambassador, right? I've invited you to the community hub in the DPA because it's something we did 13 communities, where is the space that we go to? To hear about the same thing up to now I've been using emails and LinkedIn. Yeah, but it's one direction, right? Because people don't reply to email. But with the heart, hopefully, people are really interested, they will engage, right? And this is where not only are they engaging. Let's say you and I were part of at least a few groups, you are part of Horizon SEO. Network. And also, I think you're part of UK IT leaders right? Or no? Yep. Yeah. So for example, that that those are two good examples whereby members are torn, right? It's like they they hear about one from one team, but they can't really know what to do with people from the other team. Right? So now we have created a space where it doesn't matter who you are across 13, tech leaders, communities, that is a space that you come to get information and contribute, or to spice things up. Yeah. So I think that they are doing well there. They've done a piece of big research to help to guide what we should do next. Because it needs to be evidence based, right? It needs to be data LED. So that is something that they do, which I'm really delighted about. And then also, more importantly, they're also trying to provide guidance to the politicians, yeah, to the government and all the political parties. So they've been very successful last November, they organize a number of the equality or ATPG, or parliamentary parties group. So I was invited to some of them to listen. So that was great to see all the political parties coming together and acknowledging this issue, and wanting to work with others. Right. And there were a number of not not politicians here, but a number of charities and corporates and individually, but like me there just to listen and being able to contribute. So that was useful. Right? And then more importantly this year is that they are trying to now provide a roadmap for the areas of support that people can provide. Remember what I wanted to do with this, he said, step one is all about socializing. Let's just let people know what we need to know. Right? And the second part is, then find a way to help to mobilize people who are interested to help we are not going to force people but we will say hey, but if you're interested to help, and here is how you can help, that would then So the first problem that you and I encounter right at the beginning, which is I've seen many people say to me, Freddie, we want to help including myself, but we have no idea how to. Yeah. So they are looking at all that process, including, you know, a software planning process, like, Okay, now, if we show you, here's the demand for things to be done, and you are volunteering for something, then let's do the match up. And that's also helped to see how we can get you to pledge what you do so that you achieve the outcome because it's easy to say you want to help rare but you know, but not easy to see things happening.
Ryan Purvis 10:37
For sure, execution is always key. Now, do you think since we started speaking, I mean, it's been a few bucks, probably two quarters and three quarters now. Do you think things are improving? Do you think there are people getting access to?
Freddie Quek 10:51
No, look, the problem is, this is still the same, right? Everybody died last year, this time last year, there was a huge groundswell of everybody wanting to do something, because somehow something created, you know, just with any news event, or something sparked people's curiosity or interest, lots of attention, including the Daily Mail celebrity electron. And nothing's happened since the right everything was quiet. And I've been beating the drum to say, did you know that currently, nobody knows still, how many disadvantaged school children are affected by a lack of digital access for education. And law, I think November last year, I actually did oppose that give out specific numbers. And these are public sources of data to show that the gap is still potentially 500,000. And that's just my number. That's just the number that I know. And yet nobody really was able to agree or deny. But everybody sort of nodded their head that Yeah, I think the game is still there. And part of it is because everybody's looking at a very macro level, you're at the numbers. And the things that is being dealt with is at a very micro level. But those micro level interventions are not scalable, and they are not visible. Right. So you can see, there's a lot of good work happening already. But I would imagine, it's still a drop in the ocean about the amount of people that you need to help them with, because if you add those two things up, they don't add up, right, these two so far. Right. So this is why it is important that, you know, we can think that things are making progress, such as like, you know, being stretched more strategic, I think that's a good thing. Don't get me wrong, or anybody. But if we look at whether the problem has been elevated somehow on the ground, I will say no, not enough.
Ryan Purvis 12:45
But it's gonna take time. I mean, I mean, it's a big gap to close. And a lot of you know, the dots are literally being pulled together. Yeah. So how do you keep the momentum up? I mean, how do you keep going with, you know, it feels like, you know, landmine after landmine?
Freddie Quek 13:04
Yeah, it's, it's interesting, you know, sometimes, especially last year, every week, I asked myself, like, Oh, can I keep going? And what, what is the thing that would be helpful, and I just remind myself, okay, look, if, if all I'm doing is to continue to help to signpost and socialize, and therefore like, like, now, if I'm spending time with you, and now you know what I know, like, now you know that there's such a thing called a national databank. Next time, when you hear about somebody talking about these, you can say, hey, don't try and go to Vodafone and ask for data, if it's a one of those five, but we want to be more strategic, go and work with the national database and ask them to give you a chunk at a time, that's how you will be more scalable. So something right,
Ryan Purvis 13:47
so let's set it back for national database. What does it actually do? I mean, what does it store? What's its purpose?
Freddie Quek 13:55
So the idea here is, you know, currently, if you look at most of us who's got data, if you got unlimited data, or even limited data, some months you don't use them, right? So we can actually give data to at least people within the profile that you have. So it's the same concept at a bigger level, what if if one of us are able to give data that we donate to the national contributors, we let somebody else solve the problem on knowing who to give to but if you want to donate this is one way not just invite data. That's one aspect of it. But what we're working on right now is more to do with the vendors like Virgin Media and Vodafone, who are already providing free SIM cards to their own campaigns. So instead of doing it through as a Vodafone team, now they are willing to work with these good things foundation as a charity to promote the concept of a national databank to encourage everybody to especially big vendors to donate a chance to kickstart the database and to help charities and individuals who get data in a more holistic manner. If you know the individual in a family who is going through another three years of schooling and the families in poverty, and you're working to this charity, and the charity knows that, hey, you know what, we got to keep that lifeline going for the next three years? Of course, we may have an annual check to see whether they can afford or not. But if let's say the situation maintains, then you know what, we don't cut off that lifeline from them just because they can't afford it. Yeah. So isn't that a more holistic, more sustainable, more scalable way of providing data for people who's got a device and now data to go with it? The Nesta databank is about ending data poverty by 2024.
Ryan Purvis 15:37
Okay, understand now. So it's actually specific to DPA.
Freddie Quek 15:40
No specific potential poverty. Yes. And also data poverty, sorry, data. So this is about making sure that people do not get left behind us because they cannot afford data to access the device for whatever purpose they need to do.
Ryan Purvis 15:57
Yeah, okay. Okay, let's think I understand. Yeah. Yeah. Well, suddenly, there needs to be a golden source, there always needs to be the source you trust. That tells you what's going on. So I think it's great to have something like that, for sure.
Freddie Quek 16:10
Yeah. So so that is the that is what the NASA database is committed to right now, if you look at the TPA, they are committed to ending digital poverty by 2030. Right. So, you know, we may laugh at those aspirations is crazy. But on the other hand, if you have a stake in the ground, you can measure yourself against that you can you have now have got a deadline to try and do something about and this is why I use it as a way to challenge everybody say, Look, I know 23 Four is great, but you know what, we can make it quicker. Vendors, please work together make it happen. And in digital poverty, I think it's going to be harder, because it's not just about digital poverty is actually intertwined with loss. But again, it's a good thing, right? What is our national strategy for dealing with this issue? Right? If we don't have a policy, rather, we don't have a digital strategy or audit, how can we possibly solve the problem? So now that allows people to say, because this is what we're all about, let's start working across all levels, including governments, to corporations, to anybody who can help with this, to start having a conversation about how can we join up and have this conversation and do something about this in a joint way?
Ryan Purvis 17:19
Yeah, yes, I think we just I don't think I understand what you're saying. I mean, it is essential to still execute somehow. But there's almost too many. Still too much too many. We're going in different directions. Exactly. But now this databank Is there a way for someone to go and have a look at that to see if they can contribute or get something, get that out of their website to
Freddie Quek 17:44
not really a website, I can try and find some information, but you can see right now is, is because it's more of a b2b thing, right? So not going to be so publicized, which is why one of the things I want the DPA to do is, let us know that I'm doing with the site posting, I want them to make it visible on the website, so that this is how you sciples. Okay, yeah, I don't want to set up yet another independent website, right? I want to say, Hey, these are the things that we should share with everybody. Please, if you come across this, go and have a look, at least you know, where, where you know where things are, and then you can choose to contribute and to see how we can do more.
Ryan Purvis 18:21
I'm just wondering about something if someone gets involved from a CSR point of view, do they get a benefit from the government tax deduction, anything like that? I don't know. It works the same in the UK? And
Freddie Quek 18:32
that's a good question. Right? So it will be good if somebody can work that out and make sure that there is there is real benefit, and therefore everybody wins, right?
Ryan Purvis 18:42
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I never delete something. Some of the common with the programmers. I'll see. I'll see if someone knows that. I asked one of the groups someone knows. Okay, cool. So far. So good to speak. You already. Keep on tracking.
Freddie Quek 19:01
Yeah. And thank you for your support. Yeah.
Ryan Purvis 19:04
No problem was good to chat. Cool. Thanks. All right.
Bye. Thank you for listening. Today's episode. Hey, the big news app producer, editor. Thank you, Heather. For your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW W podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website www dot digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Freddie Quek is CTO at Times Higher Education, responsible for data-driven products and solutions such as the World Universities Rankings and SDG Impact Dashboard which provides insights into universities’ impact in delivering the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. He is a disruptive, networked and agile leader who thrives in challenging environments and focuses on achieving and celebrating team successes. He is highly experienced and a multiple award-winning global technology leader who has worked in Singapore, US and UK, across automotive, higher education, publishing, loyalty, insurance, travel and financial services industries. As a consequence of Covid-19, he became an ambassador for Project Global Impact.
He started in publishing and has worked for Reed Elsevier (FTSE 100), Wiley (Fortune 500) and Solera (S&P400) as well as various startups. He helped transformed the publishing industry from print to digital, pioneered the use of NoSQL technologies, and achieved large scale agile implementations. He took on an additional dimension to his role to “deal with the unexpected” to execute strategic yet unplanned initiatives to handle merger integrations, partnerships and competitive threats. His team received the IT Project Team of the Year award at the UK IT Industry Awards. He received three Wiley President's Award in 4 years, a Pacesetter Award for delivering a ground-breaking multi-million licensing deal, and MarkLogic’s Customer Excellence award for achieving "Mission Impossible" with its NoSQL technology.
Freddie is a Fellow of BCS and judge for the UK IT Industry Awards. He has Master of Science degrees from the London School of Economics and Henley Business School, and is an alumni of Oxford University. In his spare time, he is a Research Associate at Henley Business School pursuing a Doctorate of Business Administration degree in studying how technology leadership can help organisations run and change the business at the same time, and also a member of the London Multimedia Lab headed by Professor Patrick Humphreys, LSE.