Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Dementia Tax

So it is well known that the Tories have been nibbling at the NHS to privatise services but to actually privatise social care is shocking.

The idea behind the NHS was that everyone would be covered by a country wide insurance scheme so why now try to make everyone pay for their own long term care whether that be in the house or a care home.

The tempter for Tory politicians and their right wing friends is the amount of money currently swilling about in houses and bank accounts for a section of the elderly.  This is a big prize. So these financial corporations have already got equity release products that could, I presume, easily be adapted to suck money out of your assets making these financial companies very happy.

So in effect this was a staggeringly stupid attempt to give the financial corporations a huge boost to profits on the back of the grandparents.

Then there is the notion that this is intergenerational fairness.  It is nothing of the sort.  If the money is taken out of your house value it then does not go to your children and grandchildren as an inheritance.

Make no mistake this was an attempt at "mugging" all generations on the back of a long term sickness.

There are plenty of other ways of raising money to cover social care that are fair and do not penalise sick old people while at the same time penalising the young people's inheritance.


Friday, 10 March 2017

Norms


My favourite Norm is my brother in law because he is literally the funniest person I know.


However this blog post is about Social Norms.


Social Psychologist Robert Cialdini concluded that the six basic principles for gaining compliance are known as:
  1. Friendship/liking - We are more willing to comply with requests from people who we like and know.
  2. Commitment/consistency - Once we have committed ourselves to a stance or action; we are more willing to comply with requests for behaviors that are consistent with this position or action.
  3. Scarcity -We are more likely to comply with requests that focus on scarcity because we feel obliged to obtain rather than not have. For example, there is a limited time offer in purchasing a certain item and as a result, people often buy that particular item. This seems to be a common theme in clever marketing.
  4. Reciprocity - People feel compelled to rise to a person’s defence, or to pay them back because they have done the same for them.
  5. Social validation - People want to feel understood and legitimised for their action or way of thinking, so they turn to others to gain social validation and approval.
  6. Authority - people are more willing to comply with requests from someone who holds legitimate authority.

These six principles prompt our understanding of why and how people gain compliance.(original article)


These above principles are exploited every day by marketing executives, campaigners and politicians. There is a lot of controversy at the moment about social media profiling. People's Twitter and Facebook posts and responses are being "farmed" and then analysed automatically to indicate what their personality traits are and then these people are being manipulated to ensure they vote a particular way.


"Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method to analyze people in minute detail based on their Facebook activity. In the 1980s, two teams of psychologists developed a model that sought to assess human beings based on five personality traits, known as the "Big Five." These are:
  • Openness (how open you are to new experiences?), 
  • Conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist are you?), 
  • Extroversion (how sociable are you?), 
  • Agreeableness (how considerate and cooperative you are?) and 
  • Neuroticism (are you easily upset?). 
Based on these dimensions—they are also known as OCEAN, an acronym for openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism—we can make a relatively accurate assessment of the kind of person in front of us.Did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory? Two reporters from Zurich-based Das Magazin went data-gathering" (link)

There is more information here.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Why does Aberdeen even have a Hydrogen strategy ?



Aberdeen City Council has just published a Hydrogen Strategy for 2015-2025, Why is that I ask?

A car running on hydrogen, made from hydrolysis of water, is only half as efficient as a car using the electricity directly in a battery.

Most hydrogen comes from fossil fuels and not from the electrolysis of water. Electrolysis of water is unlikely to supply hydrogen in significant quantities in the medium to long term.

Aberdeen has a very polluted environment because of traffic congestion.  Would it not be sensible to scrap any further investment into the hydrogen infrastructure and focus on battery electric vehicles? We can buy these battery electric vehicles off the peg and they have already got a charging infrastructure in place for them.

Stanford University said in a recent report that: "“The analysis showed that, to be cost competitive, fuel cell vehicles would have to be priced much lower than battery vehicles. However, fuel cell vehicles are likely to be significantly more expensive than battery vehicles for the foreseeable future. Another supposed benefit of hydrogen – storing surplus solar energy – didn’t pan out in our analysis either. We found that in 2035, only a small amount of solar hydrogen storage would be used for heating and lighting buildings.”

The ski resort town of Whistler, British Columbia, is ending its hydrogen fuel-cell bus program, the world's largest demonstration of its kind, and switching back to diesel because of the cost of running the hydrogen buses (link2013).

New York City has commissioned a report which recommends that they switch to battery electric buses. London has just taken delivery of 51 electric buses made in Scotland (Link).

All in all it seems ridiculous for Aberdeen City to pursue hydrogen powered vehicles when battery electric vehicles are here, now, in commercial quantities and could significantly reduce the pollution within the city now, not in 10 or 20 years.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY- Electric Buses

New York City Transit has requested an analysis considering changing from
the current fleet of buses to Electric buses. NYC Transit and MTA bus have a combined fleet of about 5,700 buses for public transportation in New York City. The fleet includes diesel, hybrid diesel, and CNG (compressed natural gas) buses. Greenhouse gases emissions from transportation contribute to global climate change, and electric buses have much lower greenhouse gas emissions than diesel, hybrid diesel, or CNG buses.

Changing the entire fleet to all electric buses would result in a reduction of emissions within the city limits of approximately 575,000 metric tons of CO2e per year. 

The net savings, including the incremental power generation required for the electric buses is a reduction of nearly 500, 000 metric tons of CO2e assuming the current mix of power generation in New York City and Westchester County (EPA). 

Consideration was also given to the possibility of a change in the power generation sources. Assuming a power mix that has the highest level of greenhouse gases in the country, the EPA region designated as The Rockies, the“worst case” savings would still be about 300,000 metric tons of CO2e per year. There are some variations possible based on bus manufacturer, bus
routes, number of passengers and seasonal impacts to battery life. However, the overall and net results will not change appreciably on an average annual basis. 

The financial analysis of electric buses vs. the existing fleet of buses looks at the difference in the cost of a new electric bus vs. a diesel bus, and the cost of overall operations including fuel and maintenance costs. 

The cost of a diesel bus can range from roughly $450K to $750K depending on the characteristics of the bus. Smaller buses, 35 and 40 foot, typically sit at the lower end of the cost spectrum while 60 foot articulated buses have prices at the high end of the range. Electric buses cost about $300K more including the cost of the infrastructure. From a net financial perspective, the $39K annual savings associated with fuel (cost of diesel or CNG vs. cost of electricity) and bus maintenance more than offsets the higher cost of electric buses over the 12-year lifetime of the bus, excluding health care cost benefits. 

A sensitivity analysis was performed showing alternative differences in bus cost and in operating costs. Health benefits and associated reductions in health care costs are important byproducts of a switch from diesel buses to all electric buses. The EPA created a Diesel Emissions Quantifier tool that includes a health benefit analysis component. The health benefits include respiratory, bronchial, heart and other diseases related to particulate matter and other diesel combustion pollutants. The cost reductions from those health benefits are associated with hospitalization, emergency room cost and the cost of missing work. The projected annual cost benefit in New York City associated with health benefits of switching from diesel buses to electric buses is approximately $150k per bus. This translates to roughly $100 per New York City resident of health care savings per year if the entire fleet is converted to all electric. From the perspective of New York City residents including elected officials, this should be significant and compelling. 

A number of cities around the world are currently considering or are in the process of changing over to electric buses. These cities, including Chicago, London, Vienna and Los Angeles are gaining valuable experience in the implementation and use of electric buses, and should be consulted to gain a strong understanding of their experiences. The Antelope Valley Transit
Authority in Greater Los Angeles wrote a press release earlier this year that they will be the first all-electric fleet in the country. They are working with BYD (Chinese manufacturer) to convert their fleet of 85 buses. London has 22 electric buses including several double decker electric buses and they continue to purchase more electric buses.

The recommendation of this report is that New York City take the first steps towards purchasing electric buses. The financial case closes sufficiently, and the health benefits and greenhouse gas reductions are both compelling . As a first step, the city should consider purchasing about 10 buses from each of two different vendors to pilot or a minimum of 1 year to gain understanding of electric bus operations as well as the impacts of seasonality specifically on battery operation . The pilot tests should be run on at least two routes that could have significantly different battery requirements based on battery size and recharging time alternatives. Investigation of different bus manufacturers should include the experience of other cities. The bus manufacturers most often cited in the United States are BYD (a Chinese company with a bus manufacturing plant in California) and Proterra, (a U.S. electric bus manufacturer headquartered in California).

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

i4a Independent Councillors Ways of Working

These values were directly copied from the Frome ways of working.  The town of Frome has had independent councillors for some years now and they have operated the council successfully without the need for any political party influence.  These ways of working have been agreed by i4a and their prospective councillors.  There was no dissent.

Five Core Values
Independence. We will each make up our own mind about each decision without reference to a shared dogma or ideology.
 
Integrity. Decisions will be made in an open and understandable manner. Information will be made available even when we make mistakes and everyone will have the opportunity to influence decisions.
 
Positivity. We will look for solutions, involving others in the discussions, not just describe problems.
 
Creativity. Use new, or borrowed, ideas from within the group and the wider community to refresh what we do and how we do it.
 
Respect. Understand that everyone has an equal voice and is worth listening to.

We will adhere to these values by challenging ourselves and each other to:

Avoid identifying ourselves so personally with a particular position that this in itself excludes constructive debate.

Being prepared to be swayed by the arguments of others and admitting mistakes.

Be willing and able to participate in rational debate leading to a conclusion.

Understand the value of constructive debate.

Accept that you win some, you lose some; it’s usually nothing personal and there’s really no point in taking defeats to heart.

Maintain confidentially where requested and agree when it will be expected.

Share leadership and responsibility and take time to communicate the intention of, and the approach to, the work we undertake.

Have confidence in, and adhere to, the mechanisms and processes of decision-making that we establish, accepting that the decisions of the majority are paramount.

Sustain an intention to involve each other and others rather than working in isolation.

Trust and have confidence and optimism in other people’s expertise, knowledge and intentions. Talk to each other not about each other.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

It's the process, not the people


We are due to go to the polls on May 4th 2017 to elect a new council. Many people will not vote because they believe that nothing can be changed; whatever happens they are ignored. There is good evidence that this is true. The council system has been “rigged”.

At it's simplest, the council consists of a group of professionals that deliver services and a group of councillors that advise and oversee these professionals, rather like non-executive directors. There are also other public bodies that oversee council business but not many of them have powers and those that do have very narrow and focussed power (e.g. Audit Scotland).

“Non-executive directors are expected to monitor and challenge the performance of the executive directors and the management, and to take a determined stand in the interests of the firm and its stakeholders.” (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/non-executive-director.html)

Do you know of any councillors that routinely act like the quote above, about non-exec. directors ?

Why is that?

Firstly, they only have a very short amount of time to help make decisions on very complex matters. They have no time to seek independent advice so that they can actually govern the council.

Secondly, they are more often than not embedded in a party system that requires them to “follow the party line”.

Thirdly, they have around 16,000 people that they represent. How is that supposed to work?

So the process that a councillor works within is fatally flawed. One of my passions though is process design. You may have noticed I have written a plethora of articles about digital transformation and indeed have spoken with the council about changing what they do many times.

However there is more bad news.

The council is a huge organisation with silos and many embedded and difficult working practices, that in my opinion, will take a lot of changing. Layered on top of that is a party political system that swings from one party to the next and back again. Each successive new administration rips out the good work of the last one and pillories them for their failures whilst, at the same time, ignoring the wishes of the electorate.

More bad news I am afraid. We cannot change the way the council works, only they can.

However what we can change are the councillors, on May the 4th 2017.

We can stop the constant bickering.

We can stop the silly, childish hectoring.

We can put in place truly independent councillors that care about the city of Aberdeen and their electorate above everything else.

We can give these independent councilors access to the best technology so they can be a truly disruptive force. rather like Amazon has been to the online shopping market or Airbnb to the hotel market place.

We can give these councillors a large community of experts within Aberdeen so that, when they need advice, they can get independent advice.



Friday, 25 November 2016

The rise of digital technology

Taken from this video (video) featuring an interview with Douglas Rushkoff (http://www.rushkoff.com/).

So this is a very short version of the information contained in the video above.

Basically at the moment everyone expects constant growth in the economy.  This is unsustainable, so as a species we have to change what we do.

History tells us that the need for constant growth had it's roots in the 13th century when the crusaders returned from the middle east and introduced the idea of trading and markets.  This led to sustained growth in Europe as people traded their wares and labour with the introduction of monetary systems.

At the time the "elites" were the nobility and they passed laws to outlaw local currency and to ensure that the various trades were employed under the control of the elites.  This was the birth of the employee.  Any money in the economy had to be worked for or borrowed with interest and hence the constant need for growth was born.  This worked well for centuries as the west expanded but now the planet is being plundered over it's capacity and can no longer support constant growth.

Then along comes disruptive technology like Amazon and Uber.  Uber uses technology to out perform local taxi companies.  A relatively simple application that costs little generates huge income for a very small company in a far off land.  This is a destructive relationship sucking money out of local economies.

Why do disruptive companies act in this way.  It is all about the way money is provided to start ups. A company like Twitter has a turnover of 2B$ which is seen as inadequate when compared to AirBnB and Uber. This is because investors and shareholders demand huge returns.  The only element that matters for these businesses is Capital.  They do not rely on people or owning land.  They act remotely and vacuum up money depleting local economies.

Basically the operating system of our economy is a 13th century relic being used to run 21st century technology companies.  We need technology companies that work locally so that cities can hang on to local generated money and create value.  We need to stop extracting money and focus on the flow of money in the local economy.  We need to decouple work from employment.

One idea is to create platforms co-ops like Winco Foods that out competes Walmart and is owned by it's employees.

We need to focus on our local cities.  We need to create high technology local businesses ideally based on co-operative principles.  Each city has people that need services, we just need to ensure these needs are met by local businesses and  skills and not outsourced to distant super wealthy technology companies.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Aberdeen City Council (ACC)-Digital Strategy

In November last year I contacted ACC and asked if there was a digital strategy.  I was told there was one in preparation and in a subsequent email in February 2016 I was told that the aim was to present the strategy to council in March 2016.  Well here we are in September and the strategy is in draft, for the meeting of the Finance, Policy and Resources Committee on the 20th September.

So here is my review of the strategy ( p243-p266 ).

First the bottom line, the strategy will deliver a saving per annum of 5M pounds  on a total spend of 4.5M pounds.  This is in line with other projects:

"Bristol’s digital roadmap includes many more ways of enabling meaningful citizen engagement,including facilitating collaboration between citizens themselves. The council has also achieved“staggering” business results. £3.5m was spent implementing their new digital platform, and the organisation has already saved over £60m. Significant cost savings, exceptional customer experience, and better customer insight can all go hand in hand." (Liferay 2016)

The strategy does not really mention shared services but I believe there are moves to collaborate across councils and other services on  digital transformation.( eduserv report ).

The report does not mention use of open source software where appropriate, which is a big omission.

There is little talk of process optimisation before any technology gets applied although the "emergent plan" does mention business process automation.  It is common knowledge that the process needs to be sorted before the technology is applied:
"Digital Transformation is the process of re-thinking a business model or processes in light of the availability of digital technology in order to meet ever-changing market demands. Such transformation requires coordination across the entire organisation since it applies new technologies to fundamentally change the way business is done, and it most certainly requires a strategy in place to achieve it." (Liferay 2016)

I would like to see a commitment, in the strategy, to creating local jobs for Aberdeen by encouraging local technology companies to get involved in the digital transformation, rather than buy in expertise from major US technology companies.

Nothing is made in the strategy of how mapping the business processes and opening up the council's data can engage citizens and improve local democracy and governance.

Apart from the above, the strategy is a welcome step in the right direction and if the "walk" is as good as the "talk" Aberdeen will catch up with councils such as Bristol and Camden.