A newsletter from SA Mathieson, analyst, journalist and editor.

IT should focus on productivity not eliminating people

Earlier this month I took part in the Milton Keynes self-driving car trial, for a forthcoming article for Computer Weekly. Sitting in a car that steers its own wheel was enormous fun. However, it was striking that those I spoke to for the article thought that fully driverless cars on public roads are a long way off. Such technology is generally better-suited to making operators more productive rather than replacing them.

There is something of an obsession within tech for eliminating people completely, whether drivers or customer service staff. But with the latter, where the process has gone a lot further, the result is often frustrated rather than delighted customers, and the same is likely to be true of any process that involves human users – which is most of them. As Izabella Kaminska argues in the FT's Alphaville blog, among many other drawbacks, properly driverless taxis would quickly end up twice as filthy as night buses at dawn with no-one to supervise them.

I am currently working on Ovum’s annual healthcare IT trends report. The prospects for replacing healthcare professionals with IT look minimal – leaving aside everything else, how can a computer care? But there are lots of ways in which technology can make such professionals more productive. In healthcare and other industries, better productivity would be a more productive focus for IT than eliminating people entirely.

I wrote

Mobile Healthcare in Hospitals, in the Community, and for Patients and Enterprise Case Study: Lessons from Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust's EPR Deployment, Ovum (subscription required)

Norfolk uses data in libraries’ public health drive,

British jobs for British people: UK tech rejects PM May’s nativist hiring agenda, The Register (additional reporting)
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I read

Will AI spell the end of humanity? The tech industry wants you to think so, Bradley Love, Professor of Cognitive and Decision Sciences, UCL, The Conversation

Quiz: Which password is more secure?, Financial Times (free access)

Crash: how computers are setting us up for disaster, Tim Harford, The Guardian

Map of the month: the north-west’s suburban good food desert

In the first series of The Trip, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon visited Good Food Guide-recommended restaurants in the north of England. More specifically, they visited restaurants in the rural north of England, avoiding cities.

They needn’t have done. Based on the 2017 edition of the guide, there is no problem finding good places to eat in Manchester and Liverpool – but it is much harder in suburbia, particularly in the hinterland between the two city centres.

This map shows all the restaurants listed in the 2017 Good Food Guide in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Halton and Warrington. As well as marking the restaurant locations, I have colour-coded local authority areas based on how many guide-approved restaurants they have. Manchester has 17; Salford has none, although the presence of all those broadcasters at Salford Quays seems likely to change that given enough time. Liverpool has nine, while the areas immediately to its east again have none.

Entries in the Good Food Guide tend to be located in three types of places: city centres, the countryside and some well-off suburbs. This is a fair reflection of the fact that Britain’s good food culture has strong roots in cities and other places with money to spare, but certainly hasn’t spread evenly across the country.

For a larger version of the map, click here.

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