Monthly Archives: May 2016

Low-wage sectors must invest in tech to boost productivity, IPPR think tank argues

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

The Institute For Public Policy Research has called on the government and low-wage sectors, like retail and food, to work together to solve the UK’s productivity crisis.

Technological innovation, the think tank argues, has been largely ignored within these areas of the economy and could hold the key to helping the UK catch up with its peers.

UK productivity IPPR
Output (GVA) per hour worked in selected OECD countries, 2014 (index 100 = UK)

The think tank points to the ‘National Living Wage’ as a contributor to increased costs in this sector, causing some companies to chip away at staff benefits, but says new investment in tech could help businesses increase productivity while cutting costs.

“Our analysis suggests that our low-wage sectors don’t need to invent new ways of doing things: there is huge potential for UK firms to boost their productivity by adopting practices and technologies that already exist,” the growth report says.

“But the fact that this hasn’t happened to date, even though it would be in firms’ interests to do so, suggests a need for public intervention. Our recommendations are intended to promote productivity-boosting actions on the part of low-wage firms.”

The IPPR says the UK has historically been less productive than the rest of Europe, but the financial crisis stalled growth here, and our shift away from things like manufacturing has cemented this further.

“Low-wage sector firms invest less in innovation than both other UK firms, and firms within the equivalent sectors in Europe,” the report explains. “In particular, low-wage firms have not fully adopted the available information and communication technologies.”

To boost productivity, the IPPR is calling on government to:

– Use its innovation arm Innovate UK to give funding to help companies use technology to transform their business practices

– Staff new Innovate UK ‘growth hubs’ that are launching in each local authority with people who can support typically low-wage businesses, as well as high-growth sectors

– Require low-wage sectors to be included in bids for Local Growth Fund money and ensure these sectors are a priority when allocating funding

– Roll out equivalent degree apprenticeships to those piloted last year in industries like aerospace and nuclear

Tech community pitches #VoteyMcVoteface to get young out in #EUref

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

It’s either the most ridiculous idea to come out of the EU referendum campaign yet, or it’s so crazy it might just work.

Yes, #VoteyMcVoteface launched this weekend, a social media-driven hat-tilt to the boat that never was, as an attempt by the tech community to stir up young voters.

The idea is that you take a selfie of your ‘vote face’ and post it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, along with the hashtag, to show off to others that you’ve registered to vote.

The campaign was pitched by Jenny Griffiths, the founder of shopping app Snap Fashion, at a meeting of tech founders in Downing Street.

Here she is sharing the idea.

Due to the purdah rules that prevent the government campaigning from now until election day, David Cameron appears to be drawing on the burgeoning tech industry for help.

Companies like Facebook have for several years enabled people to add an ‘I voted’ sticker to their profile. The FT says Uber is also among the companies joining these efforts over the weekend.

But many have been quick to condemn this latest effort as an insult to people’s intelligence.

Oh man, UK tech’s idea to get young people to vote is literally a Private Eye cartoon

— James Cook (@JamesLiamCook) May 30, 2016

In an Opinium/Observer poll conducted back in April, 18 to 34s were the most likely age group to say they wanted to remain in the EU, but they were also the least likely to say they would definitely vote.

That might well be because both sides of the debate have struggled to pitch their campaigns at younger voters.

A Leave.EU video that was created in response to an earlier Stronger In attempt to woo young voters was slammed last week for its use of “fascist” imagery.

Whether seeing their pals get their ‘vote face’ out will encourage young people to register by 7 June, and then to actually vote, is debatable.

But, just like our lost friend #BoatyMcBoatface, the name is annoyingly memorable, at least.

Are people who like musicals anti-EU?

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

We all know what happens when those in politics start handing over money for promotions on Facebook: remember David Cameron paying for ‘likes’ to the tune of £100,000 a month?

Well, had Cameron and Co been a bit smarter, they could have shielded themselves (slightly) if they’d opted to make use of the platform’s third-party, in-app advertising campaigns.

This is where Facebook advertisers can buy slots within participating but unaffiliated apps, rather than going balls out with the begging bowl directly on Facebook.

That’s almost exactly, it appears, what our friends over at Vote Leave have chosen to do in the ad campaign below. They aren’t asking for ‘likes’, but they are looking for engagement.

But, looking at just one of its ads, the content strays pretty far into the ‘misleading’ advertising category.

Vote Leave 1

The above ads says: “Turkey, Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro are joining the EU”. Which is not, in fact, true.

On this ‘piece of information’ you are then asked: “will this hurt the EU?”.

Whether you agree or you disagree, the conversation continues. But if it’s a thumbs down, you get another piece of information, and the option to learn even more…

Vote Leave 2

If you click to find out, you’re sent to the official EU out campaign – Vote Leave’s website.

Vote Leave 4

You can easily find out where the ad has come from and it turns out this has been served by the Facebook Audience Network, where advertisers can buy ‘targeted’ ads in non-Facebook apps.

Vote Leave 3

The assumption it seems, based on the fact that this app is a quiz app about musicals, is that people who like musicals enough to play musicals-based mobile games are a moveable audience on the EU.

There isn’t a lot of up-to-date data on who plays mobile games, but it was certainly an awful lot of people back in 2012 when the Internet Advertising Bureau conducted its ‘Gaming Britain’ research. Back then, the figure was almost 33m people in the UK, both men and women, young and old.

NS Tech contacted the makers of the game, QuizTix, who said this particular app skews slightly older and slightly more towards women than some of its others.

The spokesperson said that he was not aware ads like this were running on the game, but explained: “Ads from networks like Facebook’s happen in a ‘live’ way so it’s hard to police, you have to have trust in the system.”

We’ve also contacted Vote Leave about their ad, and Facebook about their political ads policy, which basically only seems to prevent you from asking people how they vote, but have not yet had a response.

Just today, the Advertising Standards Authority published a blog post explaining exactly why it is not the arbiter of political ad campaigns.

In fact, according to the ASA, no one is. So if you’ve got a complaint, good luck!

H/t @technokitten for spotting the campaign.

Universal Credit isn’t working – and technology is one of its big problems

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

Universal Credit reached a milestone yesterday – it went live in five towns and cities with all six of the benefits that are eventually intended to be scooped up into the system nationwide.

The vast digital transformation project has already been fraught with technical problemsfunding issues and delays.

Now, a digital inclusion charity has called the skills gap for people using the platform a “perfect storm”, while a front-line housing association worker has told NS Tech that many of the key features just don’t work, “forcing people into financial hardship”.

The problems include a lack of funds for training those who can’t use the web and a presumption that people have bank accounts, plus a host of bugs in the platform that are causing missed appointments, delayed payments and even benefit sanctions.

Zero funding

“What the government is doing has some degree of reasonableness – shifting services online and modernising – to make the benefits process easier,” Dr Gail Bradbrook, director of programmes at Citizens Online told NS Tech.

“But the problems of implementation are being outsourced to local authorities, housing associations, as well as the voluntary and community sector, with zero funding for this.”

Universal Credit is soon intended to offer a single, online platform for all benefit claimants, requiring all users to have a bank account to receive their lump sum, which Bradbrook calls a “perfect storm”.

“It’s been trialled with more socially included people and from the results that have been published, which isn’t a lot, we know that’s not gone very well.

“What’s next is people who are likely to already face social exclusion, with often chaotic lives, while also experiencing digital exclusion, no internet access or poor skills, and financial exclusion, no bank account or little experience of budgeting.

“Once the system includes housing benefit – that’ll drag in an increasingly large number of people, particularly the elderly. AgeUK has started to raise its own concerns about what this means for the many older people who aren’t online.”

One of her biggest concerns is around the assumption that someone has to be able to offer ‘assisted digital’ support for people who don’t have access to the internet or don’t have the right online skills.

The latest ONS figures released last week show that just over 10 per cent of the British public -5.3m people – have never used the internet.

The responsibility of helping those people who need to get online but can’t is presumed to fall on third-sector organisations that are already dealing with cuts to funding, she says.

Technical difficulties

A source from a housing association in one of Universal Credit’s pilot areas said the system is already “forcing people into financial hardship”.

“Claims have been badly managed, there’s poor communication between the Job Centre and Universal Credit and the appointments system still isn’t working properly,” she explains.

“This means people often don’t get the appointments they’re required to attend and then they get sanctioned.”

She explained that Universal Credit won’t currently allow payments to go to a landlord until the tenant is eight weeks in arrears.

“Even if payments to the landlord are agreed, their systems don’t always release it. And the payments system doesn’t yet recognise weekends or bank holidays, so payments are delayed.”

“We can’t currently let tenants on Universal Credit set up a direct debit because of the payment errors. We just can’t guarantee when they’ll get their money.

She also said many claims have simply been “lost in the system” and therefore not awarded.

“The only option in the meantime is food banks, or an advance, which is then taken back at a high rate each month.”

Asked what all this means for more vulnerable groups who aren’t used to using the internet but will increasingly be expected to, she said: “Vulnerable groups are not really considered. Each person has to apply online and search for jobs online 37 hours per week as part of the ‘claimant commitment’.”

Missed opportunity

Bradbrook says: “There is a missed opportunity here – there’s something that has to happen in communities to help people use technology.

“And these people could get a lot more out of it – like shopping, speaking with friends and family – but now technology is just something horrible that you have to do.

“No matter how beautifully it’s built or how usable it is, there’s the wider issue of social inclusion.

“Right now, local authorities are being asked to support this, but it’s being seen as a poisoned chalice.”

Citizens Online is calling for central government to provide funding to address the skills gap perpetuated by the ‘digital by default’ agenda.

Starting this week, people living in Bath, Newcastle, Bridgwater, Rugby and Lowestoft will now go via Universal Credit if they’re claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits or Housing Benefit.

1bn reasons why Facebook is trying to build a diverse tech workforce

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

Facebook’s head of diversity isn’t your average tech firm employee.

Although she went to Yale and then Oxford, Maxine Williams is a woman of colour who’s originally from Trinidad and Tobago.

And despite her current high-power post, Williams admits that she still faces prejudice. She was recently evicted from her new home in Geneva, having moved there with her family, because the landlord didn’t want a person that looked like her living there.

Her task at Facebook is to make sure a product that now reaches 1.09bn people every single day works for each of those individuals – and that’s all with a staff of just under 14,000 people.

Doing a bit of crude maths, that means each hire is effectively responsible for representing more than 80,000 people.

“The more complex each problem is that you need to solve, the more you need different ways of thinking,” she told an audience of young professional in London yesterday.

“We can’t do what we want to do without diversity.”

Weaker without it

Williams criticises those who claim to be “blind” to diversity. “If you see that difference, that makes them an asset,” she said.

Those who push for it, she explained, are often accused of reducing quality. “But we’re weaker at Facebook because we don’t have it. We’re more vulnerable because we don’t have it.”

She puts the gap in representation in tech roles down to lack of access and opportunity, as well as a limited number of role models that can show people what jobs are out there, rather than capability.

But you can’t just get rid of the highly skilled white mean that often occupy senior roles. “That’s why we focus on the long-term. The opportunities now are in earlier jobs.”

Depending on how you measure it, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tech jobs in countries like the US and UK that are unfilled because people do not have the right skills.

“If underrepresented groups can get those skills – all traditional forms of exclusion fall away.”

No quick fix

That’s why last year, Facebook launched Tech Prep, an online community that shows people what computer science is, whether a potential employee or a guardian, what the jobs entail and how to get there.

Williams is not all out in favour of “forcing functions”, putting rules in place to ensure diversity is on the agenda, but Facebook has, among other initiatives, now implemented a version of the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule‘.

That means any person doing the hiring is expected to interview someone from an underrepresented group.

“This means they reflect when they’re hiring, rather than just hiring what’s in front of them.”

But this clearly isn’t a problem that gets solved quickly.

Facebook is still dominated by white men, with the company’s latest diversity report from June last year showing only minor gains in the US for those from minority backgrounds. It only hired seven black people in the US from March 2014 to 2015.

And it’s this homogeneity that likely still bleeds into product decisions.

When asked about how the company’s Safety Check feature is rolled out, with critics questioning why it was first launched for the Paris attacks and not in somewhere like Beirut, Williams said: “It takes a lot of engineering time to do it all. Deciding how and where it can apply to shouldn’t be about use selecting.

“The first time we did it, we realised ‘oh, people want it’. Now we’re focused on developing clear and fair policy on this.

“It would take an awful lot of personnel to work on this all the time.”

Few companies have the brand, scale and resources of Facebook. But many will look around their tech teams, whether a company that uses tech or a company that builds it, and wonder whether they are limited because of a lack of a diversity of experience.

Given an already limited supply of tech skills, it will take some impressive effort from companies, and policymakers, to find or train enough people to help the industry build products with the whole world in mind.

Data security incidents cost the average UK company £550,000 to fix – each time

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

Data protection and cyber security issues are not currently the most expensive business risk faced by mid-sized companies, but according to research from KPMG Enterprise, they’re still pretty costly.

Each incident is estimated to cost £550,000 to address, representing £63m paid out last year by leaders of the 222 companies surveyed.

Ben McDonald, partner at KPMG Enterprise, warned that ‘whaling’, where fake emails are sent to senior execs pretending to be from a supplier, are “massively on the increase”.

Snapchat was famously hit by an email scam earlier this year claiming to be from its own chief exec Evan Spiegel asking finance staff for payroll information.

“Don’t assume that if you are hit, your cyber insurance will automatically pay out,” McDonald said. “Check the small print.”

The most significant risks reported by the companies surveyed for the Enterprise Barometer, all of which KPMG says are “within their control” to deal with, were those associated with the loss of a key customer, supplier or staff member.

The total cost of these risky business strategies to companies with a turnover of between £10m to £500m across the UK was estimated to be £48n in 2015, just over 5 per cent of total revenues each.

Warning for charity chuggers as more people carry less cash

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

As many as 8 per cent of people in the UK never carry any cash – a figure that rises to 15 per cent among 25 to 34-year-olds, according to new data from YouGov and the Cabinet Office-backed National Funding Scheme charity.

This rise, from a cashless population of around 5 per cent in 2013, has prompted a warning to charities that rely on cash donations that they must switch to digital giving if they don’t want to lose out.

“We’re seeing a huge change in the amount of cash people hold and that affects charities that are trying to attract donors, particularly younger donors,” National Funding Scheme founder and trustee William Makower told NS Tech.

“Younger ones are holding less and less cash over time and charities need to adapt to that.”

Coincidentally, the National Funding Scheme, via its DONATE brand, offers a range of digital giving tools, focused on mobile. This includes SMS campaigns and a web payments platform.

What makes it different, Makower said, is that it’s a charity, so its fees are low, and because it doesn’t focus on SMS giving, average donations on its web app stand at around £70.

It also eschews the sponsorship model that made names for the likes of JustGiving.

DONATE says it sees Gift Aid add-on rates at around 65 per cent, compared to SMS platforms that get about 15 per cent, because it’s all web-based so doesn’t require switching platforms or a drawn out text chat.


The service is “free” to join, with charities charged percentage of each donation to cover payment processing. Larger charities pay an additional fee once they’ve raised a certain amount.

The platform is today being used by the likes of the Freud Museum London and Help for Heroes, after initially rolling out to arts and cultural institutions only.

But the National Funding Scheme has not been without its critics.

Arts Professional did some number crunching that found the fees for charities were not all that they were made out to be: “Since 2014 the NFS has been stating that ‘donors can be reassured that the full value of their donation in these circumstances is being passed on to their chosen charity’, and that the NFS will take only ‘a minor share’ of any eligible Gift Aid collected on an arts charity’s behalf.

“But that ‘minor’ share is revealed in the small print to comprise 45% of the Gift Aid being recovered,” the piece explains.

Indeed, the organisation has been running for three years but has only seen £525,000 raised to date, which could reflect charities have not been quick to take up the offer.

“There’s a lot of innovation in this space but it takes time for these things to get off the ground,” Makower said, when asked about the rather modest funding sum.

Whether you choose DONATE or not, it’s true that if you’re looking to raise cash, you may need to look beyond the bucket.

GOV.UK’s ID verification tool goes live next week – but 10% of public will struggle to use it

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

The government’s hip new online verification tool for using digital services is coming out of beta and will gradually start rolling out for more than 50 services starting next week.

It’s going live with eight ID verification partners, with PayPal ultimately being rejected at this stage.

Gov uk verify

Soon, everyone will have to get verified by one of these companies in order to prove their identity when using digital government services.

The challenge has been to create a tool that is rigorous enough to verify people, while spotting if someone is trying to commit fraud.

During the beta phase, more than 500,000 people have verified their identity and from a success rate as low as 30% in 2014, the service has reached an average of 70% this year.

Janet Hughes, identity assurance programme director, explains: “We haven’t reached 90% yet. This is an ambitious aim, especially for a service that’s not designed for 100% of journeys to be completed.

“As no one’s built anything like GOV.UK Verify before, we don’t know if it’s the right target. However, we’ll carry on working towards it and demonstrating ongoing improvement in the coming months – we have lots of work planned that we think will help us make progress.”

The tool has had to pass the Digital by Default Service Standard Assessment – around safety, security, usability and easiness to improve – which means it can now go live.

It will open its doors next week with a number of key services.

Gov UK verifyIn total, more than 50 government services will eventually ask users to prove who they are using GOV.UK Verify.

Given that the latest ONS figures show that just over 10% of the British public -5.3m people – have still never used the internet, there are immediate, wider challenges facing ‘digital by default’.

The group with the largest growth in internet users is women aged over 75 – up 169% from 2011 – but still less than a third were recent users in 2016.

ONSOn top of this, 25% of disabled adults have never used the internet.

It’s often the groups that are most likely to be digitally excluded that are also those that need to access government services most urgently.

GOV.UK will have to ensure people don’t fall through the cracks.

Ed Vaizey says Privacy Shield and Snooper’s Charter are “legitimate issues” for business

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, roundly criticised by the world’s biggest tech companies over plans to add backdoors to encryption, snuck its way back onto the agenda in the Queen’s Speech yesterday.

Privacy Shield, meanwhile, the EU’s data deal to replace the defunct Safe Harbor agreement, has now been all but approved by European and US powers, paving the way for a new, but still uncertain future for data transfers being made across the Atlantic.

Given that both of these pieces of legislation will dramatically change business processes in the UK, not least around data sovereignty and data protection, we wanted to understand what businesses need to do next.

Speaking to NS Tech today, the Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey agreed that both of these pieces of legislation should be up for discussion.

“They are perfectly legitimate issues for the tech community to want to discuss with government and the European Union,” he said.

On the new plans for Privacy Shield, Vaizey said that “it’s important from a UK government perspective to keep the free flow of data. We’re pushing the agenda for the free flow of data for companies.”

But he was not clear about exactly what he thought of the new policy or, indeed, whether he supports it.

He is, however, very keen on the Digital Single Market. “This is a huge platform to grow a digital business.” But that’s only if the UK votes to remain in the EU, of course.

On the Investigatory Powers Bill, Vaizey said: “This isn’t a binary debate – either you’re pro-security or pro-encryption. It is perfectly possible to have a debate as tech people about this.”

But he didn’t offer a time or place for that to happen.

Vaizey was speaking at Salesforce’s huge World Tour event in London today.

He was also asked whether the 10Mbps universal broadband commitment coming in the new Digital Economy Bill is really an exciting prospect for those who still don’t have satisfactory broadband.

He said: “I don’t think it’s a damp squib. But we want to keep track of it – we don’t want to leave people on 10Mbps if 100 becomes the norm. But we think this is ambitious for hard to reach areas.”

Vaizey also admitted that he’d initially been “sceptical of what Tech City could do” for technology companies. “I have become a convert,” he said.

NS Tech will be working away in the background to understand just how big government legislation is affecting technology businesses and businesses that use technology.

What matters more to business, Google or the Queen?

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

Nothing represents more of a clash of civilisations than the announcement that Google’s Android Pay has launched in the UK, followed very ceremoniously just an hour later by the Queen’s Speech.

One is all bells and whistles, following a secret press briefing in a trendy coffee shop last week, the other is all the usual pomp and ceremony. But does either have any substance?

Digital Economy Bill

The Digital Economy Bill has now been outlined as part of the Queen’s Speech and should apply UK-wide if it makes it into law.

It had been rumoured for some time and is likely to have been informed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s UK Digital Strategy consultation.

The Bill is set to mandate the right to “request fast broadband” of 10Mbps for all homes and businesses across the UK.

The government admitted in its own consultation on this issue that still one in 10 homes doesn’t yet have this service.

On the new provision, it explained back in March: “This will give people the right to request an affordable broadband connection, at a minimum speed, from a designated provider, up to a reasonable cost threshold.”

Which, in spite of the fact it could soon be heading into law, doesn’t exactly scream “we’ve all got internet now!”.

A new Electronic Communication Code proposal published yesterday should also make its way into the new Bill, promising to make it easier to build phone masts and lay broadband cable.

According to a report by O2 following a Digital Communities pilot in St Helens last year, the economy could be boosted by £1.5bn by 2020 if just 30 towns got better digital infrastructure.

Modern Transport Bill

Thankfully the Queen didn’t have to say drone or spaceport, but both are likely to get some attention in a new Modern Transport Bill. Presumably until now all government transport bills were focused on old-fashioned tech?

Government has actually been pretty relaxed about driverless car testing to date, compared to other countries, not least because it believes that those 235 hours spent driving every year could be better used for work.

It published an action plan back in February last year, where it had already established: “Real-world testing of automated technologies is possible in the UK today, providing a test driver is present and takes responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle; and that the vehicle can be used compatibly with road traffic law.”

Motorway testing is already slated for 2017.

The Modern Transport Bill is expected to create more opportunities for investment in autonomous vehicles, plus electric cars, drones and even space rockets.

It’ll also enshrine provisions for driverless car insurance. On this, Caroline Coates, head of automotive at law firm DWF, told NS Tech: “It is not yet clear what the references to insurance will mean in practice. Does this mean insurance only for the purposes of testing or consideration of a wider government scheme for when driverless vehicles are on our roads?

“The insurance industry are already grappling with these issues – the Association of British insurers recently created a working group to focus on how they are responding and the Government will listen closely to their suggestions.”

The hugely debated Investigatory Powers Bill has made it over from the previous session of parliament. It could present a huge problem for companies that use encryption to protect their data.

Android Pay

Where the Queen was light on detail, Google has been pretty forthcoming with its plans for mobile payments.

Already people are able to leave their wallet at home if they are an Apple user, battery power notwithstanding, and today many Android users in the UK can too.

Depending on who you ask, Android has around 52% smartphone market share in the UK. That’s where Kantar had it in January, with Apple on 39%. But, as with older iOS handsets, Android Pay only works on phones that have an NFC chip inside and that’s by no means all of them. So the potential user figures aren’t exactly clear.

If you have already updated your systems to accept contactless payments, Android Pay should work seamlessly. But for users, after you download the app and start adding bank details, it only works with “eligible” Visa and Mastercard credit and debit cards from participating banks, which doesn’t include Barclays.

Android Pay also now comes as a payment option in-app for brands like JD Sport. All payments using Android Pay are of course tokenised, the industry standard security for payments.

Android Pay is launching with a slew of brand partners offering ‘Android Pay Day’ deals to customers who buy from them, the kind of targeted ads that have long been the dream of mobile loyalty believers. This really could become critical as a business tool, mediated by Google, for upselling and offering contextualised offers in a mobile payments world.

“The number of contactless card payments is set to surpass 3bn in the UK this year,” Jeremy Light, MD of Accenture Payment Services, told NS Tech. “But with mobile payment now available to more customers than ever, we can expect to see contactless payments shift from cards to smartphones in the coming years.

“For the time being, however, cash remains king among UK consumers with more than half of transactions relying on coins or notes.

“The acceleration of cash displacement can’t come soon enough for banks,” he adds “With an increase in electronic payments comes a reduction in the costs associated with handling and processing money.”

But will potential users be rushing onto Android Pay, given how much Google already knows about them?

“We’ve been weaned onto ‘tap n go’ credit cards on the high street, and plane and train boarding cards opened in emails or in apps,” says Professor Paul Springer from the University of East London, and author of Pioneers of Digital. “But with a phone as credit card it’s more significant, and instills more anxiety about security.

“How are we guaranteed that yet more personal details that link to our finances can’t be stolen, by putting all our eggs into one basket? When security measures are proven, take up will soar. Until then it may still be an uphill marketing task.”

Hence the cheeky Starbucks launch deal.

“In the long term though, it is moving towards the end of cash,” he agrees. “This is better for small businesses as it cuts out the number of transaction processes, and gives customers less stages to change their mind.

“Small businesses will still have to pay though for every transaction. The question therefore is not what it means for small businesses but for consumers, because the levy will ultimately be passed on to them.”

Google versus Queen

We’ll have to wait for more detail on what the government has planned for the UK’s digital economy up to 2020. Good connectivity for everyone is certainly something that’ll give business a nice bump and it’s certainly a long-standing item on gov’s to-do list.

Android Pay is now out in the wild and presents another pretty seamless service from Google (beyond the handset and banking caveats) that it’s very difficult for customers to say no to.

Google wins, again.