WCIT issues new briefing paper on AI

Generative AI is moving at pace, and this recently updated briefing paper from the WCIT gives an overview of the challenges and risks, while debunking some myths about the likes of ChatGPT and the Large Language Models on which such platforms operate. The paper has been well received by other City Livery Companies, their associated schools and the many charities AI4C, the WCIT and other Livery Companies support.

Read the briefing paper

The future of tech

What might the next 50 years of tech look like? How will AI, extended reality and quantum computing develop, and should they be feared or embraced? Dr Victoria Baines took to the stage at Barnard’s Inn Hall to imagine the opportunities and challenges technology may bring in the last of her Tech Change: A Survival Guide lectures at Gresham College.

Watch online

The IT Livery Company Professor of IT was established in 2015 and is sponsored by the WCIT and WCIT Charity.

Robotics workshops inspire young girls

With only about 20% percent of the tech workforce being female, there is an urgent need to encourage and support more women and girls to pursue studies and careers in technology and STEM disciplines. This was one of the reasons the WCIT Charity chose to fund Girls Into Coding. The award-winning mother and daughter-run CIC was given a grant to design and develop a new AI robotics workshop to embed into their ongoing programme. This then enabled them to run four hands-on workshops reaching over 100 young girls.

The Chair of the WCIT Charity, Stefan Fafinski, said “We love funding initiatives such as Girls Into Coding because they have such an immediate, visible impact in fostering interest and confidence in tech at a young age. Our hope is that many of the girls who took part in these workshops go on to study computer sciences and ultimately boost the tech workforce of tomorrow.”

Watch the highlights of one of their events…

Free lecture: data protection for thrill seekers

People increasingly share intimate details of their lives with online services. Far from being a ‘tick box’ legal exercise, data protection is about fair and responsible use of such personal information as mental health and reproductive data.

It gives people rights they can exercise against mega corporations and governments, and – argues Dr Victoria Baines – people should start to use it before they lose it.

This lecture forms part of the Tech Change: A Survival Guide series at Gresham College.

Watch online

The IT Livery Company Professor of IT was established in 2015 and is sponsored by the WCIT and WCIT Charity.

New tech bursary launched

The WCIT Charity is delighted to launch its inaugural bursary, the WCIT Bursary in Tech. Aimed at postgraduate researchers, the award will be worth £5,000 a year for up to three years.

All UK universities are welcome to apply on behalf of their research students before the deadline of May 31, 2024 and full application guidelines, terms and conditions can be found here.

The bursary builds on the success of the Charity’s former University IT Awards, which recognised outstanding emerging talent in undergraduate students studying computer science.

Stefan Fafinski DL, Chair of the WCIT Charity, said: “We are delighted to introduce this bursary for PhD researchers. It is a key strand in our ten-year strategy, in which we also aim to dramatically increase the Charity’s grant-making capacity in order to unlock the power of IT for good.”

Latest grants announced

We are delighted to announce the WCIT Charity’s latest grant recipients. Over 60 applications were submitted, from which the Charitable Operations Committee chose to support four fantastic organisations.

Thanks to members’ donations…

  • Wiltshire Search and Rescue will be able to enhance its drone surveillance capabilities with new equipment to stream real-time footage to the command vehicle;
  • Rentstart UK will pilot new software designed to address the barriers that homeless people face when trying to access rented accommodation;
  • Lifelites, with whom the WCIT Charity has a long-term relationship, will provide 14 children’s hospices across the UK with the Cosmo learn and play switch system; and
  • Sunderland Seafront Trust will be able to create a new website that will facilitate tour bookings for Roker Pier and Lighthouse to sustain their only source of income. The Trust had previously received pro bono support from Liveryman Gilbert Pant, who will now also project manage the implementation of the new website.

The Chair of the WCIT Charity Board, Stefan Fafinski DL, said: “This round of grants shows the huge variety of our work – supporting life-saving search and rescue, homelessness, life-limited children and sustainability of historic local amenities – with technology being the uniting force for good.”

VR pilot allows patients to achieve bucket list goals

As a hospice, St Wilfrid’s in Sussex is committed to enabling people to live well at the end of their life. This includes having positive experiences and doing things they enjoy.

One of the things many of their patients have is a bucket list, which often includes travel. However, for some people that is no longer possible. Staff at St Wilfrid’s were keen to see if the next best thing – the opportunity to visit places or experience things virtually – could help their patients, so they requested a modest grant from the WCIT Charity to conduct a VR pilot.

With their grant they purchased an Oculus Quest VR headset, GoPro 360° camera and various apps. The camera has been used to film local areas, and a private YouTube channel allows staff to provide bespoke experiences for their patients.

Rachael, the Digital Health Project Lead, said: “Virtual Reality offers a wonderful opportunity to experience something a bit different. Users can virtually walk down streets, visit numerous places across the world, play instruments or just enjoy guided meditations. There really is something to suit everyone.”

In this short pilot, the hospice hoped to engage at least five patients with the technology, cognisant that it would not be appropriate for everyone. They were therefore delighted that ten patients took part. All users reported feeling less pain and anxiety during their experience, all found it a positive and enjoyable experience, and all said they would like to use the headset again.

Now the hospice has the equipment, there will be minimal ongoing costs and use of the headset will be offered to many more patients in the future. While its primary use will be to offer patients virtual experiences and activities, there is also the potential to use VR for clinical training too.

Rachel concluded: “The pilot project provided an excellent learning opportunity, and will help us to make the project smoother and better for future users.”

A poster used to advertise the service

Free lecture: an intimate look at the Internet

The relationship between intimacy and technology is dynamic and transformative. Adult entertainment providers were early adopters of the Internet and directly influenced its development. Meanwhile, digital communication has changed our consumption of pornography, how we date, and how we seek pleasure.

There is increasing concern that Internet-mediated sex is having a negative impact on humans. What’s the evidence for that? And what does the future hold?  As part of the Tech Change: A Survival Guide lecture series at Gresham College, Dr Victoria Baines will explore all this and more during her lecture on Sex and the Internet.

Watch online

The IT Livery Company Professor of IT was established in 2015 and is sponsored by the WCIT and WCIT Charity.

Website help for small charities

In 2023, Media Trust was awarded a grant of £10,000 to launch its Websites Unlocked programme, designed to help small UK charities optimise their websites with low-cost tools and strategies.

The programme was a direct response to the Charity Digital Skills Report 2022, which revealed more than half of charities wanted to review their websites and build their digital skills, but lacked the funding and knowledge to do so.

The Websites Unlocked programme included two masterclasses: the first to help charities optimise their websites on a budget, and the second giving insider tips on everything from planning content to briefing web developers. Together they attracted over 380 small charities.

There were also six digital drop-ins where participants could share their challenges and get on-the-spot advice from volunteers from the BBC, Google, Reprise and the WCIT. These covered a range of subjects including digital tools, data and insights, accessibility, SEO and analytics.

As one participant commented: “These sessions are invaluable for small charities, offering both information but also support. Websites Unlocked stands out because it’s so relevant for small charities. The impact the training has had is measurable; I now have benchmark data that I can refer to as the project moves along. The training has given me confidence in approaching web designers with a clear brief.”

The final piece of work funded by the WCIT was a Websites Unlocked toolkit, packed with templates, guides and checklists for charities with little to no budget.

Both the sessions and the toolkit have far exceeded expectations, with nearly 800 charities benefitting to date.

Jade Staiano, Senior Programme Manager at Media Trust, thanked WCIT members for their financial and pro bono assistance: “From all of us at Media Trust, we want to say thank you for your generous support. It has provided charities with tailored training, coaching and a practical, easy-to-use digital toolkit which will improve their websites’ accessibility and impact, and drive their stakeholders to action.”

A speaker at the Websites Unlocked masterclass

Three-year grant has supported IT events

Cyber Girls First is a small charity which creates a big impact. Spearheaded by the indomitable Pat Ryan CBE, the charity has held events for over 5,000 girls from disadvantaged communities since its inception in 2014.

Half the UK’s population are women, but the proportion of women in the IT/coding and cyber workforce is still only about 12%. This is the raison d’être of Cyber Girls First: to demystify the idea that only boys can succeed in IT. Through events at universities, corporate offices and even 10 Downing Street, girls aged 11-14 are given insights into the careers open to them and are introduced to inspirational female role models in the hope that they choose to study computer science for their GCSEs.

Nominated as one of the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber, and a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award, Pat’s work as Director and Founder is entirely voluntary. She is ably assisted by Past Master Lady Parmley who dedicates many hours a month to the charity, and is also supported by the WCIT’s Education and Training Committee.

Furthermore, for the past three years the organisation has received a modest grant from the WCIT Charity to help cover volunteers’ travel costs. Overheads for the charity are remarkably low as there are no salaried staff and nearly all other costs are covered by their business sponsors including the likes of JPMorgan, Colt Technology, Field Fisher, LLP and ISACA Prism.

Thanks to Pat’s connections in the IT world, she is able to garner support from the top industries and continues to attract the cream of the crop to help with her quest, the latest being Jaguar Land Rover and Mastercard.

Commenting on the WCIT Charity’s grant, charity Chair Stefan Fafinski DL said: “We were particularly pleased to support the work of Cyber Girls First in inspiring girls to consider a career in IT. There is a significant underrepresentation of women in our industry, so events like these will really help to start redressing the balance.”