To Infinity and Beyond

To Infinity and Beyond

At Corsham Institute we want to increase young people’s opportunities to get involved with a wide range of digital skills. When people think of computing and technology skills they might typically think of coding, but there are many creative and artistic opportunities out there and we want to give young people the chance to try those as well. The future of work is changing rapidly and young people who are currently in school will be entering a very different job market than the one which exists today. Research from Nesta into occupation growth prospects shows that animation is, in fact, one of the most promising and valuable digital skills of the future. 

On August 15th 2019 we invited local children and young people to Corsham Library for a space-themed stop-motion animation workshop and virtual reality experience.

This event coincided with the space chase summer reading challenge which libraries across the country are taking part in to help young people continue improving their reading skills and confidence over the 6-week break.

Workshop participants grouped together to complete storyboard for their scenes before using card and plasticine to make their backgrounds and characters. Using iPads they then captured multiple images to animate their stories. The workshop was very well received, the participants liked the creative element of the workshop and that they were limited only by their imagination, one attendee commented “I liked that you could create anything you want” and another said “I enjoyed the workshop because it is so creative like I am!”.


This event was so popular we had to set up a waiting list for bookings and due to popular demand we plan to run another one of these workshops in October as part of the StoryTown festival. Details of the next workshop will be on our Twitter page and on posters at Corsham Library soon.

This event was part of our wider Children and Young People programme to encourage digital skills, creativity and safety. Only by tackling the growing digital skills gap head on, will we see the type of change taking place to prepare young people for the exciting careers which lie ahead of them. Visit this page to find out more about our work with children and young people. 

South West industry experts share their digital skills for social good

South West industry experts share their digital skills for social good

On Tuesday 9 July, Tech4Good South West held its latest event for people interested in using digital technology for social good. This session saw a fantastic line up of expert speakers offer free advice on driving online awareness for charities through Search Engine Optimisation, Google advertising and social media. Attendees had the opportunity not only to listen to the talks, but also network and participate in a group discussion where they were able to share their ideas, needs and skills. These activities reflect the aims of the Tech4Good South West network as a whole; to help people in the Bristol, Bath and surrounding areas make connections and create a community around innovating for good.


The speakers provided clarity on digital tools and resources to drive all-important online presence and awareness. Most attendees were hearing about these tools for the first time, so they were able to take away practical advice to improve awareness of their work. 

Jenny Hearn from Torchbox focused her presentation on how the key is to be discoverable for all queries users are searching for, if you are to rank high on Google. This needn't be a time-consuming or confusing task. When it comes to your website, make sure you adjust your title and description to be attractive and readable, appear on Google My Business with a maps listing and accumulate good reviews to appear trustworthy and effective. 

Ali Vowles from Torchbox illuminated how the Google Ads Grant for charities can fund up to $10,000 of ad space. Many organisations in the room had not heard about this grant before, so it was valuable information for them to take back to their teams. 

Finally, Lou Chudley outlined how Instagram can add value to your charity's voice by telling your story, becoming visual and of-the-moment.


Part of the Tech4Good network’s power is that they are able to share knowledge by getting two separate sectors in the same room to share ideas. The Tech4Good South West network’s quarterly events bring together local charities, community groups and other not for profit organisations with professionals in digital technology industries who can share their expertise and create solutions for the digital challenges these local not for profits face. Corsham Institute are pleased to support the Tech4SouthWest network as a strategic sponsor because we recognise that these sessions offer a vital opportunity to local charities, as their digital presence becomes increasingly key to their success and delivering their mission, but their digital skills needs keep them from achieving their full potential. There’s great opportunity for technology to enhance the work of organisations pursuing social good, streamlining processes and making their services more readily available. If charities and non-profits want to create connections and spread the word, understanding how web platforms function is essential.

If you’re from a charity, community group or other not for profit organisation and would like to benefit from the support, advice and networking Tech4Good South West can offer, find out more about their upcoming events here. Equally, if you have a tech background or expertise, you can find opportunities to put your skills to social good, as well as the potential for lasting relationships (be they paid or volunteer) with leading organisations in your community.

Corsham Institute Summer STEM Day

Corsham Institute Summer STEM Day

Delivering critical skills to young people

There can be no doubt that schools across the country are working incredibly hard to help young people be prepared for the modern workplace, whilst at the same time balancing diminishing budgets. Entering the jobs market with the right digital skills is becoming increasingly important for employees and employers alike, yet many young people are not being exposed to those skills at an early enough age for them to become embedded for life. A lack of training in digital skills is the single biggest threat to the UK’s delivery of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ yet not enough intervention is taking place. At Corsham Institute we are concerned that while the budgetary constrictions facing schools and colleges are very real, a change of focus is required to help young people gain the essential skills they will need when they reach working age.

In early July 2019 we invited pupils from a number of local schools to join us at Hartham Park for a Summer STEM Day to help embed some of this critical learning and to generate a renewed interest in STEM subjects.  

The day consisted of a variety of science, technology, engineering and maths activities with a sprinkling of fun and Harry Potter themed ‘magic’ and was designed to sparkyoung people’s interest in these areas. 

We welcomed Colerne Primary in the morning and Corsham Regis in the afternoon. After a short briefing the students split into teams and began the various activities. 

 We ran six activities throughout the day:

  • A cryptography treasure hunt which involved using a special tool to crack codes, find clues and locate the treasure chest

  • Solving mysteries based on deadly diseases and infections (this was run by Bioquell who are world leaders in decontamination and infection control solutions)

  • Binary jewellery making where young people used different coloured beads to build their initials in binary code on bracelets and necklaces

  • Drawing game in Virtual Reality

  • Designing and building protective environment to protect an egg when dropped from a height

  • The tallest tower challenge, a competition to see who could build the tallest freestanding tower from straws and lollipop sticks


As well as inspiring young people in STEM areas, the activities also encouraged creative thinking and teamwork which are valuable skills for all areas of life. This event was part of our wider Children and Young People programme to encourage digital skills, creativity and safety. Only by tackling the growing digital skills gap head on, will we see the type of change taking place to prepare young people for the exciting careers which lie ahead of them.

There’s nothing more exciting to witness than young people working together and seeing that spark of excitement and realisation as they solve a STEM puzzle or challenge. Whether educators, business leaders, entrepreneurs or working in not-for-profit, we all have a role to play in helping young people light that spark.


Augar Review: Corsham Institute Recommendations

Augar Review: Corsham Institute Recommendations

Corsham Institute calls for lifetime allowance grants rather than loans to make lifelong learning more accessible to all.

  • We urge cohesive collaboration between government, education and industry to deliver radical action over the technology skills shortage.

  • We believe graduates need industry experience as well as access to the latest learning and technology.

  • We recognise increased and sustained investment needs to be made into careers information and guidance for all ages as ‘careers for life’ diminish.


The long-awaited Augar Review, a review of post-18 education and funding was published on May 30th.

The report highlights discrepancies in experiences and outcomes of those attending university and those who take alternative education and training pathways. It states this disparity needs to be addressed for “fairness and equity” but also to enhance our economy. 

Higher education alternatives, such as apprenticeships, provide a range of economic benefits including improving the skills, income and career progression of individuals, a reduction in unemployment benefit payments, and increasing the productivity of businesses. Our higher education is recognised across the world, however, many other countries outperform us with alternative post-18 offerings, so we welcome the review’s focus on this area.

At Corsham Institute we agree that post-18 education needs to be innovative and flexible. We work to ensure that the modern workforce have the opportunity and ability to respond to change and continue to develop skills throughout their lives. We support the following key points from the review: 

Focus on lifelong learning and flexible opportunities to access training and funding later in life

We recognise that the world of work is changing rapidly and the demand for digital skills far outstrips supply.

We are moving away from the idea of a career for life. People are now building career portfolios which involve greater movement between roles, sectors and industries than ever before. The notion of one long period of education to prepare you for a linear career has become outdated. To address this change, we need to ensure that opportunities to upskill and reskill are easier to access, and to allow education and training to be interspersed between periods of work. Considering that life expectancy is increasing and primary school children are being educated for jobs that do not yet exist; it is unreasonable to think that one long period of education, most commonly to the age of 21, will serve as adequate preparation for the preceding 50 years. 

The Augar Review suggests introducing a flexible lifetime loan allowance to enable people to spread their education and training across their lifetime, rather than focusing their learning early within their career journey. Although this could mean more people choosing to learn later in life and may encourage young people to think about their higher education in terms of a lifetime of employment, this is not a certainty. Along with the loan itself, people need to be provided with advice and guidance on how they can benefit from this scheme. Those with financial or caring responsibilities may not be comfortable taking out a loan later in life. We believe making the lifetime allowance available in the form of grants rather than loans, where appropriate, may make lifelong learning more accessible to everyone.  Further to this, reintroducing maintenance grants for students from low income households would help disadvantaged students access post-18 education opportunities.

Increase in the provision of education and training which is aligned with the economy’s needs

There are long standing skills shortages in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and skilled trades. Attempts have been made to address these shortages through University Technical Colleges (UTC’s) however these were not been successful in producing enough skilled workers to meet the demand. The introduction of T-Levels is the next step. The technology industry is creating jobs faster than the workforce/economy can fill them, yet only a small minority of Level 4 and 5 learners are training in the STEM-related technical areas. A Department for Education review of the level 4 and 5 qualification and provider market shows, for example, only 12% of level 4 and 5 programmes were taken in engineering and manufacturing technologies. This skills shortage can only be addressed with radical action. 

The Government recently announced 12 Institutes of Technology, which are collaborations between higher education (HE) and further education (FE) providers and local employers, designed to increase technical skills provision in STEM based subjects. We believe this is a great first step and advocate for lifelong learning loans being used to access this training. However, due to geographical restrictions, many will not benefit from these. Ultimately, we will need a broader solution which includes all FE and HE as well as local employers. 

The review states work needs to be done to better understand the barriers that SMEs face in engaging with the apprenticeship system and put in place mechanisms to address these, including raising awareness of the programme and making the system easier to navigate. Our work with Harvey Nash and the Future Skills Partnership aims to address some of these issues. We have worked with local employers to identify the largest skills gaps in the South West region. Findings showed that employers feel the skills shortage most acutely when seeking software engineers and data analysts. As a result, our partnership with Harvey Nash enables us to offer level 4 apprenticeships in both of these areas. We are working with employers to use their apprenticeship levy to retrain existing staff and to recruit new Software Developers and Data Analysts from more diverse talent pools.

Focus on increasing the link between employers, training and education

The review committee found many young people are still not fully informed about the range of post-18 options available to them. The more careers activities and employer encounters young people have during their time at school, the more able they are to make informed decisions about what is right for them. Similarly, at universities there are opportunities to increase links with employers. 

The Augar Review cites the example of the RISE scheme which is run in partnership with Sheffield City Council and other partners across Sheffield, including Sheffield Hallam University. It introduces graduates to the region’s businesses through a 6-month paid placement with an employer in the region - industry experience and employment for students as well as access to the latest learning and technology. Schemes like this would be beneficial across the UK. 

Other ways collaboration in this area would be beneficial is specifically to target skills gaps - a scheme where employers work with their local FE/HE providers to address their skills gaps. Many successful institutions are also already key contributors to local economies in various parts of England, possessing wide reaching employer relationships and working to meet local skills needs. 

Sadly, the National Careers Service, which provides advice to adults, is set to have its budget reduced at a time when the importance of the service is increasing. More adults will be changing careers multiple times throughout their lifetime and advice and guidance will be key to making sure they know what opportunities available and what pathways are right for them.If the lifelong learning loan is going to be used by people in the most meaningful way people need to be empowered to make informed choices, this will help ensure the scheme is working for individuals and the economy in the most beneficial way

It remains to be seen how these recommendations will be acted upon during this volatile period in Parliament. However, for the recommendations proposed in the Augar Report to be rolled out successfully, we believe that research, test and user feedback approaches will be crucial in making these recommendations successful in practice. This will involve a cohesive collaboration between Government, education and industry across the nation, which we strongly support.

Mental health and wellbeing at Corsham Institute

Mental health and wellbeing at Corsham Institute

In the UK, one in six adults face mental health issues[i]. Figures from Mental Health First Aid (MFHA) England suggest that over 10 million people are affected by mental health issues each year[ii].

The challenges that people face are often not visible and can affect any one of us.  That’s why, at Corsham Institute, we’re committed to fostering an environment which allows every member of our team to thrive, by ensuring that the necessary support structures are in place. 

Formal and informal training

Just as every office needs a first aider in case of a workplace accident or emergency, we also wanted to incorporate mental health first aid should any of our colleagues need that support. We now have two MHFA accredited first aiders who are trained to provide initial support and advice should anyone in the office face a crisis situation, such as a panic or anxiety attack, or even a suicidal crisis. This has also equipped us with the skills to spot the signs of mental health issues and support colleagues in distress.

Last week, ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, we held a session to promote mental health and wellbeing within our organisation. The session worked to provide information, demystifying mental ill-health, and exploring helpful coping strategies when we’re feeling overwhelmed. We facilitated group discussions around ways to manage stress and encouraged our team to understand and manage their ‘Stress Containers’[iii]. We also took the opportunity to discuss what our mental health and wellbeing provision should look like.  

Promoting wellbeing within the working environment 

There are number of simple changes we can make to improve the working environment. Here are some of the things we are implementing:

  • Promoting reflection on our stress containers and how to manage them

  • Encouraging people to take time to step away from their desks 

  • Allowing flexible working

  • Ensuring that we connect with colleagues, whether that’s talking about the weekend on a Monday morning or having a break for lunch together. Last week we hosted a team picnic which was great fun and marked the beginning of our #EmpowerHalfHour activities.  


Taking time

One of the things that stood out to us was that our lives are so busy that we forget, or don’t make time, to do things that we enjoy. Following our wellbeing session, we set each team member a homework task – setting aside a whole hour to switch off and do something that they enjoyed. 

During our team stand up this week, we all reported back about what we had done. Here are some of the things we got up to:

Wellbeing Collage V_3.jpg

We hope that this provides some food for thought. For useful resources, more on #EmpowerHalfHour and information on the MHFA accreditation, visit

Author: Eleri Burnhill, Researcher

[i]McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016) Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.

[ii]Found in the MHFA Two Day manual



Assessing the issues in digital cultural heritage

Assessing the issues in digital cultural heritage

On 9th April 2019, our Research Chair, Dave Thomas, hosted an event with Cisco as part of the Digital Cultural Heritage programme. 

We welcomed a wide range of cultural sector organisations, Government representatives and partners with an interest in proactively improving collaboration across the sector, and overcoming barriers that are impacting digital capabilities. 

Primary discussions centred around best practice for curating, storing, and disseminating data as a collective. Conversations also focused on new methods to engage the public with digital cultural heritage. 

It was a great event and there is clear appetite for further collaboration. We are excited to continue working with these organisations as we progress into the next phases of activity. 

In tandem with this event, Corsham Institute published a report assessing the key issues in digital cultural heritage for galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs). We provided recommendations based on three core focal points identified within the research; audience engagement, funding, and collection management.

Some of our key findings and recommendations 

There is evidence to suggest that increased digital activity by GLAMs, and subsequent engagement by the public, leads to an increase in physical visits to institutions. Audience engagement is vital in the preservation of cultural heritage, however, visitors from lower socioeconomic groups only accounted for 36% of the physical visits in 2017. Engagement with audiences from a wide range of demographic groups is needed at a local and national level. 

To address concerns like this, new strategies must be developed to bring cultural heritage to the communities, enabling all members of society to actively engage with GLAMs.

The issue of funding is a primary concern held by GLAMs, particularly in terms of maximising any available digital opportunities. The industry experienced a 13% decrease in funding between 2007 and 2017, and they currently only receive around 0.09% of GDP funding, despite contributing £26.8 billion GVA in 2016. 

There is a critical need for prioritisation and coherency with the management and allocation of funding to a foundational digital programme in cultural heritage. This will, in turn, allow for more effective digital progress with the sector. 

Institutions across the UK hold millions of items in their collections, however, lack of space results in large numbers of items needing to be held in storage. The task of digitising these items for online engagement and research is also enormous, with suggestions that there is only 10% of content currently digitised and available to the public. 

Accessibility to collections is the priority to improve public and research engagement with GLAMs. A foundational digital programme incorporating digitisation will allow for wider access to these exhibits, maintaining an ethos of open access whilst also effectively preserving historical items.    

You can read the full research report by clicking the button below.


Making the Internet Safer for UK Users

Making the Internet Safer for UK Users

The long-awaited Online Harms White Paper, a joint publication from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office, was released on Monday. The paper proposes a new regulatory framework, setting clear expectations for technology companies to keep UK users (particularly children, young people, and vulnerable people), safer online. 

The White Paper is released alongside a 12-week consultation. You can read the full paper and find out more about the consultation here.  

The vision is outlined as: 

  • A free, open and secure internet. 

  • Freedom of expression online. 

  • An online environment where companies take effective steps to keep their users safe, and where criminal, terrorist and hostile foreign state activity is not left to contaminate the online space. 

  • Rules and norms for the internet that discourage harmful behaviour.

  • The UK as a thriving digital economy, with a prosperous ecosystem of companies developing innovation in online safety.

  • Citizens who understand the risks of online activity, challenge unacceptable behaviours and know how to access help if they experience harm online, with children receiving extra protection.

  • A global coalition of countries all taking coordinated steps to keep their citizens safe online.

  • Renewed public confidence and trust in online companies and services.


Why is this needed?

The internet has developed in ways which we could not have predicted, and whilst many of these developments have enhanced our daily lives, there have also been some unintended consequences. For many years, online platforms have operated under self-regulation which has been inconsistent between platforms. 

Just last week Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, reported in the Washington Post: “I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators. By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what’s best about it — the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things — while also protecting society from broader harms.” 

Corsham Institute fully agree with this, for too long social media companies have been playing by their own rules and approaches to online harms have been varied. But, it is important to acknowledge that there are other important factors that need attention, such as public education in media literacy (which is recognised in the White Paper) but also in digital citizenship. Whether online or offline, we are part of a connected society and should act responsibly and respectfully. 

In his comment, Zuckerberg recognises freedom of expression is important. Critics have noted that proposals in the paper could threaten freedom of speech. The Government are under public pressure to be seen tackling online harms but if a duty of care is introduced with risk of fines, it gives strong incentive for platforms to restrict content. It is reasonable to believe only people posting harmful content should be concerned. 

However, an Ofcom study last year revealed 45% of adult internet users indicated they had experienced some form of online harm, but it is important to note this included targeted advertising which came under the ‘moderately annoying’ category. We must carefully consider how we define harms. There are risks surrounding what might happen if the Government delegates censorship powers to the platforms themselves - if in doubt they will restrict content to protect themselves.


What is the role of the regulator? 

The independent regulator will be responsible for drawing up a ‘code of best practice’ for online platforms to adhere to and will hold them to account. It has not yet been decided whether this will be done by an existing regulator (the White Paper hints at Ofcom) or a new one. The introduction of a regulator is a positive step which will provide a more consistent approach between platforms, but it is a huge task. 

The new regulation body will have to keep up with large volumes of content – on average 300 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube each minute and 500 million tweets are posted per day. The White Paper encourages the use of technology as part of the solution, it explains that ‘companies should invest in the development of safety technologies to reduce the burden on users to stay safe online'. Safety by design is something the regulator will expect online platforms to be pro-active about.


Implications for children and young people 

For children and young people growing up in the digital world, the introduction of steps to limit the amount of harmful content online is positive. We know that young people can come across content online relating to self-harm or suicide and that these experiences can have a negative effect on their mental health.  

The White Paper also recognises factors relating to the potentially ‘addictive’ nature of platforms and how this affects screen time. Corsham Institute contributed to the recent report #NewFilters which also looks at some of these issues, summarising findings from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on social media and young people’s mental health.

Whilst regulation is the focus of the White Paper, we cannot ignore the importance of education. We need to ensure young people are equipped with digital resilience and emotional intelligence, so that if they do come across something harmful online, they know what to do and who to tell. 

We can never eliminate all risks online and doing so would not help young people become resilient. This is why we are working in partnership with ParentZone, offering their Digital Resilience and Wellbeing curriculum to local schools in Corsham. The curriculum covers topics including what it means to show empathy online, how to determine the safety of an online service and what to do if something troubling happens online. 

You can find our consultation response by clicking the button below.


Swindon College announced as Institute of Technology

Swindon College announced as Institute of Technology

It’s fantastic to see Swindon College announced as one of twelve new Institutes of Technology (IoT) across the UK. 

Government will provide £21 million funding to convert the college’s tower block and technology buildings into a state-of-the art institute, which aims to help tackle a skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Corsham Institute supported development of Swindon College’s bid in partnership with Hartham Group, an employer member of the steering group. 

You can read more about local support for this exciting new initiative here. We are confident this is going to bring some much-needed new skills to the region and we look forward to continuing to work with Swindon College. 

International Women's Day: Balance for Better

International Women's Day: Balance for Better

The digital sector is one of the most rapidly developing in the world. Digital skills are now an inherent part of working life, with more roles being created than there are people to fill them. The demand is ever-present, but the supply is falling short. The digital skills gap is at a critical point, and who better to fill them than the women of the world?

This International Women's Day we want to take some time to promote the importance of gender balance in the UK technology sector. At Corsham Institute, our work is dedicated to improving digital skills for everyone and ensuring that we can all succeed and thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Statistics currently show, however, that women account for only 17% of the UK tech workforce. Further to that, only 5% of leadership positions in this sector are held by women.  

These figures aren’t acceptable in today's society, and at Corsham Institute we're working to create serious change.  


How are we encouraging #balanceforbetter?

We recently announced our exciting new partnership with global recruitment agency Harvey Nash as part of their Future Skills Programme

The Future Skills Programme looks to take full advantage of the Government's Apprenticeship Levy Scheme, training (and retraining) the next generation of data specialists and software engineers in order to fill a significant skills gap.

As part of this collaborative effort, Corsham Institute will work with employers to create opportunities for new and existing staff to upskill and develop their digital abilities through a supported 12-week training programme. This will offer a fantastic opportunity to recruit a diverse talent pool, highlighting new and exciting prospects in this rapidly developing field, and allowing us to continue with our commitment to addressing the gender imbalance in the digital technology workforce. 

We've also made great strides working with DOT Project, as we complete our discovery phase to explore the primary challenges faced by women looking to enter, return, or retrain in the technology sector, and how we can work with employers to address and overcome the gender imbalance.

Let's flip the conversation.

It's time to change the way we think about the gender gap in technology.

We don't want to waste anymore time questioning why there aren't enough women in the technology sector. Instead, we want to harness the experiences of those who have found their calling in the tech workforce to inspire others. 

Let's celebrate the wonderful women who are thriving in digital roles. Creating profiles of prominent women in tech will offer an insight into what makes these jobs so interesting and important, whilst also presenting key skills that are developed and utilised in this sector. It's vital that we broaden the view of what a role in the tech industry looks like. Whether in data analytics, software development, cyber security, or even user experience design, there are so many opportunities available, and we believe this is where the focus should be. 

By highlighting the efforts of women in these roles and the skillsets they attribute, we hope to inspire the next generation of digital technology specialists, from all walks of life, to pursue an exciting career in the sector. 

This blog was written by Junior Researcher, Natalie Blight.

National Apprenticeship Week 2019

National Apprenticeship Week 2019

This blog and video was produced by Marie Arnall, Creative Team Manager and former Apprentice.


Jobs in digital technology are being created twice as fast as other industries and people need to develop new skills to grow, adapt and thrive. It is vital that learning incorporates technical skills alongside ‘human’ skills like creativity and problem-solving. Apprenticeship programmes are an effective way to give young people and adults the opportunity to develop a well-rounded skillset that is applicable in their industry now. 

Corsham Institute welcomed their first apprentices in 2015. I was thrilled to be part of that first cohort. During my apprenticeship, I got the opportunity to be very hands on in a small team, which allowed me to learn a wide range of skills very early on, from video editing to social media management. Now, four years later, we’ve welcomed six apprentices through our door and I am pleased to be able to manage and develop the programme and continue to offer apprenticeship opportunities. We are very proud of our Creative & Digital Media Apprentices at Corsham Institute and, as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2019, we asked them about their experiences and thoughts. Watch the video below to hear from them.


Ambition, Celebration and Collaboration

Ambition, Celebration and Collaboration

In the first of a regular series of blogs, Dave Thomas, Corsham Institute’s Research Chair for Digital Cultural Heritage, calls for collaboration, ambition and a new celebration of our cultural heritage.

Dave Thomas recently joined Corsham Institute as a new Research Chair. He was most recently the Chief Information and Chief Technology Officer at the Natural History Museum in London.

Cultural heritage lies at the heart of our nation, it’s part of the glue that binds us together. While other pressures may divide us, our common stories provide cohesion and societal foundations for the future.

But our heritage can all too often be taken for granted. Large parts of it are hidden away or are seen as too remote or elitist, or purely focused on the tourist economy. There is an urgent need for the information stored in our Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM), to be used more collaboratively and to be made more available to people everywhere, to democratise the world’s cultural heritage. It needs to be a key part of the 4th Industrial Revolution’s information economy, increasing knowledge and decreasing misunderstanding, but also inspiring action and participation.

Sir David Attenborough has long argued that people won’t protect what they don’t care for, and they won’t care for what they don’t experience, so we’ve got to help people engage, and we must encourage people to share and participate in the stories that make up our cultural heritage. Our heritage lives within people, especially in families, companies and voluntary organisations as well as professional institutions. It is part of the fabric, making society more calm and confident, so we shouldn’t take it for granted and we should celebrate it with modesty. 

What I saw over my many years in the museum sector were hugely popular leading-edge exhibitions and venues, but it was behind the scenes that the treasure was really to be found. That treasure may have been a physical ‘thing’, or equally a person who knew the important stories about the ‘thing’. In the UK heritage sector we’ve over 100,000 volunteers and curators who know stories about every corner of our nation. In a period where people can create a meme or construct a post at a moment’s notice that seems semi-plausible and is believed by many, we need to bring these authentic voices to the fore to help inform and educate our society.

Digital is blurring the scope of many museums. It gives us unprecedented opportunity to create joined up stories of people, objects and themes across multiple institutions. In the analogue world we loan artefacts to each other, as well as bringing objects into the light from our secure repositories, for short, specific or seasonal exhibitions. In the digital world there must be better ways to collaborate, to open up our collections and link up our knowledge bases and to use heritage to bring people across the nation together.

Our heritage industry is beginning to see green shoots in government policy. However, this is likely to take some time to filter through as the funding, though only a modest proportion of the industry cost base, is fragmented across 11 different Government departments. Collaboration, particularly on complex digital foundational matters (such as skills, technology platforms, data or shared processes) tends to happen in spite of the system rather than because of it. Relatively few tools exist for the stars of knowledge, the curators and archivists themselves, to find links and act as a community.

We must find ways to be on the front foot, to find new partners across the digital landscape, to use platforms and tools on fair societal terms, to raise our profiles and to invest in and to celebrate what we have for the benefit of society. Just as science research is finding new ways to engage citizens with open, data-driven research programmes, we must re-engage people with their heritage. As a sector we cannot wait until someone else forces our hand, but we must act now and start to work far more coherently together.

Over the next 12 months Corsham Institute’s new Digital Cultural Heritage Research Programme will begin engaging with potential partners to start work to develop pioneering ideas and to begin to find new game-changing ways of ensuring our cultural heritage is at the active, beating heart of the nation, in our connected and digital world. We will take a step back from the day to day drive for local footfall, funding and engagement, to explore what a collaborative programme can bring. We will explore the true potential of our digital cultural heritage, identifying how we can help fund it with innovative pioneering solutions that build foundations for everyone in the sector.

It’s an ambitious Programme that will need partners with diverse skills and from beyond the sector too; so if you’d like to hear more and get involved, please email:

Safer Internet Week: A Roundup

Safer Internet Week: A Roundup

Between February 4 and February 19 we ran 10 events for our Safer Internet Festival in the Corsham area. Since the week coincided with Safer Internet Day, some of our events were focussed around online safety and privacy. Young people had told us they would like the chance to do fun and creative things with technology so we included some events which gave them these opportunities too. The video clip below gives you a short overview of the events.

We began the week by running basic digital skills workshops on email and social media with volunteers from Corsham School 6th form providing help and advice to members of the community. This gave attendees a chance to receive support with setting up and getting to grips with accounts on social media, including joining groups based around their interests. The volunteers from the 6th form were extremely professional and helpful at these events and the attendees left with all the knowledge and support they needed.  The library also put on a session which helped people learn how to use the digital library facilities such as renting e-books and audiobooks. These events gave the students a chance to share their knowledge and skills with older people in the community and helped to tackle issues such as loneliness and isolation.


We ran sessions with two local youth groups Box Youth Club and Corsham Youth Zone. The sessions focussed on social media safety and involved them designing their own social network. The winners from Corsham Youth Zone created a child-friendly version of Tik-Tok with added protections for younger users. The winners from Box created a self-confidence app called Boost which raised the user’s self-esteem through short pep-talks and motivational messages shared between friends.


The biggest event we ran was the Tech Showcase at Corsham Town Hall. We had a range of technology on display including 3D printers from Avon Engineering Systems, a huge, handmade drone from Team Bath Drones, Lego Mindstorms from St Patrick’s School, virtual reality from Corsham Institute and deconstructed computers and servers from our volunteer Richard Munn.  Students from local primary schools visited during the day and later in the afternoon we opened to the public. We had 168 attendees at the event and received very positive feedback from students, teachers and parents who found the event informative and inspirational.


On Friday February 8 we attended the Rhyme Time session at Corsham Library. We chatted to a few parents to find out about their experiences of parenting in a digital world and provided them with leaflets from ParentZone and NSPCC which included information on how to help keep young people safe online.


With the help of some very knowledgeable volunteers from Calne library we ran two Dr. Who themed Microbit workshops on Saturday February 9. Young people got the chance to program and create their own sonic screwdriver and one attendee even came dressed as the Doctor! Microbits (and books with lots of ideas for projects) can be rented from Corsham Library for three weeks at a time and almost everyone who came to the workshop went straight to the counter at the end so they could take their Microbit home!


Throughout the week we also ran a competition for young people to create a community campaign or poster on the theme of consent online which was the topic of Safer Internet Day this year. This poster made by a student at Corsham Regis was the winner!

During half term we ran two workshops at Hartham Park. The first involved young people using Scratch to create their own maze game and the second enabled young people to create their own artificial intelligence chatbot using the Python programming language. Both workshops also included a chance for young people to try out virtual reality. During these sessions it was great to see so many young people engaging and having fun with technology as well as learning lots of new skills. Both Scratch and Python can be used at home for free and the majority of young people took the help sheets home to carry on their programs.


From the feedback we have gathered we will establish how we can move the programme forward in the community with other events. One opportunity is to continue to run basic skills workshops, and we will also be starting an app club at Corsham School after half term. When we have collated all the data and feedback we gathered at the events we will publish this in another post so watch this space.

Corsham Institute and Harvey Nash partnership for the Future Skills Programme

Corsham Institute and Harvey Nash partnership for the Future Skills Programme

Corsham Institute is working in partnership with the Harvey Nash Future Skills programme to deliver Level 4 Apprenticeships in Software Development and Data Analytics Concepts. 

The world of work is changing rapidly and the demand for workers with digital skills far outstrips supply. Jobs in Software Development and Data are growing in number and command high salaries, creating huge opportunities for people to upskill and retrain for these roles with the right support.

We know this skills gap is acute for employers in Swindon, Wiltshire, Bath and Bristol and we are committed to closing the gap. We are therefore pleased to announce our new partnership with Harvey Nash to deliver the Future Skills Programme in the South West region.  

Harvey Nash’s Future Skills Programme provides organisations with brilliant software engineers and data specialists, through a unique training programme.  Making use of the UK Government’s apprenticeship levy scheme, Harvey Nash brings high potential talent from outside the sector and builds their skills through a unique training and development programme.

Corsham Institute will broker new opportunities for employers to use their Apprenticeship Levy to retrain existing staff and recruit new employees with the skills they need. We will  focus on hiring talent from outside of the technology sector, to attract a more diverse pool of candidates.  This will support our commitment to addressing the gender imbalance in the technology workforce, amongst other talent pools. If you would like to know more please see our webpage and get in contact with us at and

Corsham Institute working in partnership with Parent Zone

Corsham Institute working in partnership with Parent Zone

As part of the Children and Young People programme, Corsham Institute is partnering with Parent Zone to provide resources and support for local teachers in delivering a curriculum on empathy and resilience and evaluating the impact this has. Parent Zone’s mission is to improve outcomes for children in a digital worldThey provide support and information to parents, children and schools, working globally to help families navigate the internet safely and confidently.

Our aim with this partnership is to support local teachers to help their students become good digital citizens who communicate respectfully online and support young people to cope with their increasingly online lives. 

We carried out a survey to find out how we could best support our local schools, teachers and students. Teachers voted ‘activities to boost pupils’ empathy and resilience online’ as the number one priority. Parent Zone have expertise in this area - their Digital Schools’ Resilience and Wellbeing curriculum has been designed to boost children and young people's resilience and help them flourish in a digital world. It follows research highlighting the fact that building digital resilience is a more effective way to ensure children stay safer online, and benefit from the opportunities the internet offers. After discussions with Parent Zone it was agreed that they would provide the materials to our local teaching community free of charge and in exchange we would help to evaluate the resources and their impact. So, we will be working with teachers and students to gain feedback on how easy and useful the resources were to teach with, and how engaging and impactful the content was for the students. 

We will keep you all updated during the process and with the final results.  

Division between education provision and workplace requirements

Division between education provision and workplace requirements

You might have heard this phrase before: “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist…using technologies that haven’t been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” It comes from a video about the progression of information technology posted to YouTube in 2010. Nine years on we can see evidence of this with the rise in social media marketers, IoT specialists, and cloud architects. 

A new report from techUK, “Preparing for Change”, provides insight into how parents working in technology view the current education system. The majority of respondents felt that soft skills should be higher on the agenda at both primary and secondary school, and when it came to the curriculum the majority also felt there were necessary changes to be made. 58% of parents agreed the current curriculum does not focus on the necessary competencies for the future and 62% thought that schools could do better at teaching skills relevant for the workplace. 

Despite the fact that teamwork is used in the classroom on a daily basis, the education system still focusses on qualifications which are assessed individually. 91% of parents believed their child would have to retrain throughout their lives and as a result of this, the ability to adapt was something which parents felt was critical. Respondents were concerned that there is too much focus on teaching to the exam which prioritises the learning of hard facts rather than focussing on fluid intelligence which deals with adaption and changing information. 

These views support the statement published in the 2018 Universities UK report “Solving Future Skills Challenges” which predicts a total overhaul of how education is delivered, and warns that the “linear model of education–employment–career will no longer be sufficient”. This, in turn, echoes the findings from the Shadbolt Review of 2016 which looked into computer science degree accreditation and graduate employment. Despite high demand for computer scientists, 11.7% of UK computer science graduates were unemployed six months after leaving university. The review explained students needed to understand the real-world application of their studies. They need to understand how to collaborate, interact and communicate in the work place.

To illustrate the scale of importance, according to tech start-up group The Coalition for a Digital Economy, the UK will need an extra 2.287 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to satisfy its growing tech economy. The evidence is building - from primary school all the way through to university it is becoming increasingly necessary for the education environment to reflect the changing world of work. To embed this is not an easy task, but the crucial ones rarely are.

Opinion: The UK Government response to the DCMS report

Opinion: The UK Government response to the DCMS report

At the end of this summer, the UK House of Commons DCMS Select Committee on Fake News published an interim report. It was a wide-ranging piece of work written in the midst of an equally broad investigation that produced headlines about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, Arron Banks, and Russia. The report covered the definition of disinformation, the role of tech companies, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica allegations, Political campaigning, Russian influence on elections, and digital literacy.

MP Damian Collins’ Committee made 53 recommendations to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Department. The Government, as it is obliged to do, responded to the recommendations with a report published last month, however brief.

Almost immediately, Committee members expressed their disappointment. Just three of the 53 Committee recommendations were accepted. Four were rejected outright. Nine recommendations were ignored. And in testimony to the Committee, the newly-appointed DCMS Department Secretary Jeremy Wright made the case that most of the Committee recommendations ask that matters be considered, and so the Government promised they would, indeed, eventually, consider them.

Funny as that sounds, the Committee’s report is no laughing matter. It warns of a “crisis in our democracy” created by disinformation campaigns and hate messaging, and expresses deep fears over Russian interference in UK and other Western elections.

I’m the Specialist Advisor to the Committee, and I, too, was disappointed by the Government’s response, especially given the timing. Just this week Leave-financier Arron Banks has been referred to the National Crime Agency by the Electoral Commission - something the Committee recommended, yet the Government refused to respond to. The Daily Mail is reporting that Theresa May, as Home Secretary, stepped in to stop an investigation of Banks during the Brexit Referendum campaign. OFCOM in testimony this week continues to refuse to pull the UK license of Russia Today — aka RT — a Kremlin-financed propaganda broadcast network. And just yesterday, the founder and editor of Far Right Watch has claimed confirmation that Nigel Farage is being actively investigated by the FBI. What a week.

There are several points in the Government’s response I find particularly disappointing, and they are worth exploring.

A few of these can be summed up succinctly. The Government is dragging its feet while Democracy burns, deflecting calls for criminal investigations, claiming they’ve found no “successful use of disinformation”, and kicking the can down the road until after Brexit. Most of the Government’s response has simply flagged a number of ongoing consultations and reviews — the “Protecting the Debate: Intimidating, Influence and Information” consultation, for example — and promising to consider them at a future date.

These issues demand a greater sense of urgency from all parties. Given the broad assaults on democracy across Western Europe and North America, by both foreign and domestic actors, I believe the damage being done will take decades to repair. How many tainted election cycles will pass before the Government mounts an effective strategy to counter assaults on our Western pluralistic consensus?

Further, the Government’s response liberally quotes a line that has been trotted out over the past six months — they’ve observed no “evidence of the successful use of disinformation by foreign actors, including Russia, to influence UK democratic processes”. The success of these operations is beside the point. Any attempts by foreign and malign actors to influence UK democratic processes is hostile by nature, and its success or failure does not change this.

If you try to kill your neighbour, but you weren’t quite up to the task, it’s still attempted murder.

Finally, in the face of the Government’s pale response to the Interim Report, it’s worth noting a recent motion for a resolution passed by an EU body — the EU Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. They’ve produced a bold document, calling for criminal investigations, sweeping data legislation reforms, and perhaps most important, a full data audit of Facebook and the big social media networks. I agree with these calls; if you’re planning to regulate the social networks — and believe me, regulation is coming — it’s good to start with understanding the ground upon which you stand.

The problems facing democracy are acute. And it is clear there are several sides in this argument. On one of those sides stands democracy and the civil society; on the other is the fracturing of our democratic culture through malign interference from Russia. Solving this will require a team effort — from Europe and America, from the left and the right, and from the Government and Parliament. All politics aside, it is critical for each one of us to recognise the current crisis as precisely that — a crisis of Democracy — and to make it unambiguously clear which team we’re actually on.

Dr Charles Kriel is Corsham Institute’s Data, Ethics and Trust Research Fellow, and Specialist Advisor to the DCMS Select Committee on Fake News and Disinformation.

Scoping a community approach to young people’s digital skills

Scoping a community approach to young people’s digital skills

When it comes to young people’s digital skills and online safety there’s such a wealth of organisations and resources available that it can be difficult to know where to start. We know we want to work together with our local community to enhance the digital literacy, safety and creativity of young people – but how do we do this effectively?

On Monday October 22nd we hosted a community focus group to share ideas for our new Children and Young People programme. We had parents, educators and community professionals around the table to discuss opportunities and ideas from all angles.

We began the session by setting the scene, sharing some of the findings from our research and outlining our proposed themes and strands: education, safety, and creativity…

  • We believe all young people should receive an education in computing and so we want to support local schools and teachers in delivering the computing curriculum using resources from Barefoot and Computing at School. 

  • We want young people to understand the safest ways to interact in the digital environment so we want to link with schools and community groups to share online safety information from expert organisations such as ParentZone and South West Grid for Learning. 

  • Our research to date shows that giving young people the opportunity to use technology in a creative way will engage and enthuse them so we want to create extra-curricular opportunities, for example a Code Club, so young people can experiment with technology in new ways. 

 After presenting our findings and ideas we asked attendees to talk in groups and prioritise which initiatives we should run for teachers and pupils in local schools, parents and carers in the home and the everyone in the local community. It was agreed that we should work in partnership with local established groups to deliver information and activities.


We discussed a wide variety of possibilities, including messaging through established brands and campaigns such as Microsoft and Safer Internet Day. We discussed the power of social media influencers and the potential to connect with those such as Zoella to act as role models for young people’s online behaviour. We shared ideas for projects such as the development of a young people’s digital festival in partnership with other community organisations such as Corsham Youth Zone, Pound Arts and Springfield Campus. This could be held to coincide with Safer Internet Day 2019 and include workshops for game-making, code-breaking, and animation.

Such an approach would see Corsham Institute supporting community hubs to host events which allow young people to interact with technology in a practical and creative way to highlight the positives of the digital world.


The research we’ve carried out so far shows that young people are keen to have opportunities to interact in a more creative way with technology so it’s exciting to be able to offer these experiences. We will work with the community to develop projects we can rollout in partnership, ensuring they are user designed so that they work for the young people in the area and give them the chance to engage in new and inspiring ways with digital technology. We aim to empower them, and those around them, to use digital technology in positive and creative ways. If you would like to get involved or support this programme please contact us via

Corsham Institute at the United Nations General Assembly

Corsham Institute at the United Nations General Assembly

By Charles Kriel, Research Fellow – Data, Ethics and Trust

Last week the United Nations wrapped up two weeks of high-level general debate, talks and panels at their 73rd General Assembly. For two weeks government, private industry and civil society leaders, along with experts, activists and celebrities discussed the greatest challenges of our times — equality, poverty, climate change and peace, among a range of other topics.

World leaders guffawed at Donald Trump’s speech. The organisation UN Women presented their 2030 gender equality agenda.  And heads-of-state addressed (or clearly didn’t) this year’s theme of ”Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies”.

I was fortunate to have been invited to represent “Corsham Institute at the “New Partnerships for Countering Violent Extremist Narratives” event, hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Across what was in fact a full-blown mini-conference, Countering Violent Extremism leaders from around the globe spoke of their work, their hopes, and their programmes.

Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE, is a form of counter-terrorism placing an emphasis on crafting positive narratives about the civil society. At its best, it is a community-driven social media practice, reaching out to vulnerable individuals whose need for social inclusion is so great, they might be pressured into acts of violence against their fellow citizens. CVE is media heavy and military light, and often best practiced by charities and NGOs working in concert with government organisations.

Everything from online disinformation (or fake news) through digital inclusivity has a role to play in countering extemist narratives. Just as it takes an entire village to raise a child, it also takes an entire community to prevent the online radicalisation of that child grown into an adult.

A few highlights:

  • The minister of Danish Foreign Affairs, Anders Samuelsen, opened the sessions by reminding the audience that terrorist attacks have decreased for the third year in a row. But he also noted that although Da’esh is losing the fight in Syria and Iraq, they are thriving in “cyberspace”.

  • Lebanese National PVE Coordinator Rubina Abu Zeinab pointed out that every action must be taken to increase trust by the community.

  • While pointing out that the internal culture of big platforms regarding terrorist content had changed in the last decade, William McCants, Public Policy Manager for Google, claimed that offline communication was far more important to radicalisation than online — that online “only makes a contribution”.

  • Farah Souhail of London’s ZINC Network felt that dehumanisation was the leading issue, and that her StratCom agency emphasised the humanisation of the terrorist victim. She also noted that in Tunisia, where children have little access to traditional media but easy access to online content, their main entertainment is often waiting for the next Da’esh video, fantasising its content with their friends.

  • Erin Saltman of Facebook again emphasised the importance of offline contact. And like the Google representative before her, she shifted much of the responsibility for online distribution of radical material onto the shoulders of smaller platforms with less staff, pointing out that Facebook employed ten thousand content reviewers.

  • Alexander Guittard, Director of Governance and StratCom of M&C Saatchi made a strong point of emphasising the fluidity between online and offline media. “There is no distinction,” he claimed, pointing out that users easily move between worlds. And,

  • Alexander Ritzmann of the EU’s Radicalisation Awareness Network noted that the private sector could be used to help the civil society, but it must be directed. He also made a call for more programmes empowering citizens and communities to speak up and express their own civil society narratives.

The depth and breadth of knowledge from the speakers was impressive. But in these sessions and others, I also found a clear divide between civil society organisations, and those charged with representing the major platforms — Facebook, Google, etc.

I found their claims around online and offline particularly disingenuous. While almost everyone agrees that offline contact is important, that is a step that often doesn’t occur until very late in the radicalisation process, when a groomer seeks to move their target to violent action. Meantime these vulnerable individuals — potential terrorists — exist within an online community of individuals with radicalised views, fed daily by online content.

Further, transferring responsibility for online radicalisation to small platforms ignores many of the facts of online extremist materials. Smaller platforms like the oft-cited do indeed find themselves hosting extreme content - violent and dehumanising. But radicalisation benefits from more seductive work, promising lands of plenty, brotherhood, and a place where a vulnerable young man might belong.

And even one hundred thousand content reviewers would be a drop-in-the-bucket for YouTube or Facebook, particularly when they’re also responsible for policing porn and spam.

Finally, Alexander Ritzmann’s points cannot be emphasised enough. Counter-terror narratives need to be delivered by members of the community, telling their own stories. They should be told by people that we trust, and shouldn’t just appear to be genuine, but be genuinely authentic.

It was an enormous honour to be invited to this year’s UN General Assembly. And while our “Countering Violent Extremism” podcast may now have expanded to the larger issues of “Data, Ethics and Trust”, our emphasis is on exploring how technology impacts communities. Understanding the workings of online media, technically, socially and psychologically, remains vital in our quest as a civil society organisation to promote the narratives of peace and democracy. Online or off.

“Hey Alexa, stop sharing my data!”

“Hey Alexa, stop sharing my data!”

By Martin Head, Programme Director, Communities and Director of Content

Our homes are becoming ever more connected, with ownership of smart devices more than doubling in the last two years. This data, from a report earlier this year from PwC(1), reveals that almost 40% of people now enter the connected home market via smart entertainment devices.

The PwC survey estimates that the market in 2019 for smart devices will be 10.8bn, whilst techUK(2) have recently found that the use of smart speakers has doubled from 2017 to 2018 and that households owning more than three smart home products have grown by a quarter since 2017.

As Ronan O’Regan, PwC’s Digital Utilities lead said, as their report was launched,

“While smart home assistants are relatively new to the market, we believe they could potentially be the ‘glue’ towards wider adoption. You could say they are having an ‘iPhone effect’ in the market.”(3)

The development of connected technology is still in its infancy with some devices offering solutions seemingly still in search of a problem (Bluetooth kettles anyone?). The real scope and ultimate power of connecting our homes in an integrated way is still a long way from being realised.

There are huge opportunities in how we might use the technology to support and protect people, however, these devices generate vast quantities of personal data – a fact that may be misunderstood by the users. Therefore, a deeper understanding of data privacy and an ability to develop a trusted relationship with the providers and the uses of the technology is needed. As techUK’s Sue Daley wrote recently in a piece for Corsham Institute’s Observatory for a Connected Society app in regard to AI and ethics, “It is our job to continue to build the culture of data trust and confidence needed to ensure technology remains a force for good”(4).

The relevance and power of all the personal data gathered from a connected home when numerous devices are integrated together is going to take on new dimensions at an exponential rate. PwC in launching their recent report said that, “Tech giants are blurring lines and breaking down barriers, creating innovative products that capture data to provide differentiating insights, novel solutions and a seamless user experience”, but they recognised that trust in suppliers “could become a major battleground for traditional players over the next few years”(3).

For most consumers the journey to understand the meaning and full implications of sharing their personal data is only just beginning. Corsham Institute’s Your Data, Your Rights survey earlier this year showed that while 60% of respondents cared a lot about the use of their personal data, only 18% knew a lot about its collection(5), and the recent techUK ‘Connected Homes’ report shows that for 23% of consumers personal privacy was the second highest barrier to buying connected home products (after the cost).(2)

Further, while there is an official definition of personal data in the 2018 Data Protection Act as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable living individual… particular by reference to, (a) an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data or an online identifier, or (b) one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of the individual”(6), what we’re prepared to share isn’t a fixed concept, it will differ between age groups, other demographics and for the value we perceive we are receiving from each device or app.

In a recent workshop held at the Digital Catapult, by a multi-university Petras funded project into the ‘Value of Personal Data in the Internet of Things’(7), the ‘privacy paradox’ was highlighted as the tension between individuals’ stated desire to maintain privacy, set against their willingness to share their data online, while it was recognised that ‘little is understood about the value consumers place on keeping their data private’. Their work to date includes findings that individuals perceive a lack of choice about whether to share their personal data, care deeply about protecting it and are even willing to pay to do so.

The debate over data ethics is increasingly fundamental, and ever more urgent as homes become more connected, when devices could be listening to our everyday conversations and making decisions about our preferences, opinions and shopping habits(8). It’s not simply about finding more appropriate business models to use the data, nor that people should have to pay for the protection of the data about themselves, it’s that there is an urgent need for a culture of data to develop as rapidly as the technology is doing and to grow hand in hand with it.

Individual citizens need to own and control third party access to their personal data and further still, when access has been granted, have choices on how it is used on an ongoing basis, and for that permission to be able to be withdrawn if circumstances change. This is an area that Corsham Institute will be working with partners to develop ethical frameworks and community-led test beds to understand in greater depth the implications for all of us, as our homes become ever more connected.

If Alexa and Cortana are to become invited guests into our living rooms or even virtual members of the family, they must end up serving the real interests of their owners and work for us, and not use their all too attractive functionality as a cover story for a massive data mining exercise by those who market them.


(1) PWC Disrupting Utilities:

(2) techUK Report: State of the Connected Home, Edition Two, September 2018


(4) Excerpt from blog by Sue Daley, Head of Programme, Cloud, Data, Analytics and AI at techUK: ‘AI, ethics and data: a watershed moment for UK tech’, written for the Observatory for a Connected Society:


(6) Data Protection Act 2018, Chapter 12, Part 1:3(2)



New skills and fresh perspectives

New skills and fresh perspectives

Looking ahead to our 2018/ 2019 Apprenticeship Programme

It is widely recognised that the education system in the UK is struggling to keep pace with our changing digital world. Young people are seeking, but are not always able to find, learning opportunities that develop their technical skills alongside ‘human’ skills like creativity and problem-solving. 

Corsham Institute recently supported the Techie Awards at Hartham Park and heard from employers across the South West region, who said they had been struggling to find new talent. This skills gap, for young people who can’t find appropriate learning pathways and employers who can’t find the right skills, could potentially be plugged with the help of apprenticeships.

Research by The Sutton Trust this year found that, 2 in 3 young people would be interested in doing an apprenticeship. Despite this, just 41% say their teachers have discussed apprenticeships with them at school. 24% of secondary school teachers think there are enough apprenticeship opportunities at A-level. However, just 1 in 5 of them are willing to recommend these opportunities to their highest attaining pupils. 64% of teachers would rarely or never advise an apprenticeship.

With the high fees of university education, young people are considering alternative routes to avoid the costs and debts. The ‘earn whilst you learn’ concept is a big incentive for most people pursuing an apprenticeship and the government’s 2020 target of 3 million apprenticeships in England hopes to give young people the alternative they’ve been searching for.

Here at Corsham Institute, we take great pride in our Apprentices. Our Apprenticeship Programme has been running since September 2015 and so far we’ve welcomed four young people through our door. They’ve all been a key asset to our team and have provided us with new skills, fresh perspectives and an opportunity to grow local talent.  

In September 2017, we were pleased to take on Sam and Kara as Creative & Digital Media Apprentices. For the last year, they’ve been a core part of our Creative Team and have produced many high-quality pieces of work around digital marketing and creative content. 

Kara, who has now completed her apprenticeship, said “I have really enjoyed my time as an apprentice at Corsham Institute. I was given the opportunity to work on a variety of projects including filming and editing a TEDx talk, photographing and producing motion graphics for an event at the House of Lords, designing infographics for Safer Internet Day and producing fundraising videos. Another valuable opportunity was the time given to us to pursue an independent project, which allowed me to build the coding and design skills I will need in my next job. My time as an apprentice has given me the chance to build technical skills as well as softer office skills. All of this will continue to benefit me in the jobs I have in the future.”


Sam, who has also now completed his qualification, said “My time at Corsham Institute has been completely rewarding, and very enjoyable. There have been so many opportunities, which I haven’t taken for granted. Some of my favourite tasks include shooting a video in Cambridge at RAND Europe’s main office, helping to run social media at the launch of an app at the House of Lords, and shooting and editing a video in Bristol at We the Curious. An apprenticeship, in my opinion, is a fantastic step in the right direction, and has given me the correct skills and workplace etiquette to aide my professional progressionWith an apprenticeship, you really do get out what you put in.”

Both Sam and Kara have now taken the next steps on their professional journeys. We are very proud of their achievements with us and we wish them all the best for the future. Having passionate young people in our team ensures we have a diverse organisation, with a range of perspectives. We look forward to welcoming two new apprentices in October as they begin their journeys.