Next Generation Entrepreneurs & Internet Visionaries

The Next Generation Entrepreneurs & Internet Visionaries
A week-long computer coding camp for teenagers is being held at St James’ Park, Newcastle.

The Wonga Codemakers event, which is being piloted in the North East, is aimed at finding and inspiring the next generation of British entrepreneurs and internet visionaries.

A total of 50 young people aged 13 and 14 will be taking part, learning from expert technology students and listening to inspirational speakers from the entrepreneurial world. The event is a non-profit initiative being launched by payday lender Wonga in partnership with Codecademy, the global tech education company, and the Newcastle United Foundation.

Wonga says it is “determined to do something meaningful” alongside its normal business activities and is concerned schools are not always teaching coding in a sufficiently engaging way.

Joanna Shields, chief executive of Tech City and UK Business Ambassador for Digital Industries, said: “We need to continue to see more investment, mentoring and skills development and programmes such as Wonga Codemakers will help us continue to establish entrepreneurship as a credible career path and build the digital skills this country depends on for its future economic success.”

The founder and chief executive of Wonga, Errol Damelin, said: “Computer code is a language that few people understand, but it has the power to do so much and we’re determined to deliver an inspiring and accessible programme.

“The Newcastle camp will allow us to get things started and design an exceptional blueprint this year, but we’re treating it much like any new venture and our vision is to reach thousands of children over the next few years.

“We’ll do that by rolling out the camps across the UK and to other countries where we have a presence. Everything we do is built to scale.”

1,000 New Jobs with Bentley’s New 4×4

Bentley’s 4×4 Move to Create 1,000 New Jobs
More than 1,000 jobs are to be created by luxury car firm Bentley with the development of a new model. The SUV, the company’s fourth model, will be built at the firm’s site in Crewe and will go on sale in 2016, with an investment of £800m.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who visited the factory today, said: “This £800m investment and 1,000 new jobs from Bentley is fantastic news for both Crewe and for the UK. It is another important milestone in strengthening our economy. “One sector that we know is sprinting ahead in the global race is our booming automotive industry. One vehicle rolls off a production line somewhere in the UK every 20 seconds and we have just launched the Government’s Automotive Industrial Strategy to help continue this success for years to come. “I am delighted that Bentley will be building their new vehicle here, not only creating 1,000 jobs, but safeguarding many more, as well as increasing training opportunities for highly skilled apprentices.”

Dr Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the board of Volkswagen Group, said: “The Volkswagen Group believes in the UK as a competitive location for industrial production. Bentley fans are looking forward to the brand’s first SUV. Together we will make this new Bentley another true Bentley – powerful, exclusive and successful.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “This is a welcome commitment to the UK from a major international car-maker. Our automotive industrial strategy proves this Government’s commitment to working with world-class companies like Bentley to create jobs and promote exports.

“Bentley was the first firm I visited as a Government minister and serves as a real example of high-value manufacturing. They export more than four out of every five cars they make in the UK.”

Bentley’s chairman and chief executive, Dr Wolfgang Schreiber, said: “This is excellent news for Bentley and for the UK. Bentley is increasingly successful and this new fourth model line will leverage the success of the global SUV market.

“The support of everyone involved with the company has been fundamental to this decision, which will ensure sustainable growth for the company.”

Amazon Scraps Free Delivery on Some Purchases Under £10

Amazon Scraps Free Delivery on Some Purchases Under £10
Online retailer Amazon has scrapped free “super saver” delivery to the UK on some products worth less than £10. It reverses a policy introduced in October 2009 that let items be sent without postage charge if customers agreed to wait up to five business days for delivery after the dispatch date.

The new threshold will not apply to books, DVDs, music, video games and software products. Amazon said the move would “affect only a very small proportion of orders”.

But one retail analyst said the move could still be “damaging” for the online retailer. Customers buying non-qualifying products, such as a USB memory stick worth less than £10, for example, would face a postage and packaging charge of £3.99. Some postage charges on other goods could be even higher.

Neil Saunders, analyst with retail specialist Conlumino told the BBC: “This is potentially damaging for Amazon as there is likely to be resistance to this change from some customers, particularly those infrequent shoppers who don’t mind waiting a bit longer for their goods to arrive.”

Amazon, which achieves about £3bn a year in UK sales, said multiple orders worth less than £10 could still be delivered free if they included a qualifying product, such as a book or DVD. The retailer said the imposition of a minimum spend threshold would allow it to offer “a significantly expanded selection of lower priced products”.

Amazon has vastly expanded the number of goods it offers online in recent years, including clothes, groceries and health and beauty products, not to mention the goods being sold by third-party vendors. As a result, “the economics of offering free delivery on cheap goods just don’t stack up any more”, says Bryan Roberts, analyst with Kantar Retail.

Analysts also speculate the change may be designed to promote the Amazon Prime delivery service, which costs £49 a year for one-day delivery on an unlimited number of orders. “The more customers who use Prime the better for Amazon as it helps their retention and loyalty figures, but occasional shoppers are unlikely to switch as it is quite expensive,” said Mr Saunders.

Amazon is also trying to push people towards making multiple purchases as profit margins on some low-volume products are “very low”, he argues.

In June, Amazon.co.uk scrapped free super saver delivery to a number of countries, including Italy, Spain, Greece, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Vatican City.

This used to provide free delivery on orders over £25.

Tech Firms Target Ads on Pirate Websites

Tech Firms Target Ads on Pirate Websites
Websites that profit from piracy are being targeted by an initiative that aims to cut off the cash they get from adverts. The initiative could mean ads being withdrawn from sites pirating music and movies or selling fake goods.  Many such sites only survive because cash generated by ads helps them pay their high bandwidth bills.

Tech firms such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo that pipe adverts to sites have signed up to the initiative.

Before now, many rights holders have tried to deal with sites that infringe copyright with take-down notices that seek to get copyrighted content removed from the web. The new scheme gives them another avenue as they can now target adverts that run on webpages found to be offering counterfeit goods or pirated media. Under the scheme, they will be able to inform an ad network that their adverts are appearing on a pirate site. It will then be up to the ad network to investigate and pull the ads if they agree the site is engaged in copyright theft. Sites accused of piracy are also allowed to file evidence in their defence if they believe the accusation is wrong.

The scheme takes the form of a series of “best practice guidelines” that those who supply ads have agreed to uphold. The initiative was brokered by the US government’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Co-ordinator. “Ultimately, we want to create and maintain a healthy online space, promote innovation, and protect intellectual property,” said Linda Covington, Yahoo’s IP policy head, in a statement.

Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Google, 24/7 Media, Adtegrity, Conde Nast and SpotXchange have all pledged to back the guidelines.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was critical of the scheme and said it that it would not make much difference. In a statement, Chris Dodd, head of the MPAA, said it was an “incremental step forward that addresses only a narrow subset of the problem and places a disproportionate amount of the burden on rights holders.”

It is also not clear how much effect it will have on bigger sites that generally use ad networks that have not signed up to the initiative. None of the top 10 ad firms that supply the majority of adverts to illicit file-sharing sites is involved with the scheme.

UK Rural Broadband Roll

UK Rural Broadband Roll-Out Criticised by Auditors
The government’s rollout of “superfast” broadband to rural areas is about two years behind its original schedule, an official audit has found. The report said only nine of 44 rural areas would reach targets for high-speed internet by 2015, and four areas could also miss a revised 2017 target.

The National Audit Office also raised concerns that BT would be the only firm likely to win contracts. It said the company would benefit from £1.2bn of public funds as a result. “The rural broadband project is moving forward late and without the benefit of strong competition to protect public value,” said auditor general Amyas Morse. “For this we will have to rely on the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s active use of the controls it has negotiated and strong supervision by the regulator Ofcom.”  He added the scheme was also expected to cost the taxpayer more than first thought.

In 2011, then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that 90% of premises in every local authority area of the UK should have access to internet speeds above 24 megabits per second by May 2015 and a minimum of 2Mbps for others.

To do this he pledged £530m of cash for rural broadband projects which would become available to councils if they also provided funds. He said this would give the country the “best superfast broadband network in Europe”.

However, the scheme was hit by delays, in part because it took longer than expected to get approval from the EU. The NAO said once officials revised their projections, they found it was going to take 22 months longer than first envisaged for 40 of the areas to reach the goal. Last week the Treasury revised its target, saying it now wanted 95% of UK properties to have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017, effectively shifting the goal until after the next general election.

The NAO warned four areas – Highlands and Islands, Cumbria, Norfolk and Suffolk – might still miss this new deadline because the local authorities had failed to request sufficient funds.

A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council told the BBC that since the report was compiled it had signed a contract with BT to deliver superfast broadband to 93% of Cumbrian homes by 2015.

The DCMS said that a pledge to invest an extra £250m meant it would meet the goal. However, the NAO said that past experience suggested the “government is not strong at taking remedial action to guard against further slippage”.

The revelations prompted claims that DCMS did not have a “good enough grip” on its programme and that BT had been “cagey” about its costs. “Opaque data and limited benchmarks for comparison means the department has no idea if BT is being reasonable or adding in big mark ups,” said Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who is the chair of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. However, a spokesman for the DCMS said its efforts to deliver value-for-money were “strong and robust”. “We agree that effective enforcement of the contracts is important and are working with local authorities to ensure this,” he said. “As the NAO report makes clear, the project’s funding model greatly reduced the cost and financial risk to the taxpayer.”

BT also defended its record.

“There was strong competition when prices were set at the start of the process and that has ensured counties have benefited from the best possible terms,” it said. “Deploying fibre broadband is an expensive long-term business and so it was no surprise that others dropped out as the going got tough.”

Sixteen organisations had originally shown interest in competing for the rural broadband projects. The NAO noted that “competition was envisaged to be a key value-for-money safeguard”.  However, it said suppliers had complained the bidding process was “difficult and complicated” and that the process favoured large companies with secure revenue streams.

By early 2013 only BT and Fujitsu were left in the running, and in March Fujitsu dropped out after it said various factors had made winning the work unattractive. The audit highlighted that officials only scored BT’s financial model eight out of 20 – the minimum pass rate. It said it remained unclear how much of the firm’s bids covered “contingency costs” – a safety-cushion to protect it against unexpected charges.

It also raised concern that BT said 40% of its costs would be on staffing – a figure the NAO said was hard to verify. The report revealed that there had already been one instance when BT had been caught overcharging for management costs by £3m. It also pointed out that BT’s figures were based on the assumption that only 20% of properties would sign up to superfast broadband within seven years of it being enabled. The study said this was lower than the figure suggested by both industry experts and international comparisons.

A clawback rule is supposed to ensure that if uptake is higher the firm should share the extra profits with the public. However, the NAO said government workers would have to scrutinise hundreds of thousands of invoices to make sure this happened, and that some councils have already said they might not have enough resources to do this.

Business Confidence High in the UK

Business Confidence in the UK at Six Year High
Business confidence in the UK is at its highest level since 2007, the latest economic survey from a leading business group has suggested. The quarterly survey from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is the latest indication that the UK’s economic recovery is strengthening.

There was further good news from a survey of the UK’s construction sector.

The Markit / CIPS purchasing managers’ index indicated the sector grew for the second month in a row in June.  “The UK upturn is slowly strengthening,” said David Kern, the BCC’s chief economist.

The BCC said export sales had grown by their fastest rate since it began publishing its survey in 1989. It now expects GDP to grow by 0.6% in the second quarter of 2013. That is significantly more positive than its previous forecast, where it predicted growth of 0.9% for the whole year.

The survey adds to a slew of recent positive data suggesting the UK economy is beginning to strengthen after a long and slow recovery from the global financial crisis.

On Monday, PMI data also suggested UK manufacturing is growing at its fastest rate in two years, while Bank of England figures showed that mortgage approvals hit a three-and-a-half-year high in May.

Last week, official data showed the services sector, which accounts for about three-quarters of the economy, was continuing to grow. Mr Kern said the services sector in particular was benefitting from rising exports. “The remarkable export balances show that the service sector is capable of increasing its trade surplus over time and can work to reduce our overall trade deficit,” he said. “Developing the export potential of this sector is critical to long-term prosperity.”

The BCC said the number of businesses looking to export had increased in the face of a flat domestic market, and exporters were increasingly looking to the rest of the world outside Europe. However, there are still concerns that the recovery could yet be derailed.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, BCC director general John Longworth said there had been “false dawns” of recovery before, where business expansion had been choked off by banks being unwilling to lend the money required.  He also said inflation remained a worry among businesses.

But UK businessman Luke Johnson, the former chairman of Pizza Express, told the BBC he believed there was a “real recovery” under way. “I think the consistency of all the surveys and statistics coming through over the last six to 12 months is pretty compelling,” he said. “I sense a rising tide of animal spirits. Of course there are always threats and challenges ahead but sentiment is now much better, and this is now a real recovery.”

European Internet ‘Running 25% Slower than Advertised’

European Internet ‘Running 25% Slower than Advertised’
Customers across Europe are getting broadband speeds 25% slower on average than that advertised by their service providers, a European Commission report says. The study suggests the average speed in Europe is 19.7Mbps. Service providers routinely advertise speeds “up to” a certain amount, which most consumers will not get.

The EU wants to get all households on speeds of at least 30Mbps by the end of 2013 and half on 100Mbps by 2020. The study analysed broadband speeds from nearly 10,000 households around Europe. It ran 75 million tests, generating three billion pieces of data.

Cable broadband services came the closest to advertised speeds, at 91.4%, while fibre users got 84.4% of advertised speeds. Beefed-up ADSL services fared the worse – getting just 63.3% of advertised speeds. This is because they are run on copper phone lines that offer slower speeds the further people live from the exchange.

The UK government has announced it wants to get fast broadband to 95% of the population by 2017 and will use wireless and 4G to extend this to 99% by 2018.

“Fast broadband is no longer a luxury and is now just as essential as a reliable electricity supply for UK consumers,” said Dominic Baliszewski, from website broadbandchoices. “We shall see exactly how realistic these targets are. With Ofcom putting current super-fast availability at 65% of the population, there is still a long way to go.”