Hansard Contribution By Lord Mawson (CB) On Tuesday 18 January 2022
My Lords, my colleagues and I built the first online facility for the voluntary and social enterprise sector in this country in 1997, called CAN Online. We learned rather a lot from doing that, and I actually came to many of the conclusions that the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, is telling us about. When we started this, we naively thought that this online environment was going to solve all our problems, as if it sat “out there” somewhere. We bought 12 computers: they came in very big boxes at that point, as noble Lords might remember. We put them in a room in a conference centre—we were in the Cotswolds—and I invited 12 entrepreneurial people working in the social sector to come and share a few days with them. We connected them all up. We thought it was about technology, but we actually we discovered that it was all about people and relationships; that this technology was simply a tool—an enabler—to facilitate a marketplace that we needed to build between us.
We began to understand that this was not about large systems up there that you plonk in the middle of things in some separate way. It is actually organic: they are very connected, and you need to co-create it and invent it together around the real needs and opportunities that are presenting themselves. I think this technology is telling us something about what needs to happen to the health service. It is organic; it is entrepreneurial; it is about creating a learning-by-doing culture. My colleagues and I have seen examples in the NHS and other parts of the public sector where millions of pounds have been spent on systems that have landed from Mars and have not worked.
First, we must understand the detail of this technology, and the opportunity that it brings. Later on, as we go through the amendments, I will share with noble Lords some technology platforms that we are working with across the country that have absolutely understood this. When they are engaged with the NHS, instead of the system getting behind them and building on their success and knowledge, it never follows up on the conversation with them. They never heard from the NHS again. There is a disconnect going on, and a fatal misunderstanding of how this new world now needs to work.
I welcome these amendments and this conversation, but we must understand—from those of us who built some of this stuff, even in the clunky old days of 1997 —that it is all about the relationship between people and technology and a learning-by-doing entrepreneurial environment.
Link to the debate published on Tuesday 18 January 2022