A woman’s perspective for International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration of talented and vital women across the globe. Here, Liverpool 5G’s Health and Social Care Authority, Ann Williams (from Liverpool City Council), tells us about the great work she’s been involved in , improving social care outcomes and reducing the digital divide in Liverpool. 

I am a Commissioner and Contract manager in Adult Social Services for Liverpool City Council.  For the last 10 years this has been a challenging role with increased demand for services whilst facing severe austerity cuts to funding.  In Liverpool we recognised that new technologies can provide part of the solution to this wicked problem. 

However, with the switch to digital from analogue telephone lines due in 2025 we realised the connectivity costs would become an issue.  This led to us exploring the benefits of a private 5G network to deliver health and social care.  We were successful in the first phase of 5G test bed and trials in 2017, focusing on health and social care.  Building on this success we were awarded a further £4.3m of funding in the first round of the DCMS 5G Create awards last summer.  With the support of Ofcom we are trialling our own cellular network for Local Authorities and NHS use.  This is a very exciting programme and I am so proud to be one of the leaders of such a dynamic collaboration including Liverpool universities, the local Clinical Commissioning Group, Community Health Trust, and SME companies.

This network using UK technology will help reduce the significant health inequalities across our population in Liverpool.  Everyone will be able to benefit from the new technologies developing in the health service, especially the new home monitoring technologies.  The network also provides an opportunity for the Local Authority to provide free unlimited connectivity to pupils at home.  This will help tackle the digital divide and help level up the socio-economic impact this pandemic has had. 

My background is not a technical one, but I can see the importance of the use of technology in delivering public services in the future, and the huge benefits the 5G technology brings. By using the council owned fibre CCTV ring and our lampposts we are using a mm mesh network for the back haul of our independent network.

 In 2020 we all realised the importance of a reliable, fast, low latency internet service with lots of data at an affordable rate.  The rollout of technology in the first 5 months of lockdown in Primary care services was what would have been expected to take place over 5 years. The increase in remote working including medical consultations, and social work assessments rely on a good affordable internet connection. 

The need to keep families in touch with their elderly relatives and generally reduce social isolation has also become a key issue.  Most care homes did not have access to enough broad band to provide the type of connectivity they would have liked.  Care homes in the area we are working in will be connected to our network and we will be trialling several devices including a Haptic Hug top that using 5G will allow residents in a care home to receive a remote hug from their loved ones.  We are also trialling Chill Panda a mental support app for young children to try and address the mental health issues the Covid pandemic has brought.

 In 2020 there have been so many new words and scientific concepts that have come into our everyday language, who would have thought we would understand the importance of a R number?  However, the phrase that I think sums up 2020 is “You are still on mute”, I hope that our independent 5G network will offer everyone in Liverpool the opportunity to utter those words!