Digital Wales

Written by Simon Renault, Head of Special Projects, Innovation Point Ltd

Simon Renault has been announced as the Wales local champion 2017. Simon Renault is a career civil servant currently on secondment from Welsh Government to Innovation Point Ltd. Whilst at Welsh Government he held various policy and project positions related to ICT and the digital economy. He was programme manager for the Broadband Wales programme delivering the transition from dial-up to broadband internet access and from 2010 to 2015 was portfolio manager of Digital Wales, the Welsh Government’s strategy to ensure that everyone could enjoy the benefits of digital technologies.

At Innovation Point Ltd. he leads on the collaboration with Cardiff University and Welsh businesses in the design and delivery of the National Software Academy (NSA). This innovative model in the teaching of an undergraduate degree course aims to increase the number of work-ready graduates who “learn-by-doing” working on real projects for real organisations.  Building on the success of the NSA, where over 150 organisations have engaged with the students in its first two-years, Simon has worked with University South Wales and Welsh organisations to design and deliver the National Cyber Security Academy. 

Wales has undergone a significant digital transformation over the last 15 years. The Welsh Government’s Broadband Wales programme ensured that the people and businesses of Wales weren’t left behind as the UK moved from dial-up to broadband connectivity and with its Superfast Cymru project it has gone on to ensure that Wales has the best superfast broadband connectivity in the UK.  Additionally, the Cardiff Internet Exchange provides South Wales with what is only the UK’s third internet intersection, the others being in London and Manchester and the region boasts Europe’s largest data centre, NGD Europe, with a 50-acre campus and a 100% renewable energy provision to match.

Realising that access to a world-class broadband infrastructure wasn’t enough to drive a digital economy the Welsh Government published its Digital Wales strategy. This set out the importance for ensuring that everyone could enjoy the benefits of digital technologies. It described actions building on the broadband connectivity ensuring: that our learners have the appropriate digital skills to live in a digital world; that our public service delivery is digitally transformed; that no-one is digitally excluded and that Wales has a vibrant digital economy.

Today businesses across Wales take advantage of superfast broadband to deliver business in a truly digital Wales.  Many businesses, as is common across the UK, bemoan the difficulties they face in recruiting from a pipeline of highly-skilled, work-ready technology graduates with particular difficulties faced in recruiting software engineers, cyber security specialists and network architects. To help address this digital skills problem Cardiff University, in collaboration with the Alacrity Foundation, Innovation Point Ltd. and Welsh Government has developed an innovative undergraduate model to teach the next generation of software engineers. Undergraduate students studying for a BSc in Applied Software Engineering at Cardiff University’s National Software Academy (NSA) don’t attend lectures but “learn-by-doing”, working on real-life software projects with real clients.  This innovative approach has attracted significant interest from in excess of 150 Welsh businesses, from across the private, public and third sectors. These businesses actively engage on a daily basis with the undergraduates ensuring that on graduation the students will have the most up-to-date knowledge and experience of applying the latest software engineering tools and techniques in a real business environment.

Building on the success of the NSA in delivering a degree course designed by business for the needs of business, Innovation Point has led a collaboration with University of South Wales and cyber security businesses in the design and delivery of the National Cyber Security Academy (NCSA). The NCSA will take its first cohort of undergraduate students studying for a BSc in Applied Cyber Security, at the start of this coming academic year.  This collaborative approach of delivering an undergraduate curriculum designed by industry and taught through real-life projects is now being explored by other Welsh Universities across other academic disciplines including Big Data and data analytics.

Embracing the digital revolution has transformed Wales into a leading tech playground, driving digital innovation across all spheres of Welsh life.

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