“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect”
Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
The Fight for Web Accessibility as a Human Right
It’s the mission of the web accessibility initiative (WAI) to provide access to digital information and communication technologies as a basic human right, therefore it’s important that it’s accessible to all.
The web breaks down communication barriers for those living with a disability in the physical world.
However when websites and digital services are poorly designed they exclude people from using the internet, which is the issue we’re going to be addressing in this blog post.
The UK healthcare sector has been adopting digital technology to improve patient services in the last few years. However there are over 6.9 million disabled people registered in the UK, which represents 19% of the working population, and they need to be able to use the same facilities and receive the same experiences as non-disabled. Therefore the NHS has a duty to provide them with continuing appropriate access in order to comply with accessibility policies.
Better Web Accessibility would Improve Unemployment
In the world today, over a billion people are registered as having a disability according to the World Health Organization.
Focusing on delivering such technology to a high quality standard could potentially benefit the UK economy also, as it could help an additional million more disabled people into work. According to disability charity Scope the UK economy would grow 1.7%, or £45bn.
It’s the responsibility of all web providers, especially those with high volumes of traffic or service providers, to contribute towards reducing discrimination that can occur if a web platform isn’t accessible.
The NHS offer varying text size, colour, PDF accessibility, keyboard navigation and video accessibility across their entire website to ensure patients and users have full use. Their website complies with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Level AA guidelines for accessibility and they “remain committed to maintaining and improving the accessibility of their site”. No matter any political decisions or budget cuts etc NHS web accessibility needs to remain a top priority to prevent discrimination.
Similarly, British public service broadcaster institution, the BBC, have “My Web, My Way”, as part of their web service. Their site provides accessibility help, enabling computer users to make the most of the internet whatever their ability or disability. The BBC ensure best practices are followed throughout all of their web pages to reduce discrimination and make their site available to everybody.
Technology is enjoying increasing success in the UK healthcare sector, and the introduction of digital tech that’s tailored to assist those with disabilities is revolutionary for those with physical world conditions. Focusing on continually innovating digital tech and improvements to human interaction services could see huge results and be the driving force behind the development of the NHS.
Over the past decade we have seen an exponential growth in technology from the introduction of wireless internet, to smartphones, to nanotechnology. One particularly interesting concept is the channel shift that we are seeing in the ways in which we communicate.
What used to be 1:1 interaction has now led to the use of social media where clients are now able to reach out to businesses and social services at a click of a button. However, Social media is still too much like a broadcast channel where only simplistic interaction take place, with deeper interaction required in sectors such as health and social care. Social media may not be the prime channel to reach out to t
hese services as its publicity and lack of security are not ideal.
Therefore as businesses try to keep up with the advancement of technology, it is important that they do more with less. This is where we need to explore tech like chatbots (e.g. Healthbot’s, Edubot’s) to assist our development into the future.
What Is A Chatbot?
Chatbots are computer programmes that imitate human conversation through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. They range on a spectrum with simplistic bots who only recognise and respond to keywords found in a huge database, to those that incorporate the use of sophisticated Natural Language Processing systems who are very much indistinguishable from humans.
Chatbots Are Becoming More Commonplace
- ‘DoNotPay’- A robot lawyer that offers free legal aid to refugees seeking asylum in USA and Canada, helping them to fill out immigrant applications and helping people to apply for asylum support in the UK. This benefits people who might find it challenging to get started and empowers legal aid organisations by assisting with large numbers of clients.
- Xiaoice – A chinese chatbot built by microsoft that speaks to over 20 million people, serving as a ‘friend’. Many see her as a friend, just as they would a real human. The conversations with Xiaoice are so human-like, it creates a new goal for artificial intelligence to make people happier.
- Poncho – A Weather Forecaster- A funny and witty bot, capable of sending personalised weather and astrological predictions.
Challenges of Chatbots in Healthcare
Chatbots in healthcare may have to make clinical decisions, requiring stringent measures to maintain safety as it would become classified as a clinical device. For example, a healthcare chatbot may suggest when and how much medication to take. This requires professional advice from a doctor and if given incorrectly by a bot, could pose damage to patients. This then becomes a “human error” issue which someone would have to be responsible for.
There are also issues related to the level of trust between bots and patients as their interaction lacks the physicality and the connection created when patients meet 1:1 with their doctors. Therefore, patients may not feel as content or confident with the advice provided to them.
Lastly, should chatbots become successful and common practice in the medical profession, they could replace jobs such as nurses. Human resource could be replaced by artificial intelligence.
Future of Chatbots
As technology continues to advance, so will the intelligence of our chatbots; they will be used more frequently in a larger range of services to the point where in 2020, it is predicted that 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human. Modern chatbots will be able to sustain emotional and in-depth conversations with humans in the same way that humans interact with each other, creating personal connections and serving as practical assistants. Chatbots could become our doctors, accountants, and maybe even our personal stylists and friends.
Bitjam is researching and developing chatbots both in healthcare and education with an early version currently being tested in a healthcare setting. We have developed an early version that uses end-to-end encryption with powerful software behind the bot that allows clinicians to programme the logic required for patients to interact and manage their health. However the key focus here is to allow clinicians to programme the chatbots rather than build an artificial intelligence system to make key clinical decisions.
The UK Government Are Wrong in Reducing the Use of Encryption
Are tech companies doing enough to beat cyber-crime? This question is a hot topic in the tech world right now, as the UK government increases pressure to find effective ways to tackle online communication between hackers and extremists. This blog post is going to look at the explosion of the ‘Internet of Things’, the relevancy of encryption in the healthcare sector and the importance of enabling technology that will help make the people and physical systems of the world, smarter and more efficient.
The Internet of Things
The ‘Internet of Things’ is the interconnectivity of physical devices such as smartphones, WiFi modems and software, to the internet. IoT is a big revolution for the World Wide Web, due to the wide range of applications and variety of useful software solutions it provides, from anything from smart homes to monitoring radiation levels in nuclear plants. However, due to the nature of such devices, they are prone to hacks that either commandeer the device and program them to do something they’re not intended to do, or they can be controlled to do what they’re meant to but in a devious way.
“When nodes in wireless sensor networks are monitored through internet it becomes a part of Internet of Things. This brings in a lot of concerns related to security, privacy, standardization, power management” – ieeexplore.com
What Is Encryption?
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only authorised parties users can read the messages. For example, companies that use E2EE are unable to hand over texts of their customers’ messages to the authorities. A good example of this is the mobile messaging service Telegram. Telegram messages are delivered faster than any other application, are heavily encrypted and can self-destruct.
However, the UK government’s desire to gain more control on encryption would have negative consequences on the tech world as we need this technology to actually develop safer apps and to prevent the compromisation of the IoT. The optimistic outlook of the IoT versus the security threats is a risk worth taking if it enables us to continue to develop solutions to tackle hacking.
Security is the backbone of the internet, which is the reason we need passwords to access our accounts. By enforcing laws on encryption, the UK government would effectively be able to access to your personal information even potentially data from connected devices.
We have to find a balance between national security issues and safety and security of data traffic in healthcare. Healthcare data encryption is used to protect patient confidentiality when information such as medical diagnoses, surgeries and other highly sensitive data is shared between practitioners and other healthcare authorities to provide an effective service to patients.
Many companies building innovative technologies to improve security are using encryption, and as in most areas of IT and computing, innovation in security springs mostly from startup companies, so enforcing encryption laws would also negatively affect small, creative businesses who actually play a pivotal role in successfully discovering, testing, and building out clever new ways to secure cyberspace.
In summary, as much as banking apps need encryption to prevent cybercrime, health apps need encryption to maintain security and privacy. We need to maintain confidence in the sharing of personal data via technologies by further exploring and developing ways to tackle security issues, using the technology of data encryption. Allowing Governments access via backdoors compromises patient confidentiality, and would be damaging to the progress of improving cyberspace privacy.