Norfolk education set for boost from £26m agreement between Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Vodafone and county council
- Credit: Archant
A ground-breaking £26m project between Norfolk County Council and three global technology giants is set to help bring top technology and digital training to classrooms across the county.
The five-year Digital Norfolk Ambition (DNA) scheme will be launched today by the council and Hewlett Packard, and its key partners Microsoft and Vodafone, and is projected to save the council more than £10m from its IT budget over five years.
The centre point of the project will be the creation of an 'information hub', where different public sector organisations such as district councils, police, fire and community services will share data in order to plan services better and target them at those in need.
The council said it would be the first project of its kind in the UK, with the only similar scheme internationally operating in Flanders, Belgium.
George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'It means we would not get this problem of people saying 'I told so-and-so about this and now I have to tell someone else again'.
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'That's the beauty of this. All this information is available instantly to all these agencies. That's how the men and women in the street would see their life differently.'
Tom Baker, chief information officer at Norfolk County Council, said a simple example of the benefits of sharing data could include social workers delivering fire safety information to old people who are more at risk.
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The project is due to have a strong educational element.
Hewlett Packard will sponsor a new four-year degree in information and management analytics at the University of East Anglia, a new one-year course for 16 year olds to provide technical computer skills, and 50 new apprenticeships to small and medium-sized businesses via the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.
A key element will see all Norfolk schools approached in the next few weeks with the offer of heavily-discounted devices for staff and students, and 'tech camps' held for teachers to train them in technological developments.
A Norfolk Challenge Cup will also be launched with the aim of unlocking the IT potential of Norfolk school children.
Tim Groves, ICT lead at Sheringham Primary School, said fast broadband, and computers that can make use of it, would allow schools to access learning materials, see events around the world as they happen, and hold video conferences with other schools around the world.
He said: 'Hopefully putting the infrastructure in place and the training to help staff understand it to share the vision will have a real-time impact on children's learning.'
Hewlett Packard has experience doing similar work with sensitive information at the Department for Work and Pensions, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Defence, and Mr Nobbs said he was 'very confident' the new technology would be rolled out successfully.
The company already employs 350-400 people in Norfolk through its work with Aviva.
Patrick Stephenson, strategic sales executive at HP Enterprise Services, said: 'The idea is to create a sustainable knowledge economy in Norfolk. We need the skills to feed into the information hub.'
He said the company has a national target of bringing 150 small and medium sized enterprises into its supply chain, and it aims to find 50 of these in Norfolk.
Mr Baker said the project's data sharing activities would operate within the network of data protection laws.
He said an early milestone would come early next year when information started to be moved away from servers at Norfolk County Council, while new devices to help staff work from home and collaborate would arrive in June, when the information hub would start to be deployed.
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