Priocept's Norris-Jones calls for plain English as Britons struggle with government messaging

Published by Richard Yarrick-Holmes on September 28th 2020, 8:12am

As Britons show increased disillusionment with the coherence of the government’s Covid messaging, Dan Norris-Jones, managing director of Priocept, has called for more plain English in the digital world.

Leadership in Focus

In the past few weeks, the government has variously told us to eat out to help out, to stay home where possible, to get back to the office but to work from home if you can and to heed the latest scientific modelling for what may happen in the future, which should in no way be confused with a prediction. It is therefore refreshing to hear a call for clear messaging and plain English.

For Dan Norris-Jones, the founder and managing director of Priocept, his call is directly related to the digital world, which he believes is ‘even more jargon than when we started out [sixteen years ago].’

Explaining the problem clearly and succinctly, Mr Norris-Jones says:

‘Despite working with information technology and software all day every day, and despite employing consultants who are experts in various digital technologies, even we struggle to make sense of all the latest jargon being used.

‘Most technology jargon is not clearly defined, so if you find one expert who can explain what a term means, the next expert you speak with will invariably give you a different definition.

‘If the experts in the field of information and digital technology can’t agree on, clearly define or understand their own terminology, then what chance does the lay person – consumer, business leader or government policymaker – have of understanding all the various terms and their nuances?’

As such, one of Priocept’s key values is: ‘Never blind with science – always use plain English rather than buzzwords.’

It is advice that Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance could perhaps have heeded before trying to educate the country on the difference between projections, predictions, modelling and forecasting.

Founded by Mr Norris-Jones in 2004, Priocept combine software delivery, cloud infrastructure, network configuration, and electronic engineering to help businesses create digital products and services. Headquartered in London but with an office in San Francisco, the company’s clients include Argos, Avis, GlaxoSmithKline, Kent and Essex Police and Virgin Mobile.

They were recently appointed to the list of suppliers that are able to provide services to public sector organisations through the Spark Technology Innovation Marketplace.

Leadership Today

The Daily Telegraph leads with reports that the government are encouraging people to report on their neighbours if they suspect them of disobeying instructions to self-isolate, which could result in a fine of up to £10,000. 

From today, it is a legal duty to self-isolate if you have tested positive for Covid or been told to stay at home by NHS test and trace. This follows reports that the public are losing patience with the chaotic nature of the government’s messaging.

The move has been criticised by a number of Tory MPs, with up to 100 now believed to be prepared to back Sir Graham Brady’s proposed amendment to the Coronavirus Act, which would compel ministers to give parliament a vote on future measures.

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has also expressed his concerns at some of the current national rules, particularly the 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants:

Mr Burnham told the BBC’s Today programme: ‘I received reports that the supermarkets were absolutely packed out to the rafters with people gathering. I think there needs to be an urgent review of the emerging evidence from police forces across the country.

‘My gut feeling is that this curfew is doing more harm than good. It creates an incentive for people to gather in the street or more probably to gather in the home.

‘That is the opposite of what our local restrictions here are trying to do. I don’t think this has been fully thought through.’

As an alternative, he suggested allowing bars and restaurants to stay open later but banning the sale of alcohol across the board from 9pm.

Speaking to the same programme, health minister Helen Whately said that the government was learning from experience:

‘It is clearly early days. We have just changed this rule last week.

‘We keep an open mind on what is the best way to go about it. The steps that we have taken, particularly with the 10pm curfew, is something that we have done in some places during the course of the summer where we saw localised outbreaks and hospitality being part of the picture.

‘We are constantly learning and seeing what has the most impact but we clearly need to take a step because of what we have seen with the rates going up across the country.’

Leadership in History

On this day in 1066, William the Conqueror landed on the south coast of England and seized the country from Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson, changing the course of English history forever. 

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Authored By

Richard Yarrick-Holmes
Associate Editor
September 28th 2020, 8:12am

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