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Welsh Government becomes first government to join IWF in boost for children’s online safety

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photo of woman teaching his son while smiling

Welsh language resources will help children spot the signs of online grooming and abuse

Children and young people in Wales will receive additional support to protect them from a rise in online threats, as the Welsh Government – through the Hwb digital learning programme – becomes the first Government body to join child protection charity the Internet Watch Foundation as Members.

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As part of National Safeguarding Week, the IWF – the UK charity responsible for finding and removing child sexual abuse material from the internet – today (Friday, November 19) has announced the Welsh Government’s Digital Learning Division as a new Member.

The IWF will work alongside partners in the Welsh Government to ensure their Hwb platform, which hosts the Curriculum for Wales and provides bilingual, digital tools and resources for teaching and learning to all maintained schools in Wales, is as safe as possible.

The platform will also aim to empower children and young people in Wales to spot the signs of online grooming and exploitation with dedicated support pages, including bilingual materials from the IWF’s Gurls Out Loud and Home Truths campaigns.

The campaigns were launched in response to rising numbers of reports of child sexual abuse material online, where children had been groomed, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves.

It is hoped the bilingual materials and articles from experts in ‘Keeping safe online’ on Hwb will have a huge impact in helping spread the warning about the growing online threats and help more children and young people stay safe.

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Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language said:  “I am very proud that Hwb has partnered with the IWF, making the Welsh Government the first government body to join their global membership community, and support them in continuing to help victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation.

“To amplify the message that online grooming is a serious risk, and one we must tackle together, we are also working with the IWF to promote their two flagship online grooming prevention campaigns – Gurls Out Loud and Home Truths.

“I look forward to working alongside the IWF in tackling such threats against children and young people online.”

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “Sadly, since lockdown, we have seen online threats against children and young people spiral. The internet has enormous potential for good, and has been an indispensable lifeline for children to learn, socialise, and stay in touch with friends and family.

“But it is also abused by unscrupulous predators. It is essential we all do everything we can to make sure children are aware of the potential dangers, and that criminals are found out and exposed.

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“This is why partnerships like this are so important. By working with the Welsh Government, we can help make sure more children are kept safe online, and we can ensure the right tools, skills, and resources are available so that children and young people can be confident in calling out abusive behaviour when they see it.”

The Welsh Government joins the IWF at a critical time. In 2020, IWF analysts dealt with a record number of reports of online child sexual abuse material, while the coronavirus crisis has seen more people than ever relying on the internet to learn, work, and socialise.

To find out more about the work of the IWF visit https://www.iwf.org.uk/what-we-do 

Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en

(Lead image: Julia M Cameron / Pexels.com)

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Business

Swansea digital agency iCreate enters the metaverse with bespoke digital environments

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Swansea-based creative agency iCreate is entering the metaverse by creating 3D visual environments for Dubai-based NFT boutique Jumi – a new outlet for curated digital art.

The metaverse hit the headlines last year when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta, reflecting the growing potential of the internet to offer an interactive virtual world through AI and 3D digital animation.

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The metaverse offers social connection through technology, interaction with brands and businesses, and online recreation.

It encompasses everything from online video games to virtual shops where you can digitally try on items before you buy them, and bespoke venues for online events of all kinds.

It’s expected to expand into an online world where people will have their own virtual avatars which they take from one virtual environment to another, purchasing virtual products for them and housing them in virtual homes.

This is where iCreate – which specialises in creating digital environments – comes in. The company provides CGIs, 3D flythrough animations, VR tours and marketing brochures to the off-plan property sector.

From interactive, customisable home interiors that enable buyers to plan every detail of their dream home, through to large-scale digital animations of new housing developments, iCreate is adept at creating virtual environments that look and feel like the real thing.

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Now it’s teaming up with Jumi and other partners to create digital environments that will never be built in the real world, but will exist in the metaverse, where people’s avatars can explore and socialise in them.

A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs): digital assets that can be bought and traded. These are increasingly hitting the headlines as everyone from independent artists to big brands creates and sells digital-only products, music, artwork and more.

Dawn Lyle (right) and the team at iCreate

Jumy, which completed a $1.2M seed funding round last year, is the ultimate NFT boutique marketplace for exclusive digital art. All artworks are curated from the world’s most creative digital artists, to guarantee outstanding quality.

The platform is the world’s first to offer a fully integrated digital art experience where visitors will be able to purchase pieces with payment cards, trade their NFTs, order NFT frames (digital frames for NFT art) and flex their NFTs on metaverse – all in one place.

By collaborating with Jumi, iCreate will make beautiful, exclusive digital environments for displaying NFTs in the metaverse. From here, it’s expected that a new market in bespoke virtual homes and offices will develop over the coming years, as more aspects of all our lives are lived in the metaverse.

Dawn Lyle, iCreate’s co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to have formed this new partnership with Jumi and to be taking our bespoke digital environments into the metaverse.

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“The metaverse offers such a wealth of possibilities, and over the coming years it will become increasingly common to play, meet and do business with people all over the world in virtual settings.

“We’re excited to be creating stunning digital environments in which these activities can take place; in the metaverse, there are no limitations and it’s possible to bring dreams to life, creating astonishing virtual places that delight and surprise. It gives us the opportunity to put all our creative skills to use in exciting new ways and we can’t wait to get started.”

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Business

Rising costs are the biggest imminent fear for Welsh businesses despite steady expansion

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Rising business costs have been cited by 65.1 percent of businesses in Wales as the biggest threat to their operations in the coming quarter, according to a new survey from Swansea-based Uplands Communications.

The results of a new Business Aspirations Survey from telephony experts, Uplands Communications, shows that more than 65 percent of firms are anxious about the issue, even though 76.4 percent of businesses polled have seen revenue grow during the pandemic and 85.2 percent have grown their teams by 1 to 10 members of staff.

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Paul Hooper, MD of Uplands Communications, which is based in Swansea, said: “We deal with many hundreds of businesses across the country and these results, which were taken from manufacturing, retail, professional services and other sectors are really borne out by the conversations we are having with customers on the ground.

“The Uplands Business Aspirations Survey shows continued buoyancy, investment, job creation and a commitment to assimilating the streamlining and efficiencies that have been put in place as a result of Covid. However, rising costs of fuel and energy, raw materials and wages is biting and business owners are feeling the sting.

“A big part of our role as telephony providers is to support customers to make savings or efficiencies with their telephony and this is something that many firms approached us for during the pandemic.

“A shift to hybrid or home working or a move towards having more teams in the field rather than being tied to an office or a company HQ has given a number of our customers the impetus to make changes to their communications that are delivering efficiencies and will help future-proof their operations.

“We are also helping companies to reduce and control costs by offering a free Telecoms audit, as we often find that business are paying for services they simply do not need and they weren’t aware of this.”

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Paul adds: “Clearly the big story in telephony at the moment is the swich to VoIP, which has inherent costs associated, but which is an unavoidable change for businesses with a looming deadline.

“There are certainly things you can do in the planning stages to mitigate costs further down the line and to make sure the switch is planned and the tech and hardware that firms put in place are appropriate and cost savvy.”

Uplands Communications is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications. The firm, which has its HQ in Swansea and an office in Somerset, specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier.

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Awards

University team who developed COVID respiratory support system win St David Award

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A team of engineers from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) who developed a 3D-printed jet respiratory support system to help the NHS in the fight against Covid 19 have received the 2022 Innovation, Science and Technology Award at the prestigious St David Awards in Cardiff.

The awards recognise the extraordinary achievements of people from across Wales.

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Presenting the awards, First Minster Mark Drakeford said it had been an inspiring and moving evening and humbling to hear the stories. He added that the finalists were all truly inspirational and a credit to Wales.

Graham Howe, Executive Head of Made Cymru said: “We just did what many engineers were doing around the country and across the globe at the time, using our engineering skills as creative problem solvers to try to help solve our biggest challenges.

“Just really glad that news about our work got picked up in places like Nepal, and was able to be used to help people in the most challenging of circumstances.”

It was back in May 2020, that UWTSD’s Luca Pagano, Graham Howe, Professor Peter Charlton, John Hughes, and Richard Morgan decided to focus their expertise on the development of a highly efficient 3D printed jet Venturi based respiratory support system to help the NHS during the initial COVID-19 outbreak.

The main objective was to develop a device that could be manufactured cheaply, rapidly and, at the same time, be user friendly whilst maintaining high performance levels. The device was optimised to be able to perform CPAP functionalities such as maintaining PEEP pressures in scenarios such as overwhelmed hospitals where oxygen supply was limited.

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UWTSD’s Luca Pagano, Senior Research Project Engineer at Made Cymru said: “We found that standard CPAP devices are extremely inefficient, our device instead could function utilising a third of the oxygen. It’s also very uncommon for Venturi devices to be able to confidently maintain positive pressure within the patient’s airways while delivering correct gas mixtures. This was achieved through numerous iterative steps between modelling and testing.”

A Lead Bio–Medical Engineer in Nepal who had read the news about the Venturi asked if the team could share their 3D files for printing in his hospital in Pokhara where the COVID-19 situation was worsening by the minute.

The team responded rapidly setting a license agreement and subsequently transferred all the documentation/technical files and supported the Nepalese engineers with any queries. The device was successfully manufactured with low-end desktop 3d printers and adopted to save lives.

A group of engineers at University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) have been involved in the rapid development of a highly efficient 3D printed jet Venturi based respiratory support system.

The team’s 3D printed jet Venturi based respiratory support system (Image: UWTSD)

Graham Howe added: “Dr Steven Fielding brought the initial problem to my attention 10 years ago before I joined the University. He and I worked on the idea, along with David Williams from UWTSD’s School of Manufacturing & Logistics, who was studying for an MSc Lean & Agile part-time.

“We picked it back up in Covid times as we realised it had the potential to really help, especially in the context of scarce oxygen supplies. But there were still significant issues to resolve in terms of the physics of it and so it could be additively manufacturing around the globe in places like Nepal.

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“To be shortlisted and then win a St David Award is such an exciting accolade and proud moment for the team and clearly demonstrates how the R&D work at UWTSD can address critical global challenges.”

Barry Liles, OBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Skills and Lifelong Learning) at UWTSD said: “The University is pleased to see this team being recognised for their collaborative, innovative efforts undertaken at the height of the pandemic. Whilst striving to maintain their day-to-day workload, with all the restrictions that Covid placed them under, they worked above and beyond to rapidly find a solution which has yielded significant benefit. Their passion and enthusiasm shone through as they drove to secure a positive outcome.”

(Lead image: UWTSD)

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