Hannah Kaner, the daughter of the father-daughter chinwaggers, is an aspiring digital strategist and project manager in Smart Technologies. She is studying hannahfor an MSc by Research in Digital Media and Culture at the University of Edinburgh, and she has a background in app development and digital strategy at the Nice Agency, London, and in public health and social science research at Newcastle University. All of this started because of an undergrad thesis gone right: how do digital technologies change our interaction with narrative? At what point is engagement optimised, and how can we replicate it? How do we facilitate the smart citizen in the smart city?

It took at least two drams before she and Ben realised their two different pathways into digital had culminating in them talking about exactly the same concepts from different angles.


Ben Kaner frequently gets blamed for Hannah (and her brother’s) penchant for malts.  He tries to be useful in whatever he is doing.  He now works 20 minutes from home as Head of Digital Strategy for the Engie/North Tyneside Council partnership.  Previously, he was (at various times) an IBM Solutions Architect, EU lead architect for the HP Mobile E-Services Bazaar, CTO for BT Health in the later (recovery) phases of the NHS Connecting for Health, and Head of Technical Strategy and Innovation for BT Government.  That said – he was a Natural Scientist who specialised in genetics and the evolution of behaviour not a computer scientist and is old enough to remember the original Macs and first PCs.  Whilst he likes systems to achieve what they are supposed to, he also knows that complex systems don’t actually behave the way you expect – large scale IT and the web is more like gardening and forced evolution, not classic systems design.  It’s not just the technology – it’s people’s behaviour, the economics, the sometimes bizarre legalities, and working around lots of inertia from existing systems.

He can only apologise for the long job titles (he quite liked the approach of an HP colleague who put ‘bag carrier’ on his business card) but in essence, he’s been a bit around the block and has dealt with a few things.  Things like classic large systems;  rapid innovation in a growing market; national scale systems delivery with large quantities of sensitive personal data and government/citizen information strategy at different levels across regions and geographies.  He is now back to the coalface in delivering IT and strategy in a local government.  But that includes the creation of a borough that ‘just works’ for all its residents – including a thriving economy.  Can we use technology to help?  What might go wrong? Ben is aware that we all need to challenge our thinking, and looks forward to some wide-ranging discussions…

Ben Kaner is Head of Digital Strategy for the Engie/North Tyneside Council partnership.  However, the ideas and opinions here are his own and do not portray the positions of either Engie or North Tyneside Council.