An interview with Sachin Jogia, our new Chief Technology Officer
Sachin Jogia joins Ofcom today as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). In his role, Sachin will lead our work to support innovation across the sectors we regulate including broadcasting, telecoms, wireless services and post.
He joins as Ofcom is set to receive new powers to help keep people safe online through the Online Safety Bill, while the Telecoms Security Bill will also extend our security responsibilities.
Sachin joins Ofcom from Amazon, where he spent nine years – most recently as General Manager for Alexa Smart Home International – overseeing development of the company’s voice-activated services. He previously held senior roles at AOL and advertising.com.
To mark his start at Ofcom, we asked him a few questions about his role and his views on wider tech topics.
What attracted you to working at Ofcom?
Over the past few years I’ve prioritised extra-curricular activities to support charities and community initiatives, attempting to make a positive impact for underserved children (City Year UK, Hour of Code) and the broader population (The British Heart Foundation). So, I’ve actively sought ways to focus on ‘tech for good’ as part of my core job as my next move after Amazon.
Throughout my career, I’ve always gravitated to large and ambiguous problems to solve, so I was attracted to Ofcom after it received the powers to oversee the online safety bill, focused on achieving a safer life online - especially for children and vulnerable people. This is an excellent opportunity to actively take on a major global-scale initiative, which will become a force for good in the UK and align with my aspirations to deliver ‘tech for good’. Ofcom’s reputation is inspiring; it is respected across the sectors it regulates, and I’m certain we will do the same across the tech sector.
What part of the role are you most excited about?
Given that my background is rooted in the corporate tech and commercial space, I’m looking forward to bringing fresh eyes to the regulatory space.
I’m keen to identify the right mechanisms and implement appropriate measures with the tech platforms, to increase the protections for children and vulnerable people online. This is the first time any country, government or regulator has attempted this at the scale necessary to make a positive impact, while making sure companies can still thrive and drive innovation. My team is a top priority; I’m excited drive the growth and development of the technology group within Ofcom – there’s a ton of existing talent to further nurture, and also an opportunity to bring in more mission-driven technologists who have a passion to make a genuine difference to society.
What do you think are the main tech challenges for our sectors in the next few years?
The main challenges are along the themes of scale, resilience and transparency.
It’s vitally important we identify the right solutions that allow tech platforms to comply with new legislation, while also making sure they’re built with the right resiliency. Finally, it’s important that there is appropriate transparency with the metrics and mechanisms that tech platforms put in place, to track the progress companies make with complying with the bill.
And the main opportunities?
The biggest opportunities are around enabling innovation and new technologies that actively improve the opportunity to protect people online, while also identifying and removing disinformation and misinformation online.
It’s more important than ever to make sure people can believe what they read from trusted companies and platforms, and that they also have the ability to create fair discussion and debate. This is a new field for us all, and requires deeper thinking about the types of measures that should become industry standard over the next few years.
Which piece of technology could you not live without?
It has to be my phone – a universal device that has replaced many standard items such as our wallets, keys, organiser, camera and more.
It is necessary not just to remain in contact with loved ones and friends, but it can also generate friendships. I can pay for things without needing a wallet, I can monitor my home security when travelling, or communicate with someone who’s delivering a package to my home. I can take professional DSLR quality photos, and it also allows me to read (or listen to an audio book) while on the go, and open my mind to new facts or languages. I wonder whether any single piece of technology will replace the smartphone in the near future.
If you could choose a piece of old tech to bring back, what would it be?
I loved my minidisc player! I don’t believe it had a fair chance, and I enjoyed the capacity it had to both record and play above and beyond tapes and CDs, and it was extremely compact. eBooks have proven there is appetite for dedicated devices for specific purposes (devoid of distracting notifications) and a music-focused device feels like it may still have value - ignoring the fact that the iPod killed it (and the Walkman), and then smartphones made those obsolete too!
What are your tech predictions for the future?
My predictions touch many parts of tech, and include the prevalence of voice-based technology such as Siri, Alexa and Hey Google in managing our daily lives. Smart home tech and the internet of things will become ubiquitous, and rapid innovation in holographic, augmented reality and virtual reality communication will change the way we interact with one another.
We will have the ability to protect the elderly and vulnerable in their own homes instead of sending them to care homes - for example, presence detection in case they fall over in a given room, making sure medications are taken when needed, and they are safe while online - and fitness/health proactive tech will become standard so people can live healthier and more fulfilling lives.
Finally, autonomous, AI-powered devices are likely to be commonplace across the streets and homes – not just autonomous electric vehicles, but also robots that reduce the redundant activities in the home we currently believe are necessary as ‘tech cannot solve it yet’.
I also expect people will want more ownership and control of their data – it is valued above all by most tech companies, as it provides tailored and useful services to their customers. Data has never been more important across the industry, from home entertainment through to healthcare and transportation. This last theme is about people taking back what is rightfully theirs, which could touch many areas of technology and related industries.