#techUKPS2030: The Challenge of Realising ‘The Council of the Future’

Whether you are a citizen, a public sector employee or a GovTech evangelist, 2017 is an exciting time to be alive. Technology is gathering pace at an astounding rate, Government is getting to grips with the huge positive impact to be had from effective online services, and the availability of open data is bringing real insight and providing lasting value to the holistic challenges of modern life.

Like FinTech before it, GovTech is part of the future and it will help the UK realise ‘The Council of the Future’, about which I am both passionate and expectant.

There is tangible excitement around the potential of GovTech to deliver better systems, justifiable cost-savings, smarter commissioning, empowered communities and happier people. Being involved in this Sector at this time is a huge privilege, with positivity evident in everyday communication, in conversation, on social media and in the news.

So what’s the issue?

Time to lift our heads

To put it simply, there’s a huge elephant in the GovTech room...and it’s something that’s been there all along.

For all the benefits GovTech promises - despite the perfect storm of opportunity that GovTech presents - this unhelpful creature will continue to quietly impede, erode and devour our collective progress towards a brighter future.

And of course, it’s hiding in plain sight ... Siloism.

“Surely that’s not a real word”, I hear you say with a snigger. Well, you could be right, since it’s not in the Oxford English dictionary, but it should be. Because I expect that you instantly know what it refers to without any explanation.

Siloism wraps up in one word our organisational independence, the invisible walls we build to guard our secrets, our funds and our futures.

No-one would argue that local authorities have often worked in isolation of each other. And it’s common knowledge that most tech companies protect their useful data from competitors, guarding their life blood at all costs. Even UK cities have used valuable resources to be ‘better’ than each other, rather than better ‘with’ each other.

But there’s an even bigger siloism.

The real challenge is to beat siloism across sectors, to work together with everyone, not just with ‘friends across the border’. Organisations need to ‘open up’, look for common ground, bring their strengths to the table, and admit their weaknesses.

This is not a critique; it’s a call to action.

We must recognise that, collectively, we haven’t all pulled in the same direction in the past. We need to lift our heads, admit this, and then intentionally choose to work differently, to look for how best to come together and use our knowledge and ‘sector strengths’ for the good of a common purpose ... to improve lives and outcomes for citizens.

All in the same boat

We are all guilty of siloism. It’s human nature, born out of the limited availability of resources and the need to survive. But it’s not us at our best, is it? For ‘The Council of the Future’ to become reality, for it to have the impact it promises in the shortest timescale, we need to ‘choose’ to do better. Together.

I believe the UK can become the world-leader in GovTech.

If this is to happen and for all to benefit, we need to join forces, to work smarter and work together across organisations and sectors, to bring solutions that benefit everyone, now and beyond 2017.

And I believe we can do it. With the ‘coalition of the willing’. Building on the ‘start of the possible’. Working with those at the cutting-edge of technology. Together.

I am expectant that government, commissioner, provider and citizen will join with the GovTech community, through the likes of Public’s GovStart initiative and techUK’sLocal Public Services Committee and Public Services Board, to increase true collaboration between all stakeholders, for the delivery of better multi-sided Government solutions and the good of citizens everywhere.

Expect good things in the future.

It is techUK's PS2030 campaign week. To see more blogs like this, please visit the website here.

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