With the year coming to a close, techUK held an event ‘Future Gazing: Where next for Local Government Tech’ bringing together tech industry and councils to reflect on the past year in local government transformation - the technologies re-defining service delivery, the key trends and looking to 2018 on what the emerging technologies disrupting the sector will be. The panelists were also invite to make their predictions on what is in store for local government transformation in 2018!
The event was chaired by Sue Holloway, Director of Services Strategy, Northgate Public Services and Vice-Chair of techUK’s Local Public Services Committee. The panelists included:
- Georgina O'Toole, Chief Analyst, TechMarketView
- Dominic Campbell, Founder and Managing Director, FutureGov
- Sue Daley, Head of Programme - Cloud, Data, Analytics & AI, techUK
- Daniel Clarke, Smart Cities Programme Manager, Cambridgeshire County Council
- Councillor Niraj Dattani, Harrow Council
The speakers shared what they saw as the 2017 council digital success stories, they key trends and technologies transforming public service outcomes. Here is a summary of the key points from each speaker reflecting on the year gone in local government technology:
Georgina highlighted that 2017 saw the first wave of digital transformation, a focus on simpler forms of digital and channel shift whereas 2018 will see true end to end transformation. Next year we will see the second wave of digital transformation and those councils waiting and seeing what others are doing will make the move to digital.
The theme of 2018 will be ‘breaking the boundaries.’ In order to bring in innovation and keep up with the pace of change, councils will partner with other organisations across the place. Councils will also bring in innovation from citizens through crowdfunding platforms and hackathons, something Camden and Westminster Council are already doing.
The open data agenda will take off in 2018, it will be seen as a way to generate change and regional growth. We are seeing a greater emphasis on exploiting external sources of data and investing in data skills of employees such as what Digital Birmingham are doing. Furthermore, a continued challenge, perceived or not, is that local government will need to overcome the fear of sharing data. Councils such as Surrey are being innovative in overcoming this obstacle.
The Internet of Things (IoT) will be a key tech trend in 2018, from street lighting to social care, but this is a complex environment that councils will need to understand and manage.
Georgina finished by saying that the biggest barrier to breaking boundaries will be of culture.
Dom said that you can name 20 councils that are taking transformation serious. We are seeing the transformation and digital market coming together but digital is still being treated as a noun, it is about mindset. He names Essex, Hackney, North East Lincolnshire Council as organisation thinking more deeply about digital and how to create twenty-first century organisations that align structures to citizen’s needs.
Dom stressed the importance of design as ‘good digital’ can’t happen without good design.
Councils need to have the in-house confidence with digital and they need the support to unbundle tech to make change happen.
Sue focused on data and how councils are now and will be making more data driven decisions. Sue highlighted Hampshire Council as an example of this where sensors are used to help highways teams make better gritting decisions. We are seeing IoT and data coming together.
The importance of data driven decisions and insights is also reflected in the growing development of Offices of Data Analytics - London to the recently launched in Worcestershire and West Midlands to develop one as part of the new devolution deal.
We are also seeing councils embrace data driven technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). From Enfield Council’s AI chatbot to Aylesbury Vale District Council AI driven customer services. Sue stated this is a good sign councils are looking to future tech.
However, Sue stressed the need of getting the foundations right first as some councils are still at the start of their journey so digital and data confidence is key. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be an opportunity to help build data trust and confidence for the citizen. GDPR will be a key theme next year and will help to show value of data.
Furthermore, as more data driven tech is adopted raising ethical questions and will see human interest at the heart of tech development. This is something techUK is looking at and on 13 December held a Digital Ethics Summit.
Sue’s call to call action was that we need to bring the citizen on the journey. If the citizen does not trust the technology than how successful can it be...
Echoing Dom’s points, Dan spoke of the importance of design when looking at transformation and also stressed the need to actually talk to the people delivering the services. The service leads will be the ones who will be able to show how digital can make a real difference to citizen outcomes. Dan stated how social workers at the council were given laptops to enable them to do their job better. Through the greater engagement with service leads, teams now asking how can digital help change our service.
Data is a key theme and Cambridgeshire Council have run hackathons as a means to help people engage with the data. He did point out that for it to be successful something concrete needs to come out of such events,
A key part of engaging with the data is knowing what data you have and what you own. As such they began by doing an audit of their transport data. This will also help inform what data infrastructure is needed.
Cambridgeshire Insight has also been set-up to help drive the open data agenda.
Dan highlighted data visualisation as a key tool to engaging council colleagues about data, as well as conversations around data ethics. The council has established a committee on data ethics.
Dan spoke in more detail about the councils smart city work, highlighting mobility as a service a core theme. They are understanding the impact of autonomous vehicles on the city. They are also trailing the use of autonomous styles and see value for this for out of hour services.
Dan finished by stressing the importance of collaboration with academia, SMEs and other cities to swap lessons and business cases.
Cllr Niraj Dattani
Niraj stated that councils understand that things need to be done differently and the need to be more digital but find it difficult to understand what this means for the organisations transformation.
The political nature of local government makes it even more difficult. Harrow council have been educating members on the art of the possible, getting them to think about design and re-imagine what services could look like. Bringing councillors on the digital journey is key. Niraj also stressed that councillors and officers need to work much closer to overcome risk aversion.
In future, councillors will become digital natives as this generation who is more digitally aware become the pool of future councillors.
Niraj aalso pointed to getting the basics right as how can you expect an organisation to be and act innovatively when its IT infrastructure isn’t fit for purpose.
2018 Predictions...What Will the Future of Local Gov Tech Hold...
Finally, our panelists make their predictions of what is in store for local government transformation in 2018.
Sue Daley: More councils will look at automation, using data driven technologies to respond to citizen needs 24/7.
Niraj Dattani: More digital leadership. Digital will no longer be treated in isolation, organisations will treat as a whole
Dan Clarke: Smart cities will move away from pilots and trials and will address structural issues enabling innovation.
Dom Campbell: There will be a re-balancing of skills and confidence in councils to understand transformation.
Georgina O'Toole: A move to second wave of transformation for councils. Greater use of hackathons to develop transformation and working better with the supplier community.
We will review the predictions in a year’s time but in the meantime do share your views using hashtag #CounciloftheFuture @techUK