A well-rehearsed narrative for local government is that it is increasingly fragmented and hard to navigate. While this is true, local government is unique in the number of lines of business it operates - from zoo licenses to local planning to waste collection. Managing demand and rising expectations at a continued time of financial constraints is no easy feat and, as such, councils are embracing digital technology as an enabler to do things differently and to deliver more efficient, improved services. Local government is where there is vast opportunity for technology to really transform outcomes for citizens. It’s an exciting and innovative market and at techUK we want to put the spotlights on the great things happening locally and help ‘demystify’ the local government market to encourage new entrants and SMEs to enter it. Tech also continues to be a significant spend in local government. We held an event on ‘Demystifying Local Government’ on 05 April for tech companies to develop a better understanding of the current landscape, latest tech trends trends and be more informed in the way councils operate.
We were delighted to welcome Councillor Peter Fleming, Leader, Sevenoaks District Council; Georgina O'Toole is Chief Analyst, TechMarketView; Jonathan Flowers, a portfolio Non-Executive Director, strategic advisor for three companies; and David Bicknell, Editor, Government Computing to the panel to share their key insights which included:
Not All Councils are the Same
Local Authorities are sovereign entities and they have very different circumstances, issues and crucially very different local assets which make them diverse. As such the challenges faced by local government and the opportunities to help are not the same everywhere. Though there are some core themes when it comes to:
- The need to reduce costs
- The need to increase revenue
- Reshaping the role of the local state in its community
Digital can add value to the first two of those needs but it is the more profound use of the business models, cultures and processes of the internet era that will really add value which makes this is an exciting and open space.
It was mentioned that some councils are looking at what the shape of the council will look like in the future and the role digital can play. For example, using AI to boost customer services and make more responsive to needs of citizens in a more digitized society. While others are using tech in a more ad hoc way – opening up data to afford local business and start-ups the opportunity to interpret the problem and become suppliers of innovative local solutions. Each councils reaction dependent on leadership, willingness to take risk, and extent of budgetary constraints.
A good indicator if a council is up for innovation is reading their financial strategy!
Breaking the Boundaries
We are also starting to see some more radical thinking in the areas where we think organisations need to start ‘breaking the boundaries’. For example:
- To tackle skills and resource issues: innovative supplier contracting arrangements that incorporate the upskilling of authority employees and the citizen.
- To tackle the need to drive more innovation: incorporating citizen involvement into tech projects e.g. civic crowdfunding, hack days. Investigating the art of the possible.
- To tackle the need to drive value from technology inside and outside the authority, e.g. thinking about how to deal with long, complex IoT service chains, how to manage more complex hybrid IT environments.
- To tackle the need to drive value from data e.g. thinking about the benefits of opening up government data to tackling the perceived data sharing restrictions.
Art of the Possible
The five wave of transformation focused on channel-shift through outsourcing while we are now seeing more councils embed tech across organization and using emerging tech to transform outcomes. Some of the late council adopters are jumping straight to the latter.
There is also a greater appetite to work with multiple suppliers and more and more with SMEs and taking a more collaborative approach when working with suppliers, moving away from big scale procurement.
It was also highlighted that suppliers need to sell the ‘art of the possible’ when talking to councils.
The next phase in local government will put far more focus on things like:
- Early intervention: using tech to deliver more predictive and preventive services to manage demand.
- The incorporation of more community involvement e.g. through social franchises
- Commercialisation: identifying local government assets that can be used to generate revenue
- Virtual commissioning: to allow more flexibility; will also require more automation
- More personalised citizen services requiring a better understanding of the citizen
If you would like to learn more about techUK’s local government activity and how to get involved please contact Georgina Maratheftis.