What Do We Mean by Digital Leadership in Local Government?

“What is digital leadership is surely as easy to answer as the two questions, what it leadership? And what is digital? As we know these can mean different things to different people and audiences, however, in the context of ‘Council of the Future’ then surely digital leadership is the leadership that is needed throughout the organisation of the future, where digital solutions are effectively harnessed to make the lives of our residents, businesses and visitors better.

Making our places better to live, better to do business and better to visit. It’s great leadership using digital technology (existing and emerging) to deliver that blend of services (online and offline) that deliver the best outcomes at the best cost using accurate data to make real-time decisions, digital platforms to allow users to access the services they need at the time they need them, and digital technology and applications to make our workforce effective. Taking the best of the commercial digital applications and using them in council service delivery. Finally its making sure we still have the right resources for the most vulnerable in society – ensuring their needs are appropriately met.”

-Matt Prosser, Solace Spokesperson for Digital Leadership and Chief Executive of the Dorset Councils Partnership

 

The world that everyday citizens inhabit is changing rapidly. Nowadays, a majority of people rely on the internet to engage in everyday interactions and transactions; and more and more of this is done by smartphone.

The landscape for local government is changing too. With the uncertain, but nonetheless diminishing, nature of local government funding, local leaders have to find new and innovative ways to ensure the sustainability of local services for the future, as meanwhile day to day pressure on services continues to increase.

There has been a growing recognition across the sector that it will not be possible to simply continue to ‘salami slice’ existing services. Instead, there needs to be a wholesale rethink about what services can be delivered into the future, who for, and how. This transformation will not be possible without digital innovation, and local leaders of place have a vital role in ensuring this is not only recognised but also championed.

At Solace we know it is senior local leaders who will need to be invested in the transformation of our sector. We want to engage, inform and inspire them about the potential of digital technology. Digital innovation is a key pillar of the transformation the sector is currently undergoing. The ability to build shared services and deliver whole place-based policy depends on it. Above all, moving with the digital world ensures the best possible experience and outcomes for local citizens.

For us, digital leadership means challenging local leaders to:

  • Champion digital innovation in their own authority by acting as role model in the use of technology, making resources available, and finding space for innovation;
  • Champion digital innovation across the sector, by sharing and promoting their own organisation’s best practice, as well as being open to learning from others and seeing potentials for collaboration;
  • Share and collaborate not just across local government, but with central government, the NHS and other bodies too.

Councils across the UK are at different stages on their digital journey, but there is much to be learned through sharing best practice, capabilities and ideas not only from others in the public sector, but in collaboration with the tech sector too through organisations like TechUK.

This article builds from our joint policy position on ‘Local digital leadership’ released last year, read this in full here.

Join the discussion on #CounciloftheFuture To see more blogs like this, please visit the website here.

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