Realising the ambitions of the Digital Declaration

In this digital age, it’s more important than ever to ensure public services meet the needs of its citizens. Technology is no doubt transforming the way we deliver these services, but there is still opportunity to do more.

The next generation of public services will require not only a technology shift but a culture shift to realise true innovation. As such, the UK Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Government Digital Service (GDS) have created the Local Digital Declaration along with the support of a number of local authorities and bodies from across the UK.

So far there are 161 signatories, including Arcus local government customer’s Folkestone & Hythe; Hart, Southwark, Aylesbury Vale and Allerdale, all of which are committing to a deeper level of collaboration to realise greater efficiencies. We could not praise these customers enough for their commitment to transform its digital services. By signing the declaration, this has further solidified its pledge to develop a truly flexible and personalised online service for residents -  giving the Council access to a potential share of the £7.5 million Government fund dedicated to transforming services through innovative digital projects.

The initiative has four key pillars of ambition; design services that best meet the needs of citizens; challenge the technology market to offer the flexible tools and services; protect citizens’ privacy and security; and deliver better value for money.

The term ‘pillars of ambition’ may seem like something of a cliché, but if local authorities agree to these as their mantra then they are building the basis for true organisational transformation.

Designing services for the citizen

The seamless digital experience that consumers expect is increasingly demanding. Therefore, prioritising the citizen is of utmost importance, redesigning services to meet the needs of the individual rather than what fits the need of the organisation or existing technological silos. By saying goodbye to tired legacy systems, new technology platforms can be implemented to transform relationships between citizens and their authority and are vital in making innovative new ideas reality.

For example, by consolidating case management systems, so that customers, front office and back office staff are using the same technology platform and database is key. Residents within councils such as Folkestone and Hythe will be able to self-serve on a customer portal; online for a huge variety of needs, from registering to vote, reporting fly-tipping, paying council tax to subscribing to the council’s garden waste service, or applying for a resident's parking permit.

This citizen-led style of service speeds up the process, creates one single customer view which means all parties have a real time, clear view of the status of all cases.

Offering flexible tools and services

When we decide to prioritise citizens’ needs, we must have the tools that allow us to do that most effectively. The Digital Declaration states “we will ‘fix our plumbing’ to break our dependence on inflexible and expensive technology that doesn’t join up effectively.” This means that councils like Folkestone and Hythe must insist on sourcing new and complete solutions that break down the legacy silos and provide a joined-up view across the authority, giving the citizen a complete front to back office experience removing expensive and unnecessary integrations. This not only gives citizens the best experience, but allows the authority to provide a more joined up, tailored and therefore more efficient service.

Protecting the citizen

Once a council has established a joined-up platform designed with the citizen in mind then it is only right, as the declaration states, that there is “secure and useful ways of sharing information to build trust among our partners and citizens.” Authorities must ensure they introduce changes that keep citizen data safe. As an example, if local authorities looked to world leading platforms such as Salesforce, they can leverage the massive investment made by a leading SaaS provider which mean best of breed security standards come as standard – offering a level of security which is far greater than any individual authority and most other suppliers.

Better value for money

We must break the dependence on the inflexible and expensive legacy technologies that stifle innovation and the great ideas local government officers have -  providing an environment that will enable genuine change to take place.

By investing in open cloud platforms, authorities can transform the way in which they deliver their services, reducing the total cost of that service and replacing expensive on-premise software. The long-standing barriers of network and device limitations can also be broken down with the correct infrastructure, ultimately saving money and stripping away overcomplicated processes.

What next?

By signing up to the Digital Declaration and committing to these four pillars of ambition, business transformation can be realised. Authorities need not be hesitant, as products are in the market already that will help them to integrate better into a digital society, as well as prepare for the digital future. In committing to digital improvement, Folkestone and Hythe has already received recognition for its progress in embracing the digital agenda; and the intention is in time, a range of services will be successfully moved online, to the delight of customers. The next ambition for the Council is the implementation of a new 'My Account' feature for its customers, giving them quick, convenient, and secure access to services at any time that suits them, and an even better customer experience. 

By working together, local government peers can share experiences, work collaboratively and reuse good practice and processes, all of which will fundamentally improve services in local government, driving forward innovation and making the citizens themselves a top priority.

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