Guest blog on innovative government digital services

Matt Davies, EMEA Director of Product Marketing at Splunk writes a guest blog summarising his thoughts following our innovation panel discussion hosted to inform the Labour Digital Government Review. Splunk have been techUK members since November 2011.

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to be part of the panel of the Labour Party Digital Government Review hosted by techUK. The focus of the discussion (the third in a series of three) was innovative government digital services in the run up to the next general election. The proposition was:

"Embedding a culture of continuous innovation in how government digital services are delivered to citizens offers the potential to dramatically improve the range and quality of services on offer, while also enabling significant reductions in the cost of providing services. What model of continuous innovation is appropriate for the public sector and how do we ensure that this is for the benefit of all citizens?"

We had a very interesting and diverse panel and you can find line up here. Unfortunately Chi Onwurah couldn't make it but Peter Wells (Project Manager for the Review) did a great job stepping in.

To kick things off, we were all given three minutes to explain our view on how to foster this culture of innovation while at the same time reducing costs. Having spent time looking at how Splunk has worked with government organisations all over the world and thinking about success stories from other industries, I couldn't help but feel that there's huge scope to use, share and secure government data to encourage a different way of thinking about delivering government services digitally. Here was my 2 minutes and 50 seconds (always good to finish ahead of time!)

1. Show the value of new digital services quickly
Pick the most valuable items or problems to solve first and include the "voice of the citizen" on decision making and rating the service.

2. Innovate through the way Government uses data
Democratise the real-time data so anyone can use it, and make it easy to access, visualize and consume. Real-time delivery of data is also crucial for timely interventions.

There's a lot of potential in combining the data in different, innovative ways. For example, a group of university students combined street light data from gov.uk with Google maps to deliver a "walk home safe" app showing the best lit routes.

3. Deliver the innovation in the way that is most convenient
This is all about the channel of delivery – is it mobile, social or in a government office?

4. Assure the digital services
If the government services delivered to citizens are to be increasingly digital and innovative then citizens will come to depend on them. Assurance of these digital services is key to giving citizens the confidence to use them.

5. Secure the digital services
Ensure these services are always secure. Nothing will damage innovation & the take up of digital services more than high profile doubts around security. There is a lot of data and a lot of context – it is essential to make sure the appropriate information is secure both externally and internally.

6. Think about the potential of the Internet of Things
The presence of connected sensors on everything from trains, cars, buses and planes, to buildings, people and health devices could have a huge impact on government's potential to deliver innovative new services. Quick to deliver, high value, innovative services here could include real-time public infrastructure alerts or cost reduction through improved power consumption. Imagine if the government gave everyone wearable tech to monitor health, that could provide pre-emptive alerts and advice from the NHS warning of an impending stroke or heart attack.

Once everyone had done their three minutes, we had some great discussion and I'd encourage anyone interested in public services and the impact of digital technologies to come to such an event or catch up the notes from the panel when they're published.

It's no surprise that something that kept coming up was the pressure on local government to cut costs; digital services have a key part to play here. But the discussion was much more constructive than doom and gloom, and the key findings that I took away from the panel discussion were:

• There is a lot of work to do to give all of the UK the connectivity, capacity and speed to enable government digital services to be ubiquitous. We need to play catch-up with countries like Australia, which has a national broadband programme.

• We have to get the balance right. There will always be a subset of the population that will never use online services in the medium term. We have to cater for everyone and tailor the channels for delivery of government services accordingly.

• How do we communicate and share the success of online services across the country? For example, if we've had highly effective digital government services in one part of the country, how do we replicate that everywhere?

• When it comes to securing government information and managing "big data", there is technology available today to solve the problem from an IT perspective. The real challenge is having the open, clear and agreed dialogue around what we're happy to share and with whom.

Finally, I'll finish with my favourite quote of the day from Dominic Campbell at FutureGov (and I paraphrase): "There's no point taking the way government works today with all its inefficiencies and just making that digital, we need to take this opportunity to redesign government and enable it to work better." A perfect example of this 'redesign rather than just digitise' approach is Casserole Club (think meals on wheels combined with Match.com) which pairs up spare meals/food with vulnerable people who need feeding.

I learnt a lot from the debate and there was great input from everyone who attended - from the audience as well as the experts on the panel. For those Tweeters among you, you can catch up on the event with the following hashtags: #DigGovReview #TechTransform.

Hopefully see you at the next one!

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