The complexities of the challenges facing local authorities cannot be underestimated. From the burgeoning demand for adult social care to the increasing pressure of delivering services, it’s becoming harder for local authorities to balance the books. Meanwhile central Government has made transparency and Open Data a priority to foster accountability, efficiency and spark economic development.
As we now have the technology that makes it possible for organisations to present data quickly, securely and in a format that’s easy to understand, citizens have the unprecedented ability to interact with that information. People expect to connect to government through apps, websites, community engagement dashboards and social media, and the doubling of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests over the last decade clearly demonstrate increasingly active engagement.
It’s not surprising when we consider the very nature of communities themselves; no-one cares more about a community than the people who live there. Citizens actively participate in making their community a better place to live in and this human interaction goes hand in hand with the rise of the internet which has provided a platform for immediate access to information, people and places.
Transforming data driven citizenship
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are already used extensively across the public and private sector, including central and local government, in both the back office and improving people’s access to frontline services. Recent advances in GIS mean that local authorities can build on existing systems and develop a powerful digital engagement platform that rallies communities around issues and initiatives, and apply data to decision-making to create more efficient, liveable, sustainable, smarter communities. The digital platform is effectively a GIS Hub, which also enables local authorities to create value from Open Data while connecting internal departments and external stakeholders to issues and initiatives they care about.
When we look at FOI requests, most are for information that is not publicly available or searchable, missing key efficiencies and highlighting the need for increased automation. Using a two-way digital engagement platform, local authorities can now build quick-to-set-up Open Data portals that give citizens free access to important data, supporting cost-efficiencies through channel shift, while meeting Open Data/transparency obligations.
Engagement and collaboration
Many local authorities will have high profile projects that have a specified need to engage and collaborate with citizens and external stakeholders. For example, there may be a need to communicate the breadth, scope and ambition of a redevelopment. GIS Hub technology can be deployed to demonstrate a geographical representation of project timelines, locations and proposed scenarios from which a core data set can be used to inform communications and consultation strategies.
If we look at how GIS supports a regeneration project, it provides a means of engaging and consulting with citizens and gives the local authority a better understanding of peoples’ needs, views and aspirations. Local authorities can also spur participation in the community and harness volunteers to digitally sign-up to initiatives from projects to improve the quality of the local environment to encouraging volunteer drivers to sign-up, giving help to people with no access to transport.
Understanding GIS Hub technology
Undoubtedly developments in GIS are transforming data driven citizen engagement while driving down costs. A two-way digital engagement platform can transform the way in which local authorities engage with communities, inform citizens of key initiatives and offer compelling ways for the public to provide feedback.
If you would like to find out more please join Esri UK’s webinar on July 23, which will include first-hand experience from customers including Cheshire East Council and RSPB, showcasing the power of Esri’s ArcGIS Hub. To discover more and register, simply click here.
Paul Clarke, ESRI UK