The key theme for the Smart Cities and Communities programme this year has been “practical steps for delivering smart city solutions” which has largely focused on leadership. This has included examining the roles and responsibilities for central government and local authorities in creating smart places around the UK. Local authorities are on the front line when it comes to smart, place-based digital initiatives. Although they should not be tasked with delivering the nation’s smart agenda without overarching support and ambition from central government, there are steps that local authorities can take to improve their own capacity and capability.
The first step towards this is building a greater understanding of digital, data and technological solutions into local authorities by establishing and maintaining “a dedicated and legitimate decision-making body that is empowered by the executive leadership of the local authority” - a digital board. A digital board will engage representatives from a mixture of local actors, including academia, local businesses, consumer/citizen groups, and tech companies. By drawing on such broad expertise, a digital board can raise awareness of opportunities for digital evolution, as well as support implementation efforts and ultimately deliver positive and sustainable citizen-focused outcomes for a locality.
With the help of industry and local government professionals, we have developed a series of recommendations for establishing and maintaining a digital board. The recommendations address key themes for digital boards to consider; ensuring meaningful engagement with local stakeholders, establishing a culture that supports an action-oriented and delivery focus and a collaborative approach to digital evolution.