Event roundup: Digital phone switchover - preparing local authorities
techUK hosted an event on 8 November 2022 to help local authorities understand the implications of the digital phone switchover and give them the opportunity to share best practise and discuss overcoming challenges to enable a seamless switchover.
Sarah Shepherd, Digital Phone Switchover Head at techUK, opened the event by highlighting that the telecoms sector recognised the challenges that some may face during the switchover and were working together to raise awareness and ensure consistency in messaging to reduce the potential for confusion.
We were joined by over 100 attendees from across local authorities, telecoms companies and local authority suppliers as well as Government and Ofcom. techUK convened speakers from across government, regulation and industry, as well as local government from across the nations and regions.
The role of government
Our first panel covered the rationale behind the closure and the respective roles of Government and Ofcom in the migration program. Whilst there has been progress since the initial announcement in 2017 that the network would be switched off in December 2025, there remains a lot to be done. The panellists emphasised the importance of communicating needs and contacting them with queries and BT highlighted the work that they had undertaken since the temporary pause on their managed migration program. DCMS offered to function as a convenor of sectors and will be establishing a webpage soon to give suppliers a trusted, neutral source to direct enquiries to and prevent raised concerns about scamming and lack of easily accessible to information. (contact details given at the event can be found below)
Local government perspective
Panel 2 looked at some of the services local authorities provide that may be affected, how communication providers work with Councils and the approach being taken by Liverpool City Council. Whilst the transition offers up opportunities for new digital products, local authorities in the room remain concerned about the cost implications. Local authorities have limited resources, but it was outlined that they are well placed to identify products and services affected. There were spirited calls for Ofcom and DCMS to agree on a national data sharing programme and to help local authorities with the transition.
Telecare: Best practise from other nations
Panel 3 focussed on telehealth and social care. The NHS Transformation Directorate will shortly be publishing their Stakeholder Action Plan and establishing a helpdesk to aid the transition. There was a recognition of opportunity with digital expanding the range of functions that adult social care can undertake. Wales offered some success stories where a few Alarm Response Centres (ARCs) had fully transitioned to digital. More information can be found here. In Scotland, standardised information through the Digital Playbook on telecare had proved helpful although supply chain issues are hampering the full migration to digital kit and services. Data sharing and identifying telecare users remains a work in progress.
The final panel was dedicated to communications and concluded the PSTN switch off requires a different style of campaign to the digital TV switch off. Any campaign should be public awareness-based but understand that consumers will have to identify themselves what services they use that will need to change. An Australian-style awareness approach was cited as a great way of delivering this agreed need for focused awareness. A public-interest campaign was seen as being in the best interests of citizens and local authorities’ status as a trusted local voice was highlighted as a crucial part of this. Research from Openreach shows that customers - once aware of the switchover - are receptive to the move. GMCA pointed out that whilst there were challenges posed, including resilience concerns, the switchover also offered up positives including around digital inclusion. There were calls for Government to be more visible and play a greater role in raising awareness and acceptance of the switchover.
An industry together approach
The overarching themes that ran through the event were the importance of collaboration and communication in helping to work through some of the challenges identified. Local authorities are invited to work with their service and communication providers to prepare for the move and secure the necessary products and services and communications providers frequently asked local authorities to get in touch with them. It was pointed out that a single point of contact within the Council would be of great benefit for the telecoms sector. Collaboration on data sharing, possibly facilitated by government, would allow easier identification of telecare customers affected by the switch off and allow best practice on their subsequent migration.
Collaboration and communication and a greater role played by Government were seen as key to unblocking some of the barriers to switchover and allowing the full opportunities of digital to be fully opened up to local authorities. Any questions about this event, or about the wider digital phone switchover, should be sent to Sarah Shepherd.
techUK welcomes the chance to play our role in the ‘industry together’ approach the switchoff requires
Watch a full recording of the event and download the slides used below:
Georgina is techUK’s Associate Director for Local Public Services
Georgina works with suppliers that are active or looking to break into the market as well as with local public services to create the conditions for meaningful transformation. techUK regularly bring together local public services and supplier community to horizon scan and explore how the technologies of today and tomorrow can help solve some of the most pressing problems our communities face and improve outcomes for our people and places.
Prior to techUK, Georgina worked for a public policy events company where she managed the policy briefing division and was responsible for generating new ideas for events that would add value to the public sector. Georgina worked across a number of portfolios from education, criminal justice, and health but had a particular interest in public sector transformation and technology. Georgina also led on developing relationships across central and local government.
If you’d like to learn more about techUK, or want to get involved, get in touch.
Tracy supports several areas at techUK, including Cyber Exchange, Cyber Security, Defence, Health and Social Care, Local Public Services, Nations and Regions and National Security.
Tracy joined techUK in March 2022, having worked in the education sector for 19 years, covering administration, research project support, IT support and event/training support. My most outstanding achievement has been running three very successful international conferences and over 300 training courses booked all over the globe!
Tracy has a great interest in tech. Gaming and computing have been a big part of her life, and now electric cars are an exciting look at the future. She has warmed to Alexa, even though it can sometimes be sassy!
Sophie James is Head of Programme for Communications Infrastructure and Services at techUK, and oversees the UK Spectrum Policy Forum.
Sophie was promoted to Head having been Programme Manager for Communications Infrastructure and Services, leading techUK's telecoms activities, engagement and policy development. Previously, Sophie was Programme Assistant across a variety of areas including the Broadband Stakeholder Group, Central Government, Financial Services and Communications Infrastructure programmes.
Prior to joining techUK, Sophie completed a masters in Film Studies at University College London; her dissertation examined US telecoms policy relating to net neutrality and content distribution.
Manuel joined techUK in February 2022, where he is now Programme Manager for the UK Spectrum Policy Forum and Satellite.
A journalist by training, he has written extensively about spectrum since 2018 for PolicyTracker. Manuel has a MSc in International Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In his spare time he is currently trying to set up a supperclub.
Programme Assistant, Central Government, Digital Connectivity Forum, Comms Infrastructure, UK SPF, techUK
Programme Assistant, Central Government, Digital Connectivity Forum, Comms Infrastructure, UK SPF, techUK
Julia Ofori-Addo supports the Digital Connectivity Forum and a range of techUK Market Programmes such as; Central Government, Communications Infrastructure and Services and the UK Spectrum Policy Forum with the secretariat and event support, research and communication.
Julia is a bilingual – German and English native. Prior to joining techUK, Julia worked as an IT Team Administrator at Interxion Ltd (data center) supporting and coordinating teams with the Incident Management Protocols (IMP), auditing and reporting procedures and processes and assisting senior management with various secretarial/administrative duties. She has exceptional experience in handling and updating in-house database systems and a proven track record of demonstrating strong interpersonal skills.
Julia is a graduate at the University of Kent with a BSc in Computer Science and Business Administration. In her personal time, she enjoys current affairs discussions, going to the gym and travelling.
Sarah Shepherd heads up the recently established Digital Phone Switchover function which is housed within techUK.
The Digital Phone Switchover has been set up by Communications Providers and network operators to identify where common challenges to the IP migration program can be best resolved through a collaborative approach – be it enhanced communications and consistency of messages to increased awareness raising.
Prior to this appointment, Sarah managed the regulatory dimension of the PSTN switch off for BT plc and previously worked for the Broadband Stakeholder Group on telecoms policy issues across the broadband value chain.
Sarah has a background in European and UK policy and regulatory affairs.
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techUK members – we are calling on you to nominate a colleague who has made a significant contribution or positive difference to People, Society, the Economy, or the Planet through their work with technology.
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