15 Dec 2020

Future gazing: Where next for local gov tech in 2021?

Reflections on the digital trends of the past year and predictions for 2021.

Every December, techUK’s Local Public Services Programme holds its annual future gazing event which is an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the achievements of digital local government of the past year. What a year it has been for local government and their tech partners.

We were delighted to welcome a fantastic array of speaker across local government and industry who shared their reflections on the key digital trends and predictions for 2021!

The market is growing fast and is now worth more than £1.2bn per annum

First up we heard from Gus Tugendhat, Founder, Tussell who shared some great data insights and visualizations on the size of the market, the biggest buyers, and from which regions. Despite the challenging year for local government the data painted a positive picture with average annual tech spending in local government exceeding £1bn. While there is dominance by the top ten suppliers, only two of UK Gov’s 13 Strategic Suppliers in tech make the list with the proportion of spend with SMEs and other players growing. Spend by London boroughs is higher but there are significant opportunities across the whole of the UK, as local authorities have a wide range of technology spend profiles. There are over two thousand plus contracts expiring in the next four years so plenty of opportunity for suppliers that engage the market early and are pro-active. Seeing a rise in contracts for cloud and software services also.

Collaboration is business as usual

May-N Leow, Head of Local Collaboration Unit, Ministry for Housing and Local Government (MHCLG) provided an update on the work of the Unit and mentioned there are 223 councils now signatories of the Local Digital Declaration. May-N reflected on the past year which showed that councils can build great digital services at speed. This year councils launched services from scratch because of COVID-19 and have done so at speed. The lengthy bureaucratic processed were reduced. We saw unprecedented levels of sharing and joint delivery during the pandemic, such as the sharing of code. When there is a real need council can come together and this was highlighted further by the Local Digital C-19 Challenge which saw many councils come together to apply for funding for projects to solve common challenges.

No reverting back

We were delighted to hear first-hand the impact on local government tech from Matt Prosser, Chief Executive, Dorset Council. Matt mentioned we are seeing a digital maturity across organization and moving away from legacy systems, and towards digital agility. Dorset Council is working to bring to life the ambition of the Local Digital Declaration and stressed the importance of cyber security and resilience. Looking to next year Matt predicted councils will invest in tech that will support hybrid working and more AV/VR. We will be thinking differently in how we work as well as support local economic recovery. How do we use technology to support workforce in this virtual world to support their wellbeing? Matt touched on what the art of the possible is in bring gaming and local government world together. As well as how disruptive tech cam better support innovation and outcomes in adult social care. We also heard plans for 5G Rural Dorset with some good user cases. Matt shared that future relationships with suppliers and the councils needs to be agile.

Constructive conversation

Eddie Copeland, Director, London Office for Technology and Innovation (LOTI) stated that COVID-19 has driven local government to rapidly adapt, setting up the community hubs so swiftly to mass remote working. Eddie highlighted the good work of some suppliers that helped councils to stand up those services so swiftly. Eddie reflected on procurement behaviours from both buyers and suppliers and the constructive conversations to be had and shared the work LOTI has been doing around procurement and innovation.  London boroughs want to get the best relationship with govtech suppliers, but we are also seeing some that want to build in-house. Eddie shared some great examples of different operating models and what this means for the future of public sector.

Crisis drives change

Liz O'Driscoll, Head of Innovation, Civica said the pandemic has changed the way we experience and consume service. The pandemic has intensified citizen experience and galvanized demand of digital services as citizens are aware of what can be done online. The financial pressures for councils have increased despite Treasury supporting measures but we have to go further to address the inequalities the virus has exposed and rebuild communities that benefit everyone.

Designing the future together

Finally, we heard from James Winterbottom, Director of Digital Services and Integration, Wigan Council. Due to the pandemic and new ways of working, James mentioned we have roles such as producers of live stream events for Cabinet meeting now in local government. These roles never existed in local government before and shows how fast councils can adapt to new ways of working. Like Matt, James said Wigan will invest in the hybrid approach. For successful recovery James stressed the need to work alongside communities and places in designing the future together. James hoped that tech in local government will help put humanity back in public services and address inequalities.

And the predictions from our speakers for 2021 are…

  • Year of continued investment in infrastructure for agile working, with 5G innovations developing.
  • Radically different operating models for public services to addressing needs will become mainstream.
  • Data driven with growing number of tech contracts and suppliers using data to build relationships will be those that are successful.
  • Agile working to become the norm.
  • The rise of augmented collective intelligence.
  • The year of individual community and organization altruism on a scale we have not experience before.

You can watch the session in full below:

techUK members are invited to join our next market briefing on Demystifying Local Government: Growing the Local Govtech Market, 26 January 2021. 

If you'd like to learn more about techUK's Local Public Services programme and how to get involved in future events get in touch with Georgina Maratheftis. 

Georgina Maratheftis

Georgina Maratheftis

Programme Head, Local Public Services, techUK

Georgina is techUK’s Head of 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.

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