23 May 2022

Guest blog: Why I’m positive about the future of Local Public Services

Guest blog by Stu Higgins, Head of Smart Cities & IoT Sustainability Ambassador at Cisco

If you could start with a blank piece of paper, how would you design the public sector and the services it delivers?

It’s a hard question to answer right?

So how about another? … “what’s wrong with the public sector today?” I’m sure you can make a list of these things much more easily.

For something that has been established for hundreds of years and has grown and changed and adapted over time it’s actually pretty difficult to think about starting from scratch.

As we emerge out of the other side of the pandemic lots have things have changed: people’s priorities, attitudes to work (proof beyond doubt that it is possible for lots of us, including many public servants, to work in different ways), more devolved control to regional government and more funding, changes in technology and a much greater focus on sustainability.

People’s priorities, attitudes to work and access to public services

Cisco talks about work in terms of it being what you do, not where you go. While it’s true to say not everyone recognises the benefits of Hybrid Work many organisations do.

People want more choice and not just in the work environment. The national agenda for virtual wards means that healthcare will be delivered beyond hospitals and GP’s surgeries and into people’s homes and the wider community. IoT devices will help people monitor themselves and share regular updates with those responsible for their care and wellbeing.

In order for this to be successful healthcare and local government will need to be much more closely aligned and connected and will need to create a secure platform for access to, and delivery of public services for everyone. Education, Policing, Fire and Rescue and every other public sector organisation will be able to securely access and share information. And people will have access to services across different devices and networks to the public sector professionals best placed to help them.

Devolution and funding

The government continues to push the devolution agenda and provide funding through vehicles like the Levelling up programme. Regional networks are no longer a dream or aspiration, they are emerging in a number of locations across the UK&I. With devolved regions and the implementation of Integrated Care Systems (ICS) now well underway, many organisations are turning to digital solutions to properly join-up different public sector bodies.

The levelling up white paper goes as far as saying “Cities, towns and communities must be physically and digitally connected if they are to thrive”.

Cisco anticipates much closer working between public bodies over the next few years as new acts like the Health and Care act ‘bed in’ and these will not succeed unless they are underpinned by digital strategies and technologies.


There have been a number of technological advances over the past few years that lead me to the conclusion that it really is possible to enable better, faster and more secure access to, and delivery of public services to everyone. It’s not about one specific technology or solution (5G I’m talking about you!), but about the combination of many different connected solutions. Technology has genuinely changed in the past few years and is much faster, more secure, and intelligent than ever before. We are only just scratching the surface of what’s possible with AI and automation for example. These solutions create the underpinning platform to support most future public services.

Cisco has public sector customers around the globe asking how they can deliver public services to all of their citizens regardless of location in an easy-to-use and affordable way.

Sustainability and Social Value

As a Cisco Sustainability Ambassador I’m delighted to see more and more of our customers challenge their commercial partners to help them achieve their sustainability targets and to prove our sustainability credentials too. Cisco has a long history of focussing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and publish an annual Purpose Report which gives details of many of our Environmental & Sustainability goals and the impact we are having on individuals, society, and the planet.

I’ve also seen an increasing focus on Social Value measures within recent procurements. Our industry has to show how we are contributing to every community where our technology is used. It’s incumbent on us all to focus on the outcomes enabled by our solutions, not on the technology itself.

Procurements where alignment of values is more important than cost or solution are also a recent development. One customer went as far as to say that if a suppliers values and theirs did not align, then they wouldn’t consider buying from that company, even if they offered them the technology for free!

Final Thoughts

Public service provision will be better for the public sector, the people they serve and the environment where they all live in a connected community.

While starting with a blank piece of paper is a nice idea, it’s pretty unlikely to be something many of us get to do more than a few times in our career. But we should all think about challenging the norms and accepted conventions and ask ‘what if we could start again’? If we all do this, I genuinely think the future of local public services is bright.

Stu Higgins, Head of Smart Cities & IoT Sustainability Ambassador at Cisco.

He is a passionate advocate for harnessing digital technologies to improve the lives of people within different communities, both urban and rural, whether they are working, learning, studying or just out and about having fun. He believes that technology has a significant role to play in addressing the issues people face in their everyday lives by removing the friction from the things that matter to us all.

Stu's work involves helping people explore how they can use digital solutions to address the challenges experienced by residents, visitors, organisations and their employees, in other words, everyone and how we can reduce the climatic impact we have on individuals, society, and the planet

Stu represents Cisco on several industry boards and advisory panels focussing on Connected Communities and Sustainability.

@stuhiggins @CiscoUKI

 Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change



techUK, in collaboration with its Local Public Services Committee, has published a new report making the case for enhanced digital innovation adoption across the UK’s local public services to improve citizens’ lives. The report, ‘Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change



Related topics