Talking 5 with Local Public Services Member Hello Lamp Post
Each month, techUK's Associate Director for Local Public Services, Georgina Maratheftis, interviews a member active in the local government space about their vision for the future of local public services and where digital can make a real difference to people and society. This month we talk to Louise Barker, Head of Community Engagement at Hello Lamp Post, about the role that digital plays in creating more people-centric places and public services.
Welcome Louise. Firstly, tell me more about you, your career and how you got to this position today?
My background has predominantly involved working alongside the public sector, adding value by reducing costs, increasing efficiency and mitigating risk. Having worked in both start-ups and larger, established organisations, it’s been a varied and exciting career journey. Providing services that support and elevate organisations in the public sector is where my passion lies.
So when I came across Hello Lamp Post, an innovative start-up who are solving challenges facing the public sector, I knew I wanted to be a part of their story. I joined the team back in 2020 and it’s been a fantastic experience so far.
Hello Lamp Post really is the first of its kind. We’re the first on-street engagement platform that facilitates two-way conversations between places and people. Today, people expect responsive, user-led services, but engagement can be costly and time-consuming. Hello Lamp Post makes everywhere interactive so that communities can not only access public services easily, but feedback on them in real-time too. This results in better places for people and more efficient service delivery for the public sector.
What is the greatest opportunity for local government when it comes to digital?
People are all too familiar with digital now. Apps, websites and social media are very common platforms for communication and engagement, and have become an important part of daily life for most of society. This brings a lot of benefits, but it also comes with challenges for local government too. Now more than ever, it's harder to cut through the noise. So there is opportunity in finding ways to reach your audience, without having to compete against all the other things that want their attention.
This doesn’t necessarily require radical innovation, sometimes incremental improvements to existing technologies can provide a perfect opportunity. Hello Lamp Post took one of the most familiar means of communication - texting - and created a new way to use it. This now enables local government to reach their communities in their places and spaces and to speak to them directly in a distraction-free environment. And we don’t only mean the small proportion of communities that typically participate in local government communications and meetings. Our technology reaches far and wide, engaging people who find themselves neglected by more conventional engagement tactics.
Imagine being able to reach a higher volume and more diverse group of people within your community, speak to them directly and ask for their feedback and sentiment, via an always-on, 24/7 method. That is where the real opportunity lies for local government when it comes to going digital.
What is your vision for the future of local public services and places?
Technology will play an increasingly significant role in public services. The GovTech sector is estimated to reach a worth of £740 billion by 2025, with digital transformation and SaaS playing a huge role in its growth. But to make the most of the opportunity, we need to ensure that we’re using tech to make places better for people.
We’re imagining a world where people can get instant information from the objects, landmarks and infrastructure around them, wherever they are. For example, waste bins that tell you your next collection date using geolocation data, bus stops sharing live bus times, or construction hoarding that collects feedback on local housing development projects. Towns and cities should be interactive, with the ability to share updates and gather sentiments from every member of the community.
This starts with making AI and tech more human and personalised. Tech needs to deliver a customised experience to each person, without compromising on the quality of customer service. This is how public services can become more people-centric.
The ideal scenario is one where the public gets the best possible user experience, and the public sector gets maximum efficiency and insight to help them make more informed decisions.
How can the public sector engage people in a world that is becoming increasingly digital?
The world has become more remote, especially in the past two years, and I don’t think this sense of remoteness will completely revert to how things used to be. Although the concept of people gathering in one physical location is perhaps less relevant today, this doesn’t mean societies can’t remain connected.
The public sector needs to find ways to reach people as we adapt to a new normal, to share information and gather feedback. Because whether it’s for planning, providing care and support or improving customer experience, councils will always need to communicate with their communities. They’re the ones who use our cities and towns so shouldn’t they have a say?
This is just one of the challenges that Hello Lamp Post is addressing and solving. Our technology engages people and helps them feel more connected to their local government. We’re enabling a two-way flow of information and communication, which is vital in overcoming the challenge of remoteness. And we’re making use of the hybrid lifestyles that people live nowadays, by combining digital technology with physical locations. All of this helps local government reach people in a remote world.
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.
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