06 Dec 2023
by Sharna Quirke

Talking 5 with Local Public Services Member Hitachi Solutions

This month's Talking 5 guest is Sharna Quirke, Strategic Director for Local Government and Health, Hitachi Solutions & techUK’s Local Public Services Committee Chair.

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 Sharna Quirke, Strategic Director for Local Government and Health, Hitachi Solutions & techUK’s Local Public Services Committee Chair about how industry as a collective can help drive change, working with councils to better understand how new operating models and innovation can deliver better outcomes.

Welcome Sharna. Firstly, tell me more about you, your career and how you got to this position today?

I started my career with the Australian Government in their graduate programme and spent the following 5 years working in international trade and diplomacy. But I had very itchy feet and desperately needed to travel. I came to the UK in my 20’s and took a role in the human rights division in UK government to help improve service delivery through defining policies and solutions on data sharing, digital inclusion and the use of technology; with a focus on the role governments play, and the human rights of citizens.

After seeing the power of having great digital outcomes that enable access for people and improve lives, this set me on my path. I have since spent over 15 years in the consultancy sector, designing digital solutions to address complex public needs working with Canada, US, Australia, Hong Kong, EU and World Bank, and of course many Local Authorities in the UK.

I now work with Hitachi Solutions Europe, as their Strategic Director for Local Government and Health, which is an amazing privilege.

Congratulations on being elected Chair of techUK’s Local Public Services Committee (LPSC). How do you see the LPSC supporting both wider tech industry and local government market?

Thank you. I’m really excited about this role.  This is a very interesting time for Local Public Service, in recent years technology has shifted dramatically, the things services can do today, were just mere ideas and dreams 5 years ago. Combine this with recent events, coping with the pandemic, cost of living crises, Ukraine and political disruption, I feel the role of the LPSC could be unifying in what has become a fragmented environment. It can also be a voice of influence, to support the often-overlooked work of local services.

What has really struck me with this amazing group of members, is their drive to give and make a difference, to speak about challenges from their perspective, but most noticeably, to want to hear the voice of local government. The drive for making a real difference should not be underestimated and I'm seeing it when the committee meets. I look forward to working with local authorities so we can shape and articulate the digital ambition of the sector and the country.

What is the greatest opportunity for local government when it comes to digital?

Local Government is at a precipice of under-funding, surging demand, increasing consumer expectations with the service they experience, increasing complexity of social issues against rising costs. Add to the mix, skills shortages in the sector and it all makes for a depressing read. Digital is a significant part of the solution, but not in isolation.

Digital ambition needs to be combined with long term vision and bold leadership to support investment, to make a difference today and in years to come. It also needs to be combined with new operating models and changing the way local authorities do business. I think the greatest opportunity today is to invest in modern infrastructure and platforms, to enable the business and operational changes which Local Authorities must contend with in coming months and years. But it does not need to be ‘big bang’ change. With a clear vision and timetable to deliver, tactical and incremental changes can make significant differences and the way technology is evolving, this approach is arguably more sustainable as well.

Local governments are in a unique position as they don't compete against other in their industry. This opens opportunities to collaborate and learn from one another in a shared environment and supplier committed to the sector also support this. By working together on a common challenge, it eases the burden on resources, time, and, most importantly, finances.

What is your vision for the future of local public services and places?

My vision is for local public services to be able to provide state of the art services, with modern technology and to function at a pace which enables continuous improvement. The future organisation will be cloud native, performing on a single, integrated platform, and using quality data to make evidenced based delivery and commissioning decisions to serve the public in the most efficient and effective way possible. It will also be leveraging automation and AI to reduce administration and bureaucracy and be able to optimise the connection of ‘people’ and ‘place’ to enable economic growth and sustainability for regions.

To help local services on this journey, I see my role as helping CEOs, CIOs and Service Directors to navigate the tension between the tactical short-term improvements (and savings) and the strategic long-term gains (and growth) to define their digital ambition as individual services and as sector.  My goal is for LPSC to help shape and define the ambition through the sharing of ideas, innovation, discussion and collaboration.

Georgina Maratheftis

Georgina Maratheftis

Associate Director, Local Public Services, techUK

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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020 7331 2029

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Local Public Services Programme

techUK's Local Public Services Programme provides the forum for local public services to engage with industry to better understand the innovations out there, horizon-scan how the technologies of today and tomorrow can re-imagine local public services and solve some of the most pressing challenges our communities and places face. It also helps connect suppliers with each other, identify new business partnerships to help grow an ever thriving local government ecosystem.

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Sharna Quirke

Sharna Quirke

Strategic Director for Local Government and Health, Hitachi Solutions