Local Digital Today research:
The government IT supplier response
Increased sharing of strategy, online resources and best practice between central and local government is key if local government is to glean the full benefit from digital services, according to respondents of landmark research released yesterday.
'Local Digital Today' surveyed 200 senior local authority and supplier decision-makers on their views of local government technology use in the bid to improve services and save money. The research was commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government from independent publisher UKAuthority with support from the Local Government Association and the Society of IT Management (Socitm).
The survey found there is much room for improvement, with two in five council respondents reporting no savings from digitisation. In response to the findings, a group of major public sector IT suppliers have told Local Digital how they think local government can glean the most benefit from the digital services available.
Increased sharing and re-use of resources between government organisations was one suggestion. "We strongly support the recommendation that central government's digital principles and routes to market should be re-used to accelerate delivery", said Phil Dawson, CEO of Skyscape, a provider of cloud-based services.
"There is a real risk strategies will be developed in isolation despite the need for interoperability between central and local government. There is no point in every council going it alone and trying to work out strategies - success stories and best practice needs to be shared" said Dawson.
Although the survey discovered that 91% of local authorities believe that digital channels will help provide services at lower cost tapping in to existing shared digital resources is key at the purchasing stage, according to James Brayshaw of Pitney Bowes Software."Focus needs to shift to ensuring that local government uses best procurement practices and G-Cloud to stop the huge duplicate costs of separate contracts," said Brayshaw, Vice President, Location Intelligence Business (MapInfo) EMEA.
He said that in particular, separate contracts are not cost effective for the deployment of Software as a Service, as well as on-demand and cloud-based services. Another private sector leader underlined the importance of introducing interoperability across new and old IT.
"The lowest common denominator for me is information management and security," said Neil Rogers, President, Global Government, BT Global Services. "The ability to seamlessly automate streamlined digital processes across legacy and new systems within acceptable and agreed trust levels is the enabler to new ways of working, citizen engagement and service efficiencies".
Alan Banks, VP EMEA, LivePerson, which offers a cloud-based platform that enables organisations to connect with customers via a range of channels, said the need now was to encourage take up of transformational services. "The research demonstrates a step in the right direction for Government and its digital programme.
"That said, there is still a long way to go to bridge the gap between the current state of services provided and the expectations of today's digital customers. The focus should be to drive awareness and adoption of digital services from a customer perspective, which will ultimately drive cost savings and increase customer satisfaction".
Banks added that programmes with an agile approach to development and delivery of online services will "prevail", a view echoed by Director of Azeus UK and former CIO at Newham Council Richard Steel, commenting more broadly on the Government's digital strategy. "It's a proposition about exploiting new, flexible and efficient service delivery, development and commercial models to do more with less, to extend our reach and provide greater access.
"It is a proposition that says our IT organisations' transition from an Ivory Towers world of technical geeks to consumer-oriented enabling services is committed. The proposition says that people can engage with ICT-mediated services from their homes and on the move using consumer-oriented apps - tailor-made according to needs and preferences - that are the product of agile development, delivered through the Cloud, and funded according to use".
Some 84% of respondents to the Local Digital Today research said they felt apps can improve the quality of interactions with the public.
In terms of the local government response to the research, the focus must remain firmly on channel shift and delivering the services the public expects, despite reduced budgets. "The public sector now depends on a shift to digital delivery wherever possible to drive out cost while protecting services", said Jos Creese, Chair of the Local CIO Council and CIO at Hampshire County Council.
"This survey is therefore very helpful in aligning technology opportunity with business benefits in the public sector - productivity, efficiency, improved customer service, new service design. It demonstrates why 'local' matters and that it's about technology use, not just innovative technology."
To read the full report go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/report-shows-councils-can-make-more-online-savings .
For more on the report findings see: http://www.ukauthority.com/LocalDigital/tabid/226/Default.aspx?id=4381 .