O2 today announced the winners of a new initiative to help local councils tackle social challenges through the use of technology. Newcastle and Buckinghamshire are to be rewarded with a total of £200,000 worth of digital expertise and technology from O2, to help turn their digital vision into a practical reality.

Over 120 local authorities submitted an idea to solve a problem in their community, of which, six were chosen to take part in a dragon’s den-style pitch final. After thorough deliberation, the judging panel, which included O2’s Business Director Ben Dowd, Adrian Hancock, Chief Executive of SOCITM and Simon Parker, CEO of the New Local Government Network, agreed on two winning councils to benefit from the Digital Fund:

Newcastle City Council

  • Using technology to help young people with special educational needs, and adults with learning disabilities,  become independent travellers

“This was an incredibly well-thought out plan, and an idea that shows the social value digital innovation can bring” Mark Adams-Wright.

Buckinghamshire County Council

  • Development of a universal benefit calculator app to help frontline workers assist citizens understand the impact of welfare reforms

“This idea is a winner for us because we can see the phenomenal reach the app will have, and the benefits it will provide for many citizens. We were really impressed by the enthusiasm of the team, and how well they brought their idea to life in their presentation.” Ben Dowd.

The Local Government Digital Fund aims to help councils develop services in three categories:

  • Mobile working – helping employees to serve local communities. E.g. an app that allows a healthcare worker to access patient information on the move
  • Connecting and communicating with citizens – making life easier for citizens, such as an app that allows people to pay their council tax via mobile or tablet
  • Collaborating in the workplace – improving service delivery for communities by developing online information sharing systems that allow teams to liaise with different departments to resolve queries or problems faster

Julia Woollard, Team Manager for Architecture and Programme Management in ICT at Newcastle City Council said:

“We’re really excited to be working with O2, and looking forward to seeing how our project progresses with the team. We hope that this will become a flagship idea for the north east. We have already tested out the idea with some kids whose lives will be transformed by the app, and they will be so pleased that we are able to make this happen for them.”

Matilda Moss, Policy and Partnerships Officer at Buckinghamshire County Council said:

“The whole process of the Local Government Digital Fund has really helped us crystalize our thoughts on what this project could like in reality. We’re really pleased that we are now in a position to help residents in our local area through this app.”

Mark Adams-Wright, Head of Local Government, O2, commented:

“Technology holds the key to helping the public sector make crucial savings – whether through policies and devices to empower staff to work more flexibly, or a mobile app to make it easier for local authorities to engage with communities. We are passionate about ensuring services in the public sector are of high quality for UK citizens, and serve them in the easiest and most cost effective way.

“All of the judges were impressed with the range of creative and innovation solutions submitted this year. We look forward to helping authorities across the UK tackle the challenges in their local area by engaging staff, citizens and communities through technology, and hope that all those involved will continue to connect with us through the Local Government Digital Forum over the coming year.”

The Local Government Digital Fund forms part of a wider O2 forum, which was set up to support local authorities. Senior officers and local authority employees from across the UK can take part in discussions on how to make a real difference to the citizens and communities they serve through the O2 website.

Journalists can contact the Virgin Media O2 press office on:
press@virginmediao2.co.uk 01753 565656
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