There are hoards of white papers out there that all have their own take on why councils should be going digital.
Wouldn’t it be more helpful if you had access to concrete research and hard evidence as to the reasoning for such a huge transformation? Or to hear from Local Government compatriots already on the path to transformation? Well, we’ve been working with the New Local Government Network (NLGN) on a report about the barriers to digital adoption in local authorities. As part of it we received an interesting quote from a council Web Manager, which I think gets straight to the heart of the challenge that Local Authorities face in adopting digital:
“…it is about letting go – if change needs to happen, the fastest way for it to happen is to simply get out of the way. We feel we have to be involved, and throw bureaucracy around it, and that takes years.”
The quote appears in the full report by the NLGN, which contains research and insight that comes straight from the front line of Local Government.
It’s an interesting read. It illustrates not only the opportunity to do more with less (London Borough of Newham reduced its face-to-face contacts from 20,945 a year to just 1,968 by redesigning its website to include a ‘My Newham’ citizen portal), but also provides practical advice on how to get started, with recommendations and a digital checklist.
Breaking through the barriers to digital is about getting the culture right – changing hearts and minds from top to bottom to make sure it happens – and happens effectively.
The average household owns more than three types of internet-enabled device – and in 2013 alone 73% of the adult population in Britain accessed the internet every day1 – so moving services online is, ultimately, a no brainer. Not to mention it stands to save the UK Public Sector up to £1.8 billion2.
Along with the MyNewham example, there is a host of other great work going on in the Public Sector to bring us closer to digital by default. Like Reading Council’s Elevate Me mobile site to help young people get into employment. Releasing big data to the public has great benefits too. Bristol City Council released data on the local terrain, which led to an app called ‘Hills Are Evil’ that gives people with restricted mobility ability to identify the most appropriate route between two places.
If you need some inspiration, I’d definitely recommend having a read of the report to get a taste for how you can get a digital programme rolling in your own Local Authority. I’d also love to hear your own thoughts and experiences – just leave your comments below.
1 Ofcom, Communications Market Report 2013 (2013) http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-
2 Cabinet Office, Digital Efficiency Report, (2012) http://publications.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/digital/efficiency/