Socitm launches policy briefing to inform local digital debate

Socitm has launched a policy briefing designed to inform debate in the run up to the next election on how local digital public services can best be delivered.

‘Digital: Vision to Value – embracing locally designed, digital public services’ was launched by Socitm President Nick Roberts on 21 October at the Socitm annual conference taking place at Old Trafford.

The briefing is explicitly addressed to politicians and senior policy and decision-makers, and sets out what will be required to deliver locally designed, digital public services.

The briefing explains that ‘digital’ has become widely used shorthand for the improved use of technology, digital resources and better information management. The potential benefits for local government include reduced costs, increased efficiency and better outcomes. Digital can also stimulate innovation, enable new ways of working, and help to re-shape relationships between citizens, communities and local government. There are four key elements:

Digital represents an exciting paradigm shift moving from change driven top-down to that in which service users co-create solutions with providers and improve these solutions along the way. Examples cited are ‘Connecting Cambridgeshire’ and Lambeth Cooperative Council.

Digital puts people at the centre engaging residents, volunteers and businesses at the heart of service re-imagination and transformation.  Employed staff find new ways of looking at their services, new skills and new found enthusiasm for what they do. This approach can be seen in the work of East Riding of Yorkshire, the Living Well Project in Cornwall, and Neighbourhood Networks in Leeds.

Digital is not a ‘bolt on’ but starts with user-centric design that considers social, economic and environmental implications and cuts across silo-based structures and thinking leveraging political backing and executive sponsorship. Projects in Swanea and Glasgow’s Smart City demonstrator illustrate this approach.

Digital can unlock cost savings and increase productivity ideally, but not necessarily, going hand in hand with improving or maintaining service standards. Examples of cost saving by digital projects in Bristol and Kent are given.

Local public service organisations looking to embrace digital need to adopt three core principles:

  • Innovate to empower citizens and communities:
  • Redesign services to simplify, standardise and automate
  • Collaborate to share and re-use resources and assets

To deliver digital public services in any given locality, organisations need to have in place six strategic capabilities, described in the briefing. These include: digital leadership; governance; organisational change; procurement; managing and sharing resources; and professionalism.


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