South Gloucestershire Council creates digital document solution

Digital technology and home-grown innovation are being combined at South Gloucestershire Council to deliver a transformation in the way public services are communicated.

The result is eDocs, or electronic documents, which offer an agile, quick and cheap alternative to traditional design and print.

Crucially though, eDocs also delivers enhanced accessibility since they can be read on any device from laptops to smartphones, with the documents adjusting automatically to the screen size. They can also be downloaded and read on a Kindle.


Substantial saving

Since eDocs were introduced at the authority a little over a year ago, the technology has resulted in the council printing some two million fewer pages, delivering a real breakthrough in reducing costs and waste. This equates to a saving of more than £170,000 (double-sided and in colour).

eDocs incorporate a piece of software, Browsealoud, which means you can listen to the document being read out or have it translated into more than 140 languages. The technology will also let you change the font size and colour contrast to suit your needs and you can easily share the document with others by email or on social media.

The breakthrough principle has been to create documents that are digital by design and live; anyone accessing them online will always see the latest version.


In-house development

eDocs was developed in-house by South Gloucestershire Council’s Digital Services team at only the cost of the team’s time.

Councillor John Goddard, deputy council leader and chair of the resources sub-committee, said: “eDdocs is a major contribution to digital public services delivery allowing faster and more accessible access to a range of services while enabling local authorities to reduce waste and reduce costs for next to no expenditure.”

eDocs brings together:

  • WordPress – an open source free web content management system
  • mPDF – open source free software used to generate PDF files
  • Browsealoud – Text-to-speech software that enables translation on demand and which allows documents to be adjusted for colour contrast as well as allowing documents to be made available as audio files in MP3 format

The council added: “All these programmes already exist. The innovation on the part of the officers involved was figuring out how to bring them together and make them work as one.”

It is currently being rolled out across South Gloucestershire Council services, allowing staff to create their own documents and helping us to deliver on our pledge to continue to deliver value for money and essential services at a challenging time.

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