Two senior officers have been appointed to the newly created local government digital office to help a group of Scottish councils drive change across local services.
Martyn Wallace, who has worked for Capita and O2, and Dr Colin Birchenall, digital transformation manager at Glasgow City Council, will take up their new posts of CDO and CTO later this month.
It is envisaged that the new digital office will be a centre of excellence in data, technology and digital, collaborating with the councils to help them with their own transformation and ensuring they are creating top class digital services for citizens.
Digital transformation strategy
The new digital office emerged from the development of a digital transformation strategy for local government in late 2015/early 2016, which was approved by the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) and the Local Government Digital Transformation Board.
Twenty-seven councils in Scotland then joined forces to drive a digital transformation in local services by establishing a digital transformation partnership to improve how services work and councils serve residents. It is through this partnership that the new digital office has been set up. The group of 27 councils will fund the digital office for the next three years and the new team will be shared by all the participating councils.
Martyn and Colin will be expected to turn the digital transformation strategy into a set of actions that will set the long-term digital direction for local government in Scotland. They will work with all councils to help build a portfolio of collaborative initiatives and projects that exploit digital technologies to reduce the cost of services and improve the customer experience for citizens.
As well as working with the participating councils, the new local government digital office will collaborate with public sector partners including Scottish Government, Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM), SEEMiS Group, NHS National Shared Services, and the Improvement Service (IS) to exchange best practice, develop wider public sector strategic direction and develop new shared services and capacities.
Continue to innovate
Lorraine McMillian, chief executive of East Renfrewshire Council and chair of the Scottish Local Government Digital Transformation Board, said: “There is a huge amount of positive work being carried out by Scottish councils to use digital technologies to better meet the needs of our customers.
“However we must ensure that we continue to innovate to be at the cutting edge of technologies which make it easier to serve our communities. We are looking forward to having this new digital office which will help Scottish councils be ahead of the game, to be as agile and effective as possible in this ever changing digital world and we hope ultimately that we will ensure that we continue to meet the needs of our increasingly technologically and digitally savvy citizens.”
Wallace added: “I’m honoured and excited in my new post as I believe we can we can do more by being digitally disruptive in Scottish local authorities. My team and I believe that digital is an enabler for better health, better education, better assisted living, better communication, better interactions, creates potential for predicative service interventions, engaged communities and is a catalyst for new economic opportunities whilst also helping drive more efficient and user friendly services to our citizens.
“There is a whole world of untapped data in our local authorities that can be unlocked and used to start small, think big and move fast in driving a significant culture shift in how we can facilitate and deliver services whilst driving better outcomes for end users.
“’Digital First’ methodology is not just about online transactions. It’s also about supporting the people who work in our Local Authorities, especially our frontline staff e.g. teachers and social workers, with the right digital tools and equipment to improve their interactions with end users whilst creating a new culture of using data to drive efficiencies and better outcomes in services.”
Birchenall added: “We are entering a new era of the information age. Digital is no longer just about online services. Digital technology is available to us wherever we are, at any time and is becoming increasingly intelligent and embedded within everyday objects such as smart watches, smart thermostats, smart light bulbs.
“This provides local government with an unprecedented opportunity to re-image and redesign how services are provided. Around the world, and here in Scotland we are already seeing more and more examples of the increasing role that digital can play to improve attainment, help people to live more independently, increase physical activity, empower communities, create new economic opportunities, and help local government to deliver better, more accessible and more efficient services.
“We cannot keep up with the rate of change of technology alone; we need to create an environment for “open innovation” where we all have a stake in our digital future; where we empower people to innovate collaboratively to delivers better outcomes for our residents and provide new economic opportunities for businesses.”
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