‘Place as a platform’ encapsulates the future for ICT service delivery

Platforms and places are the essential components for delivering tomorrow’s local public services, and all senior ICT managers should be planning their future strategy around them now, says the latest briefing from Socitm.

Platforms and places: the foundations for future ICT service delivery explains why, and trails an upcoming Socitm research report that will contain further detail and an action checklist.

The briefing describes a ‘place as a platform’ approach as a ‘root and branch’ overhaul of the role, structure and usage of ICT to deliver digital public services in a whole locality, not just within a single organisation. Put simply, that means ‘platform’ is simply digital skills, networks and associated infrastructures, and ‘place’ is the whole locality.

Making a platform for the future involves choices of service delivery models, systems architectures, and a concept of ‘place’ that is much more than the immediate organisational ICT estate. It also entails development and usage of applications (including co-sourcing and co-delivery) that are innovative and enabling of others, and the deep involvement of individuals and communities in services design and redesign.

 

PaaP concept

Although Place as a Platform (PaaP) shares broad objectives and approaches with Government as a Platform (GaaP) as advocated by the Government Digital Service, the operational environments of the two concepts are very different.

The former serves diverse localities where ‘government’ is just one stakeholder, while the latter mainly concerns government departments in Whitehall.  Consequently, the briefing argues, Place as a Platform is a purer and more ambitious expression of internet guru Tim O’Reilly’s ideas about ‘Government 2.0’ that have developed into the concept of ‘Government as a Platform.

Furthermore, ‘place’ may mean a ‘natural’ community not necessarily constrained by geographic or political boundaries, but of a size and stakeholder composition relevant for effective public services design and delivery.

In setting strategic direction and designing place-based platforms, leaders must attend to four key elements, identifying:

  • people with the right skills and experience who will do the job of building the platform and then developing and using it well;
  • service delivery processes that people will execute in order to achieve the best possible local public service outcomes;
  • an optimum technology approach that makes it faster, better, and cheaper for people and processes to deliver digitally-enabled services; and
  • data and information management practices that facilitate rather than impede the other elements.

The briefing sets out some significant challenges associated with each of these elements, and how they might be overcome. It also shows how the strategy of Simplify – Standardise – Share advocated by Socitm can be part of developing ‘Place as a Platform’ locally and says that not to take opportunities to standardise and/or share within and between organisations is already publically indefensible, given the economic costs of not doing so.

Finally, the briefing points to Scotland as an emerging case study for ‘place as a platform’. Overall, 27 of the thirty two unitary authorities have very recently come together to co-fund and establish a Scottish Local Authorities Digital Office.

The high level objectives are to re-engineer systems to deliver as good as or better public service outcomes and significant public service cost savings simultaneously. Embedded within this are instances of Place as a Platform as an organising principle.

Martin Ferguson, director of policy and research at Socitm said: “Platforms and places are respectively essential components and concepts for delivering local public services in future. Austerity is not the only reason for adopting such thinking – it makes sense in a web-enabled, digital era whatever the economic circumstances.

“Competition as well as collaboration will increase in future. People should be acting now. Those who do not make progress could well fall to services provided by someone else.”

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