London councils considering ‘Office Of Technology And Innovation’

A collection of London councils and the Greater London Authority have announced plans to set up a centralised body to coordinate technology projects and reduce duplication.

It’s hoped the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) will build on existing efforts and create new areas of joint working in the digital transformation of public services, city authorities said in a tender notice.

“LOTI will present a stronger ‘demand picture’ from London’s public services to be presented to the London technology ecosystem,” the notice said.

Writing in a blogpost, GLA assistant director Andrew Collinge said while there are several initiatives fostering collaboration and innovation across the capital, “it feels that there is more potential to be unlocked, if we can strengthen collaboration in a way that recognises the potential of technology to deliver at scale and across boundaries”.

“Technology (think cloud) pays no attention to them; nor, given half a chance, does data. Further, the communities we serve roam freely across them, so why should we in the public services not attempt to work across them to meet common challenges, share opportunities and ultimately deliver collective, significant efficiencies,” he said.

“It feels that under current circumstances, there are times when the scale and complexity of London plays against us, making amplification of productivity-enhancing innovation and scale-up of demonstrator activity sluggish.”


Future focus

Collinge continued in his blog by saying: “Looking to the future, it seems increasingly pressing that public services adopt and share an anticipatory approach to the disruptive potential – regulatory and ethical dimensions included – of new business models emerging from the data and platform economies.

“On-demand and sharing services, and the arrival of automation all need to be considered in the context of organisational change in public services and adoption by customers. Nothing counter-intuitive here, but how do public servants ensure that robotics make aspects of adult social care a more ‘human’ and fulfilling experience for those wishing to extend independent living?  What are the consequences of not considering the deployment of robot vehicles quite literally out there on our streets as they take the strain on last mile logistics or collect the bins?

“To take a pertinent example already with us, our collective understanding of a technology like Blockchain does not yet seem mature enough to allow us to properly explore potential applications, to gauge the impact it can have on service existing delivery models, how it will affect the relationships with those we serve, and therefore what safeguards might be needed.

“These are not activities or questions that should be dealt with 33 times over (in the case of the London Boroughs). Rather, we should try to promote ‘technology preparedness’ through a set of mutually beneficial and well balanced relationships with business, academia, and the broader tech and innovation ecosystem. There should be an achievable alignment of motivations in exploring emerging technology and setting out core business and citizen-focused requirements one time only.

“Experience and learning in the form of use cases should be shared as widely as possible across coalitions of the willing and interested.”

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