Councils back launch of open source library for digital services

A new community driven repository of shared material where local authorities and partners can collaborate by uploading and downloading assets for building digital services has been launched.

Local authorities already sharing and using resources on the Jadu Library include Swindon Borough Council, The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Norwich City Council, Canterbury City Council, London Borough of Hounslow and Birmingham City Council, with more pledging to follow.

Dr Mark Thompson, a key architect of the UK government’s open IT strategy and senior lecturer at Cambridge Judge Business School who co-authored the recent Green Paper Better Public Services: A Manifesto commented: “In the UK there are 430 councils that at a business process and technology level are pretty much replicating versions of the same things. It makes no sense to be reinventing the wheel time and time again.

“This is the first time I’ve seen anyone go anywhere near providing such shared infrastructure in the local government space and it’s vitally needed. The old ways of specifying some over complicated stack are becoming progressively unacceptable. There simply isn’t any money left to support the old way of doing things.”

The manifesto calls for using a ‘Lego block’ approach to services in which government departments utilise off-the-shelf ‘plug and play’ systems that are increasingly readily available over the internet, rather than spending time and money to develop bespoke systems for each department. These commodity-type systems would handle such functions as licensing, booking, registration, payments and case management.

If properly implemented, says Thompson, the plan can eventually save £46bn a year and thus fund an additional labour pool of one million key workers in frontline services ranging from teaching to healthcare and policing. Further information can be found here.


Sharing and reusing

The Jadu Library enables the sharing and reusing of work and is helping councils to become hubs for economic and social exchange. Rather than having to build online services themselves, councils can capitalise on what is already available and use service specialists.

Although initially populated by Jadu users, the library is based on a github repository that can hold any type of asset and therefore generic assets – such as process flows, test scripts and service design documentation – can all be surfaced and shared. All public sector organisations are being encouraged to use the library and share their service components so that digital services can finally be consumed as utilities across the board.

Angela Probert, Chief Operating Officer at Birmingham City Council – Europe’s largest local authority – said: “Effective collaboration can be a game-changer for the delivery of public services in this country. Rather than spending time reinventing the same services time and time again, the Jadu Library enables councils to work and innovate together.”

Swindon Borough Council recently re-used Green Waste and Complaints processes developed by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and is sharing workflows of its own.

Glyn Peach, Chief Information Officer at Swindon Borough Council commented: “Local authorities are not special, we often do lots of the same things. Some big outsources might like to tell us we’re special so that we pay for them to build things for us that they built for our neighbours six months ago, but we’re not. This ethos is different, it’s about sharing and reusing.”

“We’ve benefited by using Green Waste and Complaints processes developed elsewhere, and other councils are free to benefit from the processes we’ve developed at Swindon. We’re not in competition. This is about collaboration to the benefit of all.”

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