Council digital technology 'needs to improve'

24 Apr 17

The majority of councillors are not “digital dinosaurs” but more needs to be done to improve the way digital technology can benefit public services, says the LGiU.

Digital solutions could go a long way in addressing the challenges faced by public services, the think-tank’s report Start of the Possible found.

Theo Blackwell, the report author, said if successful digital transformation could “make public services faster at doing things, more adaptable, able to share more information and do so securely”.

“For this to happen we need to support digital leadership right across our cities and counties in order to make public services more effective and make a difference to the people and communities they represent,” he added.

Blackwell examined the opinions of more than 800 elected councillors across England to conclude the majority of local authority officials held positive views about the role of digital technology in their work and its benefit to delivering services.

He said: “We need to translate that [attitude] into action. There is a good foundation built by those leading councils who have set out bold digital plans.

“There is now a need for proper co-ordination between authorities supported by a new deal with Whitehall.”

Although, the LGiU report, out last week, noted that some councillors were concerned about digital exclusion, between the technology-haves and have-nots, which is creating a two class system, with those unable to access digital services being “left behind”.

The report states: “Tackling digital exclusion is still the number one issue now and for the future amongst councillors.  

"Connectivity also remains a concern and there was a strong and widespread view that current data-sharing arrangements are not effective.”

Blackwell urges councils not to allow the fear of digital exclusion to be a barrier for authorities adopting technology or developing strategies.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive, LGiU, said: “Much has been written about the shift to digital in local government and public services more generally.

"Such a shift represents an opportunity, almost uniquely, to drive down costs while simultaneously improving outcomes.

"But that’s not just a question of doing the same things better online, it’s about using digital as a way of thinking and connecting, of driving a cultural and relational attitude that changes how we think about what local government does and how it interacts with the communities it serves.”

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