The localisation of digital services development could bring new channel opportunities in local government
Socitm has welcomed Labour’s Digital Government Review that highlights a number of the key themes which were proferred in the association’s recent policy briefing Digital: Vision to Value published last October.
The association for IT and digital leaders in local public services said it was pleased to see a clear focus on putting people at the centre of realising the opportunities presented by digital, noting that the review referred to “digital designed for people and communities, not digital for government” and added that “We must put people in control” and “We must design digital for everyone”.
Labour’s review conceded that most public services operate at a local level and span a spectrum from relatively simple transactional services, such as emptying bins, to highly complex services, such as social care. Socitm concurred that it is in these sensitive areas where digital technology faces the greatest challenge and opportunity to develop services that are simplified, people-centric and focused on needs.
Every region is different and the responses will often need to be decentralised. This places the burden on local authorities to show leadership in developing specific programmes that do not merely deliver services but offer whole-system outcomes instead. This would open new channel opportunities.
The closeness of Socitm’s approach and the Labour Party is not merely co-incidental. Several quotes in the report come from the association’s strategic advice and surveys.
One of the main thrusts of Socitm’s response to the Digital Government Review hinges around the suggestion for the setting up of “a new national organisation to create ‘local digital factories’, run on a fundamentally open, collaborative and not-for-profit basis”. This echoed Socitm’s own recommendation for the setting up of a local government digital service (GDS) – a team of advisors to support local authority teams in implementing digital strategies and associated transformational change. The body would also help identify and promote best practice and opportunities for sharing digital assets as well as co-creating shared transactional structures for integration into localised products.
In straitened times, this would require funding and people to kick start it into existence and would be best led by local authorities rather than central government. The organisation added that the GDS role would be advisory, delivering change through best practice and peer pressure to counteract the current weaknesses in IT/transformation initiatives where central government dictates the agenda rather than working through local government and associated local public services.
By decentralising the development of digital services, the benefit would be in the development of solutions that fitted better with local needs and the creation of an atmosphere where innovation could thrive. The existence of a central advisory would also make it possible for the best locally-developed solutions to be offered to the broader market and be tailored to fit prevailing regional variations.