The Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm), an association of IT and digital professionals, has highlighted the requirements for delivering local digital public services.
The organisation has produced a policy briefing, Digital: Vision to Value, addressed to politicians and senior policy and decision-makers, stating what needs to happen to deliver digital public services at a local level.
Speaking at the Socitm 2014 conference in Manchester, Socitm president Nick Roberts said the policy briefing was designed to inform the debate on local government IT in the run-up to next year's general election.
"It describes the ecosystems required to deliver 'open by default' and 'digital by design'," Roberts said. "This stuff isn't easy – it never is – but austerity is making it particularly hard. At the same time, though, austerity creates an environment that makes change essential."
Socitm states the benefits for local government to embrace digital include reduced costs, increased efficiency and better outcomes. Digital can also be a stimulant for innovation and will enable new ways of working.
Councils such as Peterborough are already embracing the benefits of digital, while Kent County Council has managed to reduce its £800,000 budget for child minder approvals by 90% by working with the local professional association for childcare and making a website and email interface.
Meanwhile, Socitm points to local authorities including Cambridgeshire and Lambeth, which are incorporating service users to co-create and improve digital solutions.
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The report warns that digital is not a ‘bolt on’, but should be designed in a citizen-friendly way, considering social, economic and environmental issues, and projects such as Glasgow’s Smart City are leading the way.
Planning for the future
For delivering digital public services locally, the documents outlines six strategic capabilities that are needed: digital leadership, governance, organisational change, procurement, professionalism, and managing and sharing resources.
The organisation also highlights the specific ICT issues needed to incorporate digital working, which revolve around flexible working, shared platforms and data, as well as business change and digital inclusion.
The report calls for local government future systems to adhere to open standards and a shared data management policy because “silo-based approaches to data protection and ownership are no longer fit for purpose in a digital age.”
According to Socitm, shared technology platforms built to open standards should be developed and could be funded through a local government digital service – similar to the development team in central government.
Socitm also highlights the necessity for data to be published and re-used, while social media should be used to support engagement and delivery. Digital literacy programmes should also be offered to employees and citizens, and council staff should be able to take advantage of technologies that enable flexible and mobile working.
But ICT change is not enough and, according to Socitm, organisational change will need to address people and process, as well as information technology.