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London councils look at potential for creating technology and innovation office

The Greater London Authority and a group of London boroughs are looking to create a London Office of Technology and Innovation to join up data, digital and technology innovation

A group of London boroughs, together with the Greater London Authority (GLA), have launched a scoping exercise, looking at plans to create a London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) to join up digital initiatives in the capital.

The group called on suppliers to submit proposals for the project in a notice recently published on the Digital Marketplace.

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

“Finally, as new and disruptive business models emerge, London’s public services need to be able to anticipate and be ready for future technology developments.”

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.”

He added that instead of a physical one, the vision is for the LOTI to be virtual, with a focus on adding new value to “a critical mass of public bodies that recognise how it rebalances discussions with the market and ecosystem that drift too readily and too often towards (technology) solutions in search of problems”. 

Eventually, the LOTI should also be driving common and open standards, as well as fostering a culture of open innovation and working together with the capital’s technology sector.

The mayor of London Sadiq Khan recently launched a search to find the city’s first chief digital officer (CDO), who will oversee the digital transformation of public services across London and act as an advocate for the capital’s burgeoning technology sector.

The aim of the role will be to foster collaboration and the adoption of common standards on data and service transformation, to implement Khan’s digital inclusion and security policies, to drive the smart city agenda, and to establish London as a world leader in urban technology.

London comprises of 33 boroughs, which all deal with similar issues. Collinge said instead of dealing with the same questions or activities “33 times over”, technology preparedness should be promoted through mutually beneficial and balanced relationships.

“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 examples should be shared as widely as possible across coalitions of the willing and interested,” he said.

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