In the year after the coalition government took power, a number of significant and radical changes and new approaches to IT management in the public sector have been introduced. An important facet of the new government technology strategy, intended to reduce cost while offering better services to citizens, is the delivery of public services online.
In this CW500 Club video, Local CIO Council chairman Jos Creese, the CIO of Hampshire County Council, talks to Computer Weekly editor in chief Bryan Glick about how the government’s online plans will be delivered by local authorities and the challenges in making it happen.
Read the full transcript from this video below:
CW500: Jos Creese, CIO of Hampshire County Council
Bryan Glick: Hello. Welcome to this Computer Weekly 500 Club video. My name is Bryan Glick. I am the Editor-in-Chief of Computer Weekly. We are here at our monthly meeting of our IT Leaders Club. This time we are talking about online public services in the age of austerity. I am joined now by one of our guest speakers, Jos Creese. Jos is the chairman of the local CIO Council, and until recently, was president of the Society of IT Management of the local government and public sector IT user group. Jos has also been one of the leaders of the local government IT strategy, so he is in a fantastic position to talk to us about what is going on in the local government arena with IT and additional services. Jos, welcome to the CW 500 club tonight. Thank you ever so much for coming along.
Jos Creese: Pleasure.
Bryan Glick: It has been quite a year since the new government has come in, a government that is very keen on what they call Digital-by-Default Delivery of public services. What are some of the challenges that that has brought to you in the local government arena?
Jos Creese: I think the whole public sector has some major opportunities through technology which come from the government's new policies. It is much more than just the austerity measures that require more efficient delivery and more efficient back office operation. Everything from the way which we deliver services to the public, organizing, transparency agenda and economic growth, all of these require being underpinned by some digital infrastructure and digital delivery.
Bryan Glick: There is a wonderful phrase, 'Do not waste a good recession.' I think a lot of people have initially thought IT was going to be in trouble with all the cuts that were coming in. There are a lot of initiatives that are underway to really try and use IT, to quite radically reform local public service.
Jos Creese: Yes, I think that is absolutely right. IT is definitely now center stage. That is great for CIOs across the public sector; on the one hand, obviously, it put us very much in the spotlight. On the other, we have to ensure that the way we are managing and delivering IT is as lean, flexible and responsive as it can be. We also have to step up to the plate in the way IT is used to drive value out of our organization. That is a call for efficiency programs, modernization of customer service and helping, particularly the move to additional delivery in many areas, public service delivery. That is not easy; we have seen lots of areas where so-called IT projects have struggled or failed. We are definitely in the spotlight with the media organizations, such as yourselves. We want to get it right, but this is not risk-free; it is not straightforward. There are some big challenges around the management of those changes, the scale and complexity of the public sector.
Bryan Glick: Your day job, of course, is the CIO of the Hampshire County Council. What do you hope, with both your hats on, in some respects, that you are going to see over the next year or two years, as the option to really coming through for local government CIOs? How different do you think, do you hope, things will be in 12 to 18-months' time?
Jos Creese: We are certainly on the journey, but the pace has definitely increased. One of the big areas, I think, for local public services, of which local authorities are a key part, is the join-up. It is the link, it is the shared services, not just because of the economies of scale from integrating infrastructure and joining teams together, but from the benefit that we can derive from the way that we provide a more joined-up and personalized services to the public. I would be very keen to see much greater integration of the quantum delivery of services across, say, social care and health, and between the different tiers of local government, which I think will be both more efficient, but potentially better for the public. There is another area that I think is particularly exciting, and that is how we can use technology to reach more people.
Local public services and local government spends a lot of its resources supporting vulnerable people, whether they are older, people with disabilities, or people with disadvantages in some way or other. Actually, technology can help us to reach those people better than has been the case in the past. We can tailor services much more around the need of minority groups, communities, or individuals if we are clever about how we use technology. That is partly about delivery, but it is also partly around how we use the information that we have got better to target resources and to shape the way our services are designed.
Bryan Glick: Clearly, a lot of challenges that are being faced, but it is great to see that the local government IT community is turning those into a real opportunity, as well. Jos Creese, Chairman of the Local CIO Council, thank you very much for speaking to CW 500 tonight.
Jos Creese: Pleasure, Bryan.
Bryan Glick: That is all we have got time for on this CW 500 video. Keep an eye out for all the other videos from the CW 500 Club on our website. We will see you again soon. Bye.