Peterborough City Council launches cloud-enabled technology strategy

Peterborough City Council is launching a cloud-enabled technology strategy to improve how it connects with citizens

Peterborough City Council (PCC) is launching a cloud-enabled technology strategy to improve how it connects with citizens.

The council plans to improve its cloud delivery to enable cost savings. It is also reviewing ICT technologies and transactional council websites.

"For a local authority, with its wide array of services, keeping pace with the advancement of technology and communication methods is challenging," stated the PCC Technology Strategy 2014-2019.

The council will utilise mobile, data and open-source technologies, and cloud platforms to engage with the public alongside social media and a more simplified website.

The strategy details plans to improve council employees' skills in digital technologies.  

The council hopes to start using open data in a smarter way to benefit the council and citizens. For example, it could place sensors in people's homes to improve social care, and weather data could be overlaid with crime datasets to determine peak criminal periods.

Broadband connection

In 2013, PCC signed a deal with CityFibre to build a 1Gbps fibre network. The network will serve as the foundations on which many of the technology innovations will sit.

The council is in the process of installing a delivery system from the following suppliers: Cisco for telephony, Chatter for collaboration, as well as Box for document management and Salesforce for CRM - both deals were found through the G-Cloud platform.

PCC is also planning to move its server estate to Amazon's AWS platform on a two-year agreement. This means the council can move to the cloud without being tied to one supplier.

Cost savings

Like all councils, Peterborough is facing major cost restraints, but the strategy doesn't put aside any savings to come directly from IT.

"The savings will come from the departments changing the way they work," said Richard Godfrey, ICT strategy, infrastructure and programme manage for PCC. "We're going to give them a toolbox of applications and systems they can use to give them the ability to work more efficiently and smarter."

Government approval

The technology strategy has gone to the Cabinet Office for final approval, but Godfrey expects the strategy to go through without problems.  

The strategy sits in line with the government's message to offer digital services to save money. The government has calculated that on average an online service is 20 times cheaper than a phone transaction, 30 times cheaper than by post and 50 times cheaper than face to face.

But Godfrey said PCC does not want to become digital by default for fear of isloating non-digital savvy citizens.

"We don't want to do digital by default, because for elderly people that's not the right approach,"he said. "But we want to make the digital channels easier and simpler so people choose to use it."

As part of the strategy, Peterborough is building a transactional website so it can serve its digital customers in the near future.

He points to businesses in banking and travel that have managed to save money and provide an efficient service to citizens.

"I don't like using EasyJet as an example because people think it's cheap, but you can go on their website and travel around for six months and never speak to someone - that's why it's so cheap," he said.

"What elements of that can we take and fit with the council model? As a consumer you have a choice of who you go to, but because you don't have a choice as a council doesn't mean you shouldn't offer that level of service."

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