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TechUK calls for councils to establish digital boards

Local authorities should ensure they have a digital board made up of academia, local bodies and industry, to drive transformation, improve capacity and capability

Local councils should establish a digital board focused on data, digital evolution and public engagement, according to TechUK.

The trade body’s What makes a ‘good’ digital board report sets out how local authorities should go about creating a digital board and how to ensure it lasts and continues to drive digital transformation in the future.

A digital board would help to support “the design, adoption and implementation” of digital services, systems and applications in the local area, according to the report, and could help councils make budgets go further and come up with innovative ways to deal with the challenges they face.

Made up of a mix of local bodies, academia, local businesses, tech companies and citizen groups, the board could work as “both a challenger and a champion of the work of the local authority”, the report said.

It added that local authorities should identify eight to 12 “critical friends” in their local area who would create a digital board, ensuring the members have diverse backgrounds.

“A good digital board has three inherent characteristics that will ensure its enduring longevity and ability to drive the local authority’s digital evolution process; credibility, action-oriented and informative,” the report said.

“Its remit includes three key focus areas which underpin delivering digital ambition: data, civic engagement and digital evolution.”

The report follows on from TechUK’s guidance for local councillors on how to ensure the right leadership is in place to drive digital transformation in local authorities, which was published in August 2018. 

“We understand the pressures local authorities face and appreciate that they should not be tasked with delivering the nation’s smart cities and communities agendas alone”
Julian David, TechUK

A chief digital officer (CDO) or chief executive should lead the digital board, and help local councils build the knowledge and understanding needed.  

“This will feed into supporting the prioritisation of projects that contribute to a local authority’s digital evolution process and underpin successful digital service delivery and smarter community initiatives,” the report said.

The board should also position itself as a “facilitator of collaboration, communication, knowledge sharing and coordination” between emergency services, healthcare, education and the third sector.

Commenting on the report, TechUK CEO Julian David said local authorities “stand on the front line of the implementation of smart initiatives”.

“We understand the pressures they face and appreciate that they should not be tasked with delivering the nation’s smart cities and communities agendas alone. By building internal capacity and capability to utilise the strengths of digital, which is not always as easy as it seems, we believe that local authorities will be able to commission and implement smarter, citizen-centric services for their localities,” he said.

Read more about technology for local government

  • Local Digital Declaration, which sets out five “principles of internet-age local public services”, is backed by £7.5m in government funding to help councils transform services. 
  • Digital minister Margot James is building a new initiative to support collaboration on 5G mobile network roll-out at a local level, bringing together councils, landowners and industry to work on planning challenges and policy.
  • While local councillors are generally positive towards the benefits of digital technology, concerns include exclusion, connectivity and unsatisfactory data-sharing arrangements.


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