olly - Fotolia

Councils must bridge digital gap to remain relevant

The general public is not confident councils can make their digital strategies work

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC’s) local government survey for 2016 has found a gap between the digital aspirations of council CEOs and the public’s perception of digital council services.

The survey, part of PwC’s The Local State we’re in report found 76% of chief executives and 74% of council leaders agree that their councils are embracing the opportunities new technologies offer, up from 60% and 70% respectively in 2015.

But only 23% of the public agree that their council is taking a confident approach to digital, down from 28% in 2015.

PwC recommended that councils move at pace to bridge this growing digital divide if they are to stay relevant in a digital age.

In the report, PwC urged council leaders to champion digital participation. “Councils need to go further with digital and use it to empower their workforce and their communities.”

PwC also recommended councils to fundamentally change their cultures and move away from hierarchy and managerialism, and toward increasing levels of empowerment.

It urged council leaders to encourage staff to become more dynamic and proactive and build capacity around data and analytics.

While 91% of chief executives and council leaders say they are confident of their capabilities in data analytics, a much lower proportion are using data analytics to inform decision making and strategy, according to PwC’s research.

Read more about local government IT

Just four in 10 (41%) say their council uses data analytics, with 71% saying they use data held in council-controlled databases and systems. Only 33% of those using data tapping into the potential of unstructured data to shape decision making and strategy.

This suggests that, despite their confidence in their capability, there is still much councils could learn in terms of utilising data analytics, particularly working in partnership with other public sector organisations and businesses, according to the report. 

Engaging in new ways with the public is just one element of the potential of digital technology. Data is another key area that councils can tap in to.

PwC said while councils and their partners hold significant data assets, they have much to learn about the value of consolidating and using this information to anticipate demand and model the impacts of interventions.

The company added that councils and their partners must pay greater attention to developing the skills needed to use this data effectively. ... ... ... ...

Read more on IT for government and public sector