Digital Transformation in the Local Government Sector
It’s all connected: a story about how software can connect people, things, and processes to serve the wellbeing of our communities
Most people in Scotland who pay Council tax, either as homeowners or tenants, are very conscious of the value of the pounds they hand over to their local authority every year. They have a base expectation that core services will be met effectively within annual budgets. They also expect authorities to provide leadership, addressing economic, social and environmental issues in the communities they serve.
By the same token, local authorities are acutely aware of the needs of their residents, the cost of providing the necessary levels of service and support, and the limited resources they have their disposal to meet these needs. Once local authorities have met their ‘core business’ obligations there is often very little left in the pot to direct toward projects that might fall outside of this category.
Both residents and local authorities want to see resources put to the best possible use in order to make public funds go as far as possible. A lot of public debate takes place about the merits or pitfalls of proposed projects and the tone is often negative. Planning and policy consultation processes are often dominated by zero-sum arguments – because resources are scarce, people assume it’s ‘us vs. them’ or project A vs. project B. This approach to decision making can make it incredibly difficult to bring people together to find solutions to challenges, or pool resources to achieve outcomes that will benefit the entire community. This can even be a challenge within Councils, when different departments act as though they are pitted against one another, fighting for resources, mandate or the attention of leadership.
A change is required if communities are going to remain resilient in the face of global economic and environmental pressures that will continue to drive the cost of providing services to our communities higher. Many authorities have made great progress towards the implementation of e-government services and digitisation, but the journey is only just beginning.
Given the speed at which the technological revolution is now moving, we need to direct more of our resources towards digital transformation with a view to increasing efficiency and promoting technological innovation. Data-driven decision-making is about optimising the performance of local government, and if we can achieve this we’ll create efficiencies that free up valuable resources which can be put to use in the areas it is needed most. This data-driven approach requires a new way of thinking – it requires us to stop separating workflows, assets, people and resources into separate categories, but instead seek to connect them. The same applies to the various departments within a Council – instead of taking a siloed approach to asset management and service delivery, we should be looking for synergy and alignment.
If we go back to the example of an individual resident, we can illustrate the difference this approach would make in the life of one person. Their Council may have interactions with them in multiple aspects of their life
and all of these interactions create data about this person, their needs, their consumption and their vulnerabilities. Many residents are Council tenants, and if this is the case there is rent to be collected which typically involves the Housing Department, and its internal information management system. The Housing Department may also facilitate assistance with ‘Energy Poverty’ support applications in accordance with Scottish Government schemes to protect the vulnerable. There is likely to be a library account administered on another system which is used to issue the resident books, or to facilitate internet access for those who don’t have it at home.
Alloy – the driving force behind digital transformation for local authorities.