Tech firms moot regional structure for local GDS

Technology industry body TechUK has backed calls for a local Government Digital Service – organised at a regional level.

In a manifesto for jobs and growth, the body called on the next government to take a number of steps to boost the UK’s digital economy.

It said that local authorities often lack the skills and resources to utilise the digital agenda to transform service delivery.

The document said: “To mirror some of the progress being made in central government, a body with a similar remit to the Government Digital Service should be established to act at the regional level to help local authorities identify the common building blocks of software, hardware and processes that can be standardised and commoditised across local government.”

TechUK also said that “local government is on the cusp of a digital revolution”, with smart cities starting to discover ways of joining up services and use data collection to improve service delivery.

It called for a review of regional political structures and processes to ensure they don’t impede the large scale collaboration required to leverage benefits offered by the Internet of Things to underpin smart cities.

“Cities in which citizen behaviour and preferences are understood are well positioned to provide optimal public services,” it said.

Key learning from progress made in central government must be replicated by councils, with a focus on improving skills and the provision of practical support from the proposed central hub, according to the manifesto.

Among other proposals, TechUK also called for the establishment of an advanced data analytics unit, an independent data ethics committee, and the appointment of a government chief privacy officer “in order to strengthen public trust in the government’s use of data”.

Planning laws should also be reformed to help improve communications infrastructure, including enabling taller masts in rural and semi-urban areas, the document said.

There should also be a comprehensive review and reform of the way information systems are procured in the health and social care sector, according to the body.

“Procurement innovations introduced by government such as LEAN and G-Cloud have many advantages, but suppliers continue to cite examples of NHS trusts and local authorities ignoring both services or, in some cases, not knowing what they are,” it said.

Greater use of soft-market testing during pre-procurement, proportionate qualification and evaluation processes during procurement and better bidder recourse for failed or cancelled bids should be encouraged, it added.

TechUK represents more than 850 tech companies across the United Kingdom, employing more than 500,000 staff.

Colin Marrs

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