‘Grass roots’ IT standards scheme launched

A group of digital practitioners has launched an initiative for councils, central Government and suppliers to collaboratively create IT standards for a more unified way for local authorities to interact with residents and other government bodies.

Localo, from local government service practitioners network LocalGov Digital, will work towards putting in place standardised data and APIs behind public services, so that systems can better ‘talk’ to one another for more joined-up digital public services.

Currently among local government, there is a patchwork approach to systems which rely on different data structures and programming languages. Commonly, this has resulted in an inability for one system to integrate with another and no standard way for citizen and service to communicate. If a resident, for example, wants to contact their local authority’s waste service about a missed bin collection, they may do so in a variety of ways, such as via a web form or email, but this varies between councils.
“It’s about making it easier to make and share stuff with other councils”, says Ben Cheetham, ICT Developer at Guildford Borough Council and Localo co-founder. “There are around 400 councils in the country and we’re all doing pretty much the same thing. We want to start trying to produce once”.

Cheetham, who described Localo as a ‘grass roots’ scheme said: “If we get enough councils to say ‘yes, this is a good idea’, we can use our collective power”. He said that initially there would be a compelling proposition to prove the model if all neighbouring councils within a single county began adopting a standardised approach to services.

The initiative is one of three new pilot projects from LocalGov Digital’s LocalGov Digital Makers work stream, each of which aims to increase efficiency, save money and reduce duplication across local government nationwide. The other two are Pipeline, which matches digital service transformation ideas to councils looking for development partners and Pulse, which helps users find source code easily.

Anyone can get involved, said Cheetham, but Localo expects service managers, developers, digital teams as well as IT suppliers and contractors to participate. Participants will initially share ideas using online project collaboration software Slack and Trello.

Mel Poluck

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