Council CEO claims use of tech platforms has enabled local residents to stay connected
A digital inclusion campaign led by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council has equipped thousands of citizens with tech skills, according to the authority’s chief executive.
In 2018 Stockport Council established the Digital Inclusion Alliance. The initiative brought together a range of voluntary and community groups to work alongside public-sector bodies to help residents of the Greater Manchester town gain digital skills.
“Digital skills can combat one of Covid’s big impacts – loneliness. They have helped reconnect people in ways they never felt possible.”
Pam Smith, CEO Stockport Council
Speaking on a webinar discussion (pictured below left) hosted this week by PublicTechnology and SAP Concur, the council’s chief executive Pam Smith said that the alliance has so far worked with 8,000 residents to help them gain confidence in using new technology.
“Not only has it improved their digital skills, but it can combat one of Covid’s big impacts – loneliness. It has helped reconnect people in ways they never felt possible,” she said.
Smith claimed that the not-for-profit sector – as well the authority’s elected members – play a key role in ensuring the council keeps in touch with citizens, 87% of whom are online, she said.
“That [percentage] is a high number, but it doesn’t include everybody,” the CEO added. “At the heart of what we have done is listening very carefully to our residents – and what they need. We have done that through our councillors, but also through our voluntary sector. And we have worked tirelessly with our voluntary sector to spread digital skills in the community. Because there is no point being an absolutely fantastic digital council if your community can’t engage with you.”
David Hipwell, local authority sales lead at SAP Concur, told webinar attendees that suppliers also have an important role to play in supporting local authorities in their use of tech. Communication is cruical, he said, as private sector firms have a responsibility to articulate how they can help public sector clients who, in term, need to be clear about what they want to achieve.
“There has to be a level of cooperation and collaboration between public and private sector,” Hipwell said. “It is about making sure that what we are doing is aligned to what they are doing – and, if the two are aligned, then it is up to us to create that awareness and make sure that they know we can help them out with what they need to do. It is about working together – not an ‘us and them’ situation… but working together towards a common goal.”