Councils told to embrace ‘radical outcomes’ of smart technology

Written by Rebecca Hill on 21 March 2017 in News
News

Councils should be in the “driving seat” of technological change, but need to rethink the role they play in their locality and invest in long-term planning, a report has said.

Smart technology has great potential for cities - Photo credit: Flickr, victoria white2010CC BY 2.0

According to the think tank the New Local Government Network, councils need to become more creative in their use of smart technology, and improve their relationships with both the public and suppliers.

In a report published on 20 March, Abigail Gilbert, a researcher at the think tank, argued that technologies like drones, sensors, apps and blockchain have the potential to go “beyond glamour [and] allow for genuinely radical outcomes” for councils.

However, in order to take advantage of this potential, the report said that councils would need to rethink their roles in their local areas.

This will involve them bringing citizens into decision-making processes, being open about their failures, working to encourage new ideas and taking a more proactive approach to shaping the technology market.

“As the owners of assets, gatekeepers to data, makers of connections, and architects of public service delivery, councils should be in the driving seat of change,” the report said.


Related content

Nesta highlights digital benefits of crowdfunding for local authorities
Business rate retention reforms could leave local authorities cash-strapped, MPs say
Ready to innovate: How local government is responding to budget pressure


The report noted that, with the sector facing an overall funding gap of £5.8bn by 2020, there was a temptation for councils to focus on their immediate problems.

But, it said, “investment and planning is needed now to reduce demand and better predict and prevent problems. To do this, councils should be supporting the delivery of networked infrastructure, data analytics and public WiFi.”

The report made a series of recommendations for councils, including that they develop “sophisticated relationships” with providers and try out more creative models for procurement to bring in innovation.

They should aim to create an inventory of all the data they hold on local areas, and work across silos and sectors to bring together that information. Universities are suggested as research partners for optimising the data councils hold.

Data-sharing confusion

A further issue raised in the report is the tensions between the General Data Protection Regulation – which will come into force in May 2018 – and the Digital Economy Bill, which is making its way through parliament.

“Current conflicts between these two emergent pieces of regulation are creating confusion and uncertainty within the local government community which may stifle progress in data sharing,” the report said. “To overcome this, [central] government must resolve the conflict between the two items of policy and ensure that there is consistency of language.”

Writing in the foreword to the report, crossbench peer Bob Kerslake, a former head of the civil service, also emphasised the importance of collaboration between local and central government.

“Data and commissioning processes must allow for a more collaborative, inclusive and creative approach,” he said. “For councils to achieve this, leaders, policy makers and central government must collaborate to resolve existing challenges and confusion around data sharing.”

The report also recommended that local authorities work to build up public trust in government use of data, and suggested that councils encourage people to play a more active part in decision-making about investments.

This would also generate data and increase awareness about activities that are happening locally, it said.

A further recommendation was the councils share failures as well as examples of best practice to stop councils reinventing the wheel or repeating the same mistakes.

Share this page

Tags

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM READERS

Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Unwrapping government’s £300m Amazon package
7 May 2021

Since a public sector-wide agreement with AWS was introduced six months ago, departments have signed contracts worth hundreds of millions with the cloud firm. PublicTechnology takes...

Test and Trace signs £9m one-year AWS deal
26 May 2021

Contract – which is not signed under the terms of the public sector-wide OGVA – covers provision of cloud services

Related Sponsored Articles

Social justice: how the police can embrace online channels of citizen communication
17 June 2021

PublicTechnology talks to Salesforce about why police forces need to adopt new omnichannel capabilities, offer the public channel choice and the benefits of doing so

"The inflection point is here": how Covid is driving digital transformation in health
9 June 2021

It’s been one of the most challenging years for healthcare providers, but Salesforce sees lasting change from accelerated digital transformation

The largest ever UK public sector cloud transformation unlocks cost savings and innovation
17 May 2021

Cloud-based applications can provide ways for agencies and departments to innovate and operate in new ways, as the past year has highlighted they must, writes Oracle 

Stopping Cyber Attacks in Higher Education
19 April 2021

Higher Education institutions are some of the most consistently targeted organisations for cyberattacks. CrowdStrike explores the importance of the right cybersecurity measures.