NLGN think tank recommends LocalGov Digital lead sector review

Think tank New Local Government Network this week released a new report into realising the potential of digital in local government.

The Smart People, Smart Places report, commissioned from NLGN by O2, explores the role of digital technologies in modernising councils and cites LocalGov Digital as the right network to lead a review into current local government digital initiatives before developing a programme of work for the sector.

In it’s recommendations it expands on this proposal, reading: “We therefore recommend a review of existing local government digital initiatives, which would decide upon the format for an overarching local government digital programme.

“We know that in the current climate it is difficult to recommend the creation of a new programme needing funding and coordination from various existing bodies, but feel that this is vital if we are to drive change across the sector. The review should therefore comprehensively gather information about existing initiatives and their areas of overlap, and engage all stakeholders to flesh out the format that the local government digital programme should take.

“We propose that this review should be led by an open and innovative organisation such as LocalGov Digital with the support of DCLG and research organisations.”

The report as a whole echoes underway by LocalGov Digital, and in particular recognises how people can and will incorporate digital in their every day lives, an underlying facet of our Digital Framework for Local Public Services.

Carl Haggerty, chair of LocalGov Digital and member of the advisory group on the report said: “The report essentially represents a call to arms, to digital practitioners and to councils, to understand and embrace the opportunity to reimagine services through digital.

“It clearly highlights the challenges and barriers we all face and feel on a daily basis, offers a checklist of actions to help create the right climate for change. But most importantly it signals the need to take individual action and demonstrate leadership for change.

“Being part of the NLGN roundtable dialogue discussions was a great opportunity to share LocalGov Digital’s thinking but to also listen to the variety of views from across the group. The synergies that quickly emerged were reassuring and refreshing.

“The recommendation to propose that a strategic local government digital programme be created and led through LocalGov Digital, with support from DCLG and research organisations, is a massive opportunity and challenge for the group.

“This demonstrates the value of the network and the commitment of those involved as well as presenting challenges moving forward in how we start to realise that and ensure we don’t miss this opportunity to deliver change.”

The report contains a number of case studies highlighting forward-thinking digital work both in the public sector in the UK, and in local governments abroad.

These include a look at agile development happening at Surrey County Council, the London Borough of Newham’s channel shift work and examples from abroad including e-Estonia and New York’s ‘Silicon Alley’.

Mark Adams-Wright, Managing Partner Local Government Practice at O2, said: “The next few years will be critical for the development of digital in local government. This report sets out the scale of the challenge facing authorities in updating their technology and their cultures for a new era of citizen engagement, but it also paints a compelling picture of the benefits on offer.”

You can download the report for the NLGN website.