Raising the standards - Localo launches in alpha

LocalGov Digital Makers (Makers) is the network for designers and developers from LocalGov Digital and this week Makers launch Localo, the second of three pilot projects.

Localo was conceived at a Hack Day in June, held in partnership with Nesta as part of LocalGovCamp 2014, and its aim is to develop specifications for data and application programming interfaces (APIs) used by local government.

Well designed digital services create a better user experience, encouraging re-use and giving a positive impression of the organisation they serve. A shift to digital can also create capacity or reduce costs, but for organisations to truly realise this potential the services need to be fully automated or “end-to-end”.

End-to-end services will very often interact with data held in IT systems, however there are hundreds of these used by local government with each council having different combinations. This patchwork of systems makes it difficult for councils to share and collaborate on work when in many cases the functions they are fulfilling are the same or very similar.

Councils also end up suffering from vendor lock-in, in part due to systems being specifically integrated with other systems or through the council buying in to a whole vendor's ecosystem. If the council has development resource they also require specific knowledge of each system they are being asked to integrate with.

Localo aims to enable consistency against every data exchange and transaction. What this means is that not only will IT systems in each council talk to each other more efficiently, but this would be standard across all councils.

This means that, councils can more easily work collaboratively and share innovation, again saving money, giving them the ability to concentrate on building great user experiences, collaboratively.

Since the Hack Day, Makers has been creating a Localo specification for waste services and have been capturing user needs on Trello. Ben Cheetham of Guildford Borough Council has written more about the technical details of Localo.

On 4 November LocalGov Digital is holding a Waste Services Discovery Day in partnership with DCLG Local Digital Campaign at Merton Council Civic Centre. There’ll be two tracks for the day, the first looking at service design and the second, more technical track, looking at the data specifications with a view to moving towards an alpha specification.

If you'd like to get involved, please follow@LGMakers on Twitter, edit the GitHub wiki or post in the Google+ community.