As one of the key events for local government digital leaders, Socitm representatives attended Connected Local Government Live 2017 which covered a wide range of IT and digital-related topics.
Throughout the two days there were lots of thought provoking presentations and discussions on how tech and digital service can transform public services and meet the needs of citizens at a local level.
Here are our top five ‘takeaways’ from the event – you can read more about them in our latest member briefing.
Decreased spending on cyber security leaves councils in jeopardy
A motion calling on councils to focus their resources on delivering frontline services and outcomes rather than invest in better cyber security and IT sparked a lively debate. Socitm president Geoff Connell spoke against the motion, saying: “It’s not one thing or the other. It’s not frontline services or cyber, it’s both.” He went on to argue that councils had to save money by moving to digital services but, if they were not secure, the shift in focus to re-designing and digitally transforming frontline services and outcomes would fail. The audience voted against the motion by a large majority.
Digital certificates are a critical line of defence against cybercrime
Security expert Bruce Thomson, who until recently worked at the London Borough of Hillingdon, discussed the importance of website security. In research carried out in February for Better Connected, Bruce found that 72 councils did not have a digital certificate. He also found 17 instances of the Heartbleed bug, which allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications and steal data directly from and impersonate services and users. A recent cyber-attack on Gloucester City Council’s website, which took advantage of Heartbleed and accessed 30,000 emails, resulted in a £100,000 fine from the Information Commissioner.
Council websites need to work better for residents
Vicky Sargent, director of Socitm’s Better Connected programme, presented insightful feedback on different aspects of Better Connected testing, including the mobile, navigation and A-Z testing. Vicky explained that people increasingly use mobile devices to access council websites, making appropriate design and content essential. She recommended that councils follow the Government Digital Service’s advice on writing, including using short and meaningful headers, bullet point lists and clear calls to action.
Disability access to council websites is still an ongoing challenge
Staff from the Digital Accessibility Centre, a not-for-profit social enterprise that tests council websites for Better Connected, led a workshop on accessibility. Operations director Gavin Evans said that 195 of the 417 council websites passed its automated test, which then led to a more detailed test where real people tried to carry out specific tasks. Gavin and his colleagues provided some very useful advice on how councils could make their websites more accessible, including paying particular attention to how a site works with screen-reading software and avoiding audio pages, flashing images and Captcha checks with no accessible alternative such as an audio equivalent.
‘Smart places’ need to focus on the people and communities living in them
One of the workshops explored the concept of ‘smart places’ – what, where and how they can improve quality of living for their people and communities. Socitm associate director Jos Creese argued that smart places projects need to be centred around people and communities – the ‘glue’ that holds places together – rather than the traditional silos of public service organisations.
Don’t have access to this member briefing? Please visit the membership page on our website.
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