New government needs to join things up

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By Martin Ferguson, Director of Policy and Research, Socitm

Even before the general election, this year has seen some parts of the country voting for change. For the first time, the 4th May saw voters in six combined authority areas of England electing ‘metro mayors’ with a brief to join up services.

Socitm believes the next government needs to accelerate digital thinking to improve the joining up of services. The new metro mayors may help achieve this, but many parts of the UK are working to generate place-based digital leadership through bringing together civil servants, councillors, chief executives and other senior managers for education and training.

Place-based work requires the breaking of organisations’ silo walls, and this has to include the integration of health run by NHS organisations and social care run by local government. The best areas have already introduced integrated digital care records. More needs to be done to share these records across the full spectrum of care and more areas need to follow. The process would be accelerated through a single information governance toolkit for government and standardised, model designs and digitally-enabled processes for key areas of health and social care.

Such sharing could be threatened without better cyber security, as the impact of the recent WannaCry ransomware attack on the NHS has demonstrated. This needs to include risk management and threat mitigation training for senior managers in local public services.

Socitm believes these issues can be tackled by building regional capabilities, with teams that can support the development of cyber security skills, health and social care integration, place-based data aggregation and analytics, outcomes-based service redesign and digital transformation and digital inclusion.

Many local authorities have been ahead of the game in developing locally-shared digital services, but need to do more to maintain this role. They need to improve recruitment and retention of staff, by investing in individual skills and organisational capabilities. Doing so should help councils to take advantage of new digital technology opportunities to deliver better services at less cost, but training budgets have been severely cut in recent years and private sector talent is neither wide nor deep enough to compensate. Councils also need to invest in leadership skills, to help their leaders move to focusing on collaboration to achieve better outcomes, and away from a managerial mindset driven solely by finance and targets.

Central government can help this happen by providing adequate seed funding to facilitate a quick and widespread transition to shared platforms where these make sense. Without such platforms, progress will be slow and patchy as existing council budgets cannot cope with both business as usual and transition programmes. Cost benefits, efficiency and better service outcomes will only if new seed money is invested. While the Government Digital Service is developing some potential shared platforms, although the business model for these remains uncertain. There is considerable potential for much more and the foundation for these already exists in local innovations and best practice. Only a determined effort will realise the potential and sort out how current and future platforms can be sustainably standardised and shared.

Achieving this will require the local public sector to draw on everyone with the talent to contribute, regardless of gender, background and age. “Local authorities should reflect the communities that they serve,” says Socitm’s president Geoff Connell. “Not only does this help us understand the people we serve, it also strengthens our ability to re-imagine how we do things.”

The new government will have a lot to do, and local authorities stand ready to help, but they need the right support and investment to enable the transformational changes required to achieve better outcomes in their places.

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Some thoughts about the Government Transformation Strategy 2017-2020

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By Dr Andy Hopkirk, Socitm Head of Research

We are four years on from the first Government Digital Service’s Government Digital Strategy of November 2012 and we now have GDS’s Government Transformation Strategy 20172020 just published (9 Feb 2017, http://bit.ly/2lnh1qV). What’s the difference between just more digital and transformation? And what does it look like meaning for Socitm members who are mostly in organisations outside Whitehall?

Continue reading “Some thoughts about the Government Transformation Strategy 2017-2020”

Some thoughts about the Government Transformation Strategy 2017-2020

See beyond the ordinary with technology

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By Adrian Hancock, Socitm CEO

I have just been reading a blog about distributed ledger technology, which uses Blockchain as its core platform, and how its real ability to disrupt is not so much about how it enables transactions, but the way in which it builds and embeds trust.

Continue reading “See beyond the ordinary with technology”

See beyond the ordinary with technology

Blockchain technology: could it transform digitally-enabled councils?

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By Dr Andy Hopkirk, Socitm Head of Research

As the professional network for digital leaders in local public services, Socitm is at one with those that think there is great potential in blockchain technology, and perhaps even a step change on the road to a truly all-digital, open e-economy.

Blockchains underpin Bitcoin and other digital currencies, the first applications of the concept. These ‘digital crypto-currencies’ are viable alternatives to fiat paper money systems. They can operate without the need for a central bank or any other kind of single authoritative organisation to manage the money system and engender trust in it.

Continue reading “Blockchain technology: could it transform digitally-enabled councils?”

Blockchain technology: could it transform digitally-enabled councils?

The Power of Empowerment: a unique course for women

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By Chantelle Denny, Socitm Finance Director, who shares her experiences from a one-of-a-kind training programme

At first I was sceptical about attending the Empowering Women in a Digital World (EWDW) course. I don’t for one moment think I know it all, but I have several years’ experience of management and leadership at a senior level, so was this really designed for people like me?

Continue reading “The Power of Empowerment: a unique course for women”

The Power of Empowerment: a unique course for women