England & Wales Technology

Equipping the councils of the future


Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

To say that Britons love technology more than anyone else in Europe is a truism – but one with implications for citizens, local government and tech companies which we’ve still not fully grasped. On almost every measure, the UK is in the top tier of connected countries. Eighty four per cent of us now use the internet and there are more screens in the average UK home than there have ever been (with laptops, tablets and smartphones jostling for position behind TVs)[1]. In East London, local government, national government, entrepreneurs and established players are working together to turn Tech City near Old Street into a global hub for digital businesses. And our love for online shopping supports one of the world’s most developed online advertising industries, having a profound effect on everything from the shops on our high street to the debates about how we structure our tax system.

But as we have morphed into a nation of online consumers and multi-screen media consumers, expectations of how local government services are delivered have evolved less quickly. Some local authorities have been quick to adopt new technology to help them meet their political goals – like in Newcastle, where under the leadership of Nick Forbes, the local council has used “self-issue” in Newcastle Libraries. Younger users have taken to “self-issue” enthusiastically, and the use of radio frequency ID tags in place of barcodes has avoided many of the frustrations common to supermarket self-scan checkouts, allowing everyone to quickly borrow and return books. The added advantages seen in Newcastle’s libraries are extended hours of access and increased privacy for customers.

But innovative practices like these are not as widespread as they could be – and pale next to the advances made by business online. This two speed tech landscape is not the fault of hard-pressed councillors and officers – who are operating within challenging funding settlements. Rather, it is a combination of irregular purchase cycles for local authority technology and technology companies’ slowness in creating products that will make it easier for officers and councillors to deliver. At HP, we want to change both of those things – and are working with the LGIU and individual local authorities to find ways of delivering higher quality services more cheaply, through what we’re calling HP Insights.

HP Insights is all about bringing the best local government and tech thinkers together to look at how we equip ALL councils better – and distribute “the future” a bit more evenly. And none of this is particularly complicated. Rather, HP Insights should mean local authorities using existing technology far better than they currently do, with us at HP helping to guide them through all of the many options.

So for councils, this means helping you to:

Improve your services: we are yet to realise the full potential of big data and social media for helping officers and councillors to deliver better local government. But as HP and the Metropolitan Police proved at last year’s Olympics, smart data can make a make a massive difference both reputationally and operationally.

Achieve closer interaction: Technology can make the interaction between councils and citizens easier and faster, saving money for local authorities and time for local taxpayers. We’ve been delivering this for the Flemish government since 2006 across over 40 different agencies. It has enabled the Flemish Government to commit to citizens in legislation that they will only ever collect information once, and that information will be re-used as needed without further need for repeat verification by multiple departments.  The Flemish Government is able to identify where interventions are required much earlier in the support cycle and move to target lower cost prevention rather than costly cures.

The Flemish government estimates that it is saving £1.5 billion each year through these efficiency improvements, which is an incredible number by any measure. Where other governments are cutting services, the Flemish Government is able to add new services all simply because of its efficient delivery model.

Save money – and lots of it: moving toward cloud-based delivery models typically releases 30 per cent of public sector IT spend.

The time has come for us to move from a two-speed tech landscape – where the business world is racing ahead of local government delivery – to one where we share the advances made in the private sector with those responsible for services in the public sphere. This starts with a new conversation between companies like the one I lead, and authorities like the one you work for.

Hewlett Packard is excited to be launching HP Insights at this year’s LGA conference, and we’re looking forward to kicking off a series of interactive and thought-provoking events that bring together the best thinkers and leading industry figures to look at how new technology and new thinking can equip councils for the future. We hope we can meet with and discuss this with as many of you as possible in the coming months and years.