Digitising Local Government

Outlining a digital strategy for local authorities; how to exploit technology to become more efficient and cost-effective, deliver high quality, accessible digital services to citizens, and create digital cities and communities.

Digitising Local Government
Digitising Local Government

Cisco local government solutions: delivering business efficiency, digital services and smart cities

Local authorities are being asked to make substantial business efficiencies while, at the same time, taking on new challenges, such as driving economic prosperity and integrating health and care.

In order to achieve this, there is an imperative to transform, cut or, indeed, remove services to present balanced budgets. And, also, to adopt profound business process and cultural change.

But, it is now widely recognised that this profound change can only be achieved if modern digital technology is exploited to the full. Cisco believes that every local authority should have a digital strategy, fully integrated with existing business plans.

The digital strategy must advocate the very broadest and deepest approach to digital technology within a local authority, explaining:

Please click on the above for more information, and see where and how we have done this in the case studies and resources section of this web site.

We would be delighted to work with you to explain the value of a digital strategy, help you develop your own strategy and, of course, assist with executing it. To follow up, please contact your local Cisco account manager or email us at lgovuk@cisco.com.

Cisco is helping organisations worldwide to digitise their businesses. We are providing that same support to local authorities to enable them to become digital authorities.

But what do we mean by a digital authority?

Simply, a digital authority is one that realises all the benefits of digital technology to achieve financial stability and operational readiness. And it is one that further exploits that technology to the full to deliver its portfolio of citizen and business services, meet its statutory and legislative obligations, and transform all aspects of its borough, city, county or region.

Some authorities are actively taking steps to reduce the costs of IT which, unfortunately, positions IT as a cost centre rather than a value centre for the business. However, digital authorities recognise that IT only accounts for around 3% of overall budgets. And that it is far better to view IT as a value centre, with the ability to drive efficiencies and cost-savings in the remaining 97% of the budget.

This remaining 97% of the budget includes the major costs of the workforce, the workplace, and energy and resources. A digital authority, therefore, should focus on how technology can help through four main programmes of work:

The workforce – enable a location-independent workforce, develop collaboration-enabled business processes – by implementing end-to-end IT infrastructure (Cisco calls this the ‘IT service delivery platform’) and providing a suite of unified communications and collaboration services;

The workplace
– create an estates portfolio that supports the work styles of location-independent workers – by reducing the number and location of buildings, by adapting the physical design, and by providing technology support for new work settings and work styles;

Energy and resources
– reduce the usage, hence cost, of utility services – by exploiting the energy-saving benefits of IT consolidation, and using IT to monitor and control the use of energy;

– reduce capital and operational costs – by consolidation and virtualisation of infrastructure and services, and by adoption of new sourcing models including cloud, managed and shared services.

More detail on these programmes can be found in our ‘Operational Efficiency Paper’.

We recommend that a digital authority should exploit technology across all its citizen and business engagement channels, and not focus solely on the web channel and moving services to the Internet. In our experience, the detail of any channel strategy must be sensitive to the needs and priorities of the local environment; for example, what priority services need to be delivered or re-designed, the demograhics of its citizen stakeholders, and also the current ‘as-is’ technology environment.

Cisco advocates that technology be incorporated into an overall ‘channel shift’ approach to public services. Clearly, over time, face-to-face and contact centre channels must be migrated towards digital. We believe it is essential that all citizen engagement channels be maintained at least in the short term. But, that each channel must be made to deliver cost and quality benefits through the use of technology.

The focus on channel shift, and the incorporation of technology into all channels, will help authorities to respond to key questions such as
“What is the future of face-to-face services?”, “How will the role of the contact centre change in a digital world?” and “Can contact centre services embrace social media?”

Where entirely new services are to be provided, they may well be delivered electronically over the Internet from day one. But, in the majority of cases, the requirement will be for existing services to be re-designed and migrated. Of course, existing engagement channels may need to be maintained to serve citizens who are unable, or simply refuse, to use digital. But authorities must balance this with mitigating strategies - including ‘digital assist’, programmes of digital skills development, and other incentives - in order to drive uptake.

The service re-design programme should focus on three linked strategic steps, each fully exploiting digital technology to deliver cost and quality benefits:

Face-to-Face Services – virtualise face-to-face services and provide greater flexibility around access to back-office and specialist functions by exploring the power of point-to-point video and video conferencing for citizen access to council service centres;

Voice and Contact Centre – re-purpose the role of the contact centre to maximise its strategic value – by making it omni-channel; by providing virtual, video-based face-to-face contact; by expanding it to provide social media access and data mining, and digital assist capabilities;

Web Services Strategy – deliver robust, secure 24 x 7 web services – by delivering a scalable digital infrastructure platform and defence-in-depth security.

More detail on implementation of these programmes can be found in our ‘Digital Services Paper’.

Digital (smart or future) cities and communities are extremely important to local authorities focusing on the economic prosperity of their town, city or region, and on the wellbeing of their citizens.

To successfully realise a digital city or community, an authority must identify the needs of all key stakeholder groups and meet them through technology exploitation. Key stakeholder groups include citizens, small businesses, large businesses, retailers and visitors.

But this can be a very complex task. Wellbeing and economic prosperity depend on very many different factors including the physical environment, communications, transport, education and skills, health and care services, and availability of business and residential accommodation.

Clearly, a local authority is not responsible for all these activity areas. But it should have the lead responsibility for strategic planning and the digital authority will use its digital strategy to explain the role of technology in each of the above areas. This will provide community leadership, and help deliver the desired business outcomes for each named stakeholder group.

But a local authority does need to prioritise. Cisco works with local authorities on a global basis, and we see three main areas where technology can aid city and community development, namely:

Economic development and prosperity – how technology can meet the needs of both small and larger, established businesses for physical and communications resources, for access to markets, for an attractive recruitment environment, and for staff with good education and skills;

Health and social care – how technology can help health and care organisations tackle the financial and organisational challenges posed by the ever-increasing numbers of chronically sick and frail elderly citizens;

Thriving and vibrant cities, towns and regions – how technology can create environments that attract new retailers; and encourage visitors and tourists who contribute directly to the prospects of those retailers and, indirectly, to overall economic success.

Each of these areas is important, but the first will receive growing attention with the announcement that local authorities will be able to retain business rates.

Cisco has many reference case studies worldwide that explain how cities are implementing all of the above and more. Individual city plans are usually based on the provision of city or community infrastructure - wired and wireless networking - that supports direct use by the council, by businesses, by citizens and by visitors. And, more importantly, through the use of Internet of Everything (IoE) applications that allow sensors to generate new types of data that is processed and analysed centrally to create positive business or personal outcomes.

One good example of an IoE application connects traffic lights, traffic sensors and video cameras. Once the sensor and camera information is collected centrally over the city infrastructure, it can be processed to control traffic flows and provide information to public transport users. Cisco is already working with cities in the UK to develop city infrastructure and to roll out a range of IoE applications.

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