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Local Digital Today - the programme, one year on


The spirit of sharing permeated last week's event celebrating both outcomes of the Local Digital programme and digital transformation progress across the sector. Just over a year since the launch of the Local Digital Campaign, local and central government gathered to highlight progress and discuss digital transformation tips and techniques with peers that could be taken away and put into practice now.

Julian Bowrey (pictured left) Deputy Director, Digital and Corporate Communications at Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) opened by thanking the 1,400 local and central government delegates who had attended some 28 campaign events nationwide so far in 2014.

Events include the Discovery Days - where local and central government come together to co-create the business case and functions of digital service or product concepts, crossing both sectors, that could radically transform local service delivery.

Follow-up Co-Design Days take these concepts forward and, as Programme Director, Sheenagh Reynolds, (pictured below) told the audience, a new Incubation stage will now nurture these products into co-creation before launching them for free local authority use.

Such practical collaboration through the campaign has already begun following a Discovery Day held with the Driver's Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) last month and a Co-Design day back in July (read the report) with local government, Department of Health (DH) and Land Registry. Projects currently under exploration include an API giving direct access to the DVLA data needed to transform parking, debt collection and licencing; a deferred social care payments calculator to help with Care Act implementation next April; and an API giving access to specific aspects of Land Registry data.

Importantly, Reynolds emphasised that concepts for public sector services and products to emerge from Co-Design days could go on to be developed in partnership with departments, local authorities, GDS or suppliers - the key criteria for incubation being an identified user need met only by such central-local collaboration, compelling cost benefit, and realistic prospects of rapid success.

Bowrey was keen to emphasise that, through its events, the programme has identified real savings that local government could make by working with local and central peers and sharing ideas, APIs, tools, and code. "Significant potential savings have been identified with DVLA, DH and Land Registry from central and local Government working together."

Bowrey also credited organisations including LocalGov Digital, Socitm, the Public Service Transformation Network and the Local Government Association - all represented at the event - for their contributions spreading knowledge and best practice and enabling transformation. Working together, he added, there was an opportunity for a step change: "We're keen to broker new conversations to get exciting conclusions and identify opportunities to work together".

Over the past year, in true agile style, the campaign evolved into the three streams: discovery and co-creation, digital transformation skills, and digital futures. Keeping conversations and relationships going beyond these events however is key, said Reynolds. To maintain momentum, she added, the campaign would enable 'virtual teams' to continue conversations and ideas beyond the event venue regardless of location and support other initiatives in the sector to collaborate and share digital resources and skills.

Alongside Local Digital, increasingly, there are mechanisms to join up councils, central Government and suppliers to prevent local authority duplication of effort, to highlight and share best practice, drive digital excellence and collaboration.

LocalGovDigital's Vice-Chair Phil Rumens (pictured left) told the audience about the group's 'Pipeline'. The online resource allows organisations to add their idea and request willing collaborators or, on the other side, to notify peers that you have a problem to solve ("like a matchmaking site for local government", as Rumens describes it). He invited anyone who is interested to join the Pipeline Trello board. "The next stage is to bring them together and bring in central Government as well. Even just concepts can go in", he said.

Socitm's director of policy and research, Martin Ferguson, expounded the benefits of deploying 'extreme digital' in the need to push from 'digital vision' to delivering real 'digital value'. In the run up to the election, the society's policy briefing on the subject - published at its recent conference - is designed to inform debate on how local digital public services can best be delivered.

Sevenoaks District Council leader and Chairman of the LGA's Improvement and Innovation board, Peter Fleming invited attendees to 'steal ideas' from the Local Government Association's (LGA's) recently launched report Transforming Local Public Services. The report is peppered with examples of successful digital services by local authorities to improve public service efficiency.

Anton Draper, managing partner of the Public Service Transformation Network, highlighted the successful work of the network in fostering collaboration between organisations. Collaboration was the key, he said, to unlocking transformation - and digital had a key role to play in enabling this change.

The second half of the event was made up of interactive sessions: a set of digital transformation case studies from London Borough of Camden, Land Registry, DCLG, and the LGA; workshops looking at Local Links and website customer journeys; and a further set of workshops focused on upskilling and partnership initiatives with John Jackson, CIO of London Borough of Camden on procurement, Digital Consultant (Bristol City Council) Sarah Prag on adapting lessons from Government Digital Service to local government and Rachel Conway of Brighton and Hove City Council on Agile working, among others.

Look out for video highlights of the main sessions coming soon.







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