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Smart places need a ‘digital board’ says techUK


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Local authorities should look to set up boards of representatives from local bodies, academia and industry to support the creation of smart places using digital technology, according to IT industry association techUK.

It has advocated the approach in a new report, ‘What makes a good Digital Board?’, providing details on how such a group could be created and function.

The rationale is that a board would help to build the mindset, technical and digital skills for local authorities to coordinate their efforts in the area.

It would be chaired by an authority’s chief digital officer or chief executive, providing strategic guidance and pulling together common principles.

The report includes six recommendations, beginning with the need for a council to carry out a mapping exercise to identify eight to 12 ‘critical friends’ in its locality as potential members of a board.

Evolution and objectives

When it is created, the board should: develop a vision for digital evolution; then a digital delivery plan with measurable objectives; incorporate regular civic engagement through digital means as part of an authority’s digital ambitions; and oversee the secure and effective management of data and related capabilities within the council

It should also position itself to facilitate collaboration, knowledge sharing and coordination between local authorities, police, health, education and third sector organisations.

In addition, a board’s remit should include a focus on three key areas of activity, around data, in civic engagement and digital evolution. These should all be included in its terms of reference, while other responsibilities could vary depending on the local context.

The report points to a handful of existing initiatives as examples of where to go, including the Smart London Board, the Belfast Agenda and the Isles of Scilly Smart Islands Programme.

It also acknowledges some of the challenges a board will face over time, such as the danger of interest diminishing among senior officials, a risk averse culture in local authorities, and a loss of capability in staff turnover.

Julian David, chief executive officer of techUK, said: “Local authorities stand on the frontline of the implementation of smart initiatives.

“We understand the pressures they face and appreciate that they should not be tasked with delivering the nation’s smart cities and communities agendas alone. By building internal capacity and capability to utilise the strengths of digital, which is not always as easy as it seems, we believe that local authorities will be able to commission and implement smarter, citizen-centric services for their localities."

Image from techUK

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