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techUK calls for digital champions in devolution


Guide for mayors of combined authorities includes plans for an innovation unit, data store and digital task force

IT industry association techUK has urged the mayors of new combined authorities to appoint a digital champion and innovation unit to set them on the path towards the best use of digital technology.

The organisation has published a Guide for Digital Devolution that sets out priorities and a series of questions for a mayor to ask in their first 100 days to promote change and begin the building of the necessary capacity.

One of its key recommendations is that new mayors quickly put the right digital leadership in place, with the appointment of a chief digital and innovation champion reporting directly to the mayor and a senior officer.

This should be accompanied by the creation of an innovation unit to work across the city region in building new partnerships and offering practical support in testing new ideas. Further support would come from setting up a digital skills task force.

techUK also recommends that a mayor should make a strong commitment to open data and order an audit of local data assets with the aim of creating a city region data store.

Pitch fests and platform

Other recommendations include engaging with the IT industry through innovation days and pitch fests, joining a common platform to share best practice with other regions, and working closely with the local community to overcome digital exclusion.

The questions to ask in the first 100 days include:

  • What do you want digital to achieve for your city and region?
  • What mechanisms are in place to exchange thinking, best practice and innovation between public and private sector?
  • What skills do you need to achieve the vision?
  • How can you map out the city region’s data in one place?
  • Who is in place to oversee data regulation?

Georgina Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK, said: “Digital devolution presents one of the biggest opportunities to do things differently, break down the traditional barriers to service delivery to drive improved outcomes for all.

“The mayors, with their direct and convening powers, must use their new and unique position to accelerate the pace of transformation, working closely with public sector, the community and industry to deliver better outcomes for all citizens by creating truly joined up services and places where citizens want to live and thrive.”

Image amended from guide cover, from techUK

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