Why doesn’t local government use technology better?
As Deputy Leader of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, it’s a question I often ask myself.
I’m also Business Development Manager for a tech company and consequently have a good view of issues in public sector organisations, with knowledge that solutions are already available or easily achievable via private sector tech companies.
It’s amazing what’s out there with app development, artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven analytics.
How can we play our part in making the UK a science and technology superpower if local government – which makes fundamental decisions affecting the lives of millions of people every day – doesn’t improve our use of technology?
Perhaps because there will always be customers for our services there is a reluctance to change?
A captive clientele is no excuse for slow transformation – with the gateway to services the most obvious place to start. Missed bin collection? No problem, there’s an app for that, or there should be.
The lag in local government uptake of technology could perhaps be attributed to a lack of available finance.
Better use of technology, streamlining and improving services will help improve our customers’ experience and reduce cost to the public purse. Spend to save. It’s not actually that expensive over a longer-term financial view.
The public sector is definitely not helped by ‘government framework for suppliers’ applications only being opened once a year, leading to smaller tech companies being overlooked or excluded. The same big tech firms seem to dominate, and competition in government’s digital marketplace isn’t what it should be.
Smaller tech companies are agile and responsive to rapidly changing landscapes in technology. A smaller, more local focus would arguably be better to assist with bespoke digital transformation in local government.
Now is the time to do things differently, leverage our data, and take the best of the private sector to provide cost-effective, customisable, scalable solutions to councils – bringing local government services into the 21st century.