Digital pathfinders

Funding is available to help councils develop digital solutions to local problems.

Every day, councils make a difference to millions of lives. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the value of local leadership, as councils have provided critical support to people, businesses and communities that has protected lives and livelihoods.

Councils’ digital communications and services have never been so critical to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. From video conferencing and new data sharing to the digitisation of public meetings, the local government response to the pandemic demands continuous and accelerated digital innovation.

Through the LGA’s government-funded sector support offer, we are providing councils with tools and resources to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and its consequences, while working closely with the Government on priority issues. 

We will continue to offer a helping hand to councils as they improve, innovate and seek to improve their resilience, now and into the future.

For example, our new Digital Pathfinders Programme provides up to £20,000 per council to fund truly innovative and emerging solutions across three ‘challenge’ areas of digital inclusion (people), digital connectivity (place) and cyber security.

The programme will prioritise working with councils whose projects offer a positive example to others in local government, through sustainable change programmes. 

As such, councils are asked to consider not only how innovative the technical aspect of any proposal is, but also its scalability, sustainability, and transferability across multiple community/council settings within the sector. 

Although the Digital Pathfinders Programme is the first of its kind to be offered by the LGA, various previous initiatives have focused on local authorities improving their digital inclusion and connectivity. 

For example, Westminster City Council developed a digital connectivity toolkit that provides other councils with guidance to help identify connectivity ‘not spots’ in urban places, and best practice materials and resources.

“Councils should consider a proposal’s transferability

A similar initiative was delivered by Shropshire Council. Its programme involved supporting residents aged over 65 to get online, by working with them to develop their skills and confidence, and to overcome motivational barriers. The council created a ‘digital champion network’ to support the project and coordinate activities with partners and the public, to help older people online.  

The Digital Pathfinder Programme is a unique opportunity to enhance your council’s knowledge and understanding of how digital transformation and infrastructure can future-proof and build resilience within your organisation and its services, for the benefit of residents and local places. 

Our ask is that your project: focuses on local need and involves local people and partners; demonstrates how it is innovative and emerging in one of the three challenge areas; uses and creates evidence about what works well to address local need; is scalable to other councils; and delivers a sustainable impact beyond the period of the funding.

In return, we will provide one-to-one support, with lead programme advisers helping coordinate and oversee projects and integrating their findings into our wider sector support offer.

As place shapers at the centre of their communities, councils have a fundamental role to play in enhancing and improving the digital connectivity of their local areas.

We want this important programme to help with these efforts, as well as accelerate digital inclusion and keep services and residents safe from the threats surrounding cyber security.

The deadline for expressions of interest in the Digital Pathfinder Programme is 10 September – see www.local.gov.uk/digital-pathfinders-programme-live-offer for more information or email productivity@local.gov.uk with any queries

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