Councils can help improve the digital connectivity of their local areas with help from the LGA.
Access to fast and reliable digital connections is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.
It is a component of everyday life and is something residents and businesses expect in their homes and local areas.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the digital divide being felt by communities across the country and accelerated the need for strong connectivity to deal with the increased demand on networks.
As place shapers at the centre of their communities, councils and councillors across all tiers have a fundamental role to play in helping enhance the digital connectivity of their areas, whether through local policy levers such as planning and highways, or economic development or regeneration strategies.
“The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the digital divide being felt by communities across the country”
The benefits of improved connectivity are well rehearsed. As more of us use faster broadband and mobile services, we have more choice about how and when to make voice and video calls; message friends and relatives; browse the internet; apply for employment opportunities; watch on-demand TV; stream music; shop or work from home; and access local services.
With better connected residents and employees, councils can create environments in which to test and develop ways of shifting more local services online to improve the lives of their communities, while modernising ways of working and living.
For example, Adur & Worthing Councils installed sensors on a fleet of waste vehicles to help understand and measure broadband connections in their area.
This helped inform their wider digital connectivity programme, which has included:
- wiring up public buildings to high-speed fibre broadband and encouraging commercial providers to come in and expand services to local businesses and residents from these starting points
- the launch of a publicly-owned, high-speed Wi-Fi network that will help more local residents to connect ‘on the go’, and which provides the councils with the opportunity to create an ‘internet of things’ network with smart street lighting and smart car-parking.
Therefore, building on previous sector-led improvement programmes that focused on digital transformation and inclusion, the LGA is inviting local authorities in England to apply for match funding of up to £20,000 to develop their digital connectivity capacity and leverage improvements for their communities.
We are looking for projects that focus on improvement strategies, regional partner relationships and connectivity transformation, and which aim to help residents and the workforce interact with the local authority in smarter, easier and more innovative ways.
The councils successful in joining the programme will receive grant funding for their project along with the LGA’s wrap-around support offer from our productivity team and policy experts.
The programme will also provide councils with access to a learning community of fellow councils with which to share lessons and resources. We will produce a series of case studies, blogs and videos so the wider sector can benefit from the digital connectivity projects we help fund.
I know the team is looking forward to receiving your bids and I am excited to see the various and exciting initiatives that will be delivered over the coming year. Good luck!