Council of the future… right here, right now

Alison McKenzie-Folan

Written by Alison McKenzie-Folan, Deputy Chief Executive, Wigan Council

1. A digital strategy that genuinely drives change

Several years ago we embedded a new strategy, The Deal, to deliver a different relationship between the Council and our residents with digital at its heart. This had support from the very top of the organisation and plays a key role in achieving our ambitions for the Borough with digital and technology as a key enabler for reform and growth. Wigan is well placed to take advantage of the growth in digital and technology industries in Greater Manchester and wants to ensure that residents are able to fully benefit from this. The strategy is far-reaching, enabling public sector reform and growth, with a strong focus on equipping residents with the skills for an increasingly digital future. The council has worked closely with voluntary, third sector and private sector partners, to support community initiatives which use technology to create self-reliance.

2. Upskilling our workforce in digital skills

Wigan Council employs 4,200 staff directly. In asking council staff to adopt a digital-first approach we felt it was crucial that they were encouraged to develop their own digital skills. One way of achieving this is the roll out of the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDea) with hundreds of staff members now successfully upskilling through online learning. Our staff are also working every day in smarter ways, to enable greater flexibility, reduce travelling time and transport costs. Health and social care staff are working in a completely agile way with other public and community sector services to respond to changes in how people live their lives. In other service areas, inspection staff are mobile, collecting, updating and reviewing data as they visit sites across the borough. Services like waste collection are informed by real time information about resident issues. Our democratic processes are becoming more digital, with paperless meetings, covered live on social media and elected members engaging with residents using social media.

3. Let data shape tailored services

Wigan has historically made great use of data to help identify those at risk of being unwell or experiencing poor health in the future, but is stepping up its game in terms of making greater use of the data available on a public sector basis. We are pushing data out via our open data site, so that residents can use this to develop innovative solutions for future services, enable self-help or to develop tailored information and services. Developments in consumer technology provide us with great opportunities to build these in to our offer and engage differently with our residents.

4. Use digital to assist those most in need

We all came into public services to make a difference to those most in need. The potential for digital and tech to improve the lives of residents who access our adult social care services is enormous. We are already using a range of innovative digital assistive technologies, as part of our People Powered Technology (PPT) project, to create new models of independent living and enable self-care. This technology monitors and supports people with disabilities to stay safe and more independent in their homes. In addition the council has already implemented innovative smart technology with social housing residents to reduce energy consumption therefore reducing bills and lowering the risk of problem debt.

5. Seize the opportunity

Advancements in technology mean that in the future residents will not only be able to transact online but they will be able to see, view and contribute to their records. Residents will have control over who they share their information with and will have choice and control over the services they receive. Lines between public sector organisations are becoming increasingly blurred with the delivery of Place based working in Wigan, this trend is set to continue with information sharing, intelligence and data leading the delivery of services that truly meet the requirements of the population living in a distinct place

The pace of technology change is incredible and “new” technology like robotics, drones are finding a place in public sector service delivery, taking over some of the more straightforward aspects of service delivery, creating space for the more important elements of a Council’s role, place shaping, enabling communities and building sustainable futures. We need to approach all of this with an open mind, seize the opportunities and remind ourselves how far we have already come on this journey.

This article was originally published here.


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