Making Dorset digital

Jurassic Cost, Dorset

Written by Penny Syddall, Senior Communications Officer, Dorset Council

For Dorset Council, digital is not just about tech or online forms, it’s a way of thinking and working. It’s about designing services around the needs of people and making the most of modern technology to provide the solutions and experiences we should expect today. Our ambition to become a digital council is about developing a digital mindset across the whole organisation from the political and officer leadership through to the front line.

To help with this in 2017 we established a digital network which has grown in size with people now attending from local businesses, NHS organisations and digital advocates in the community.  We wanted to introduce a Digital Dorset Podcast to add to our regular, varied network gatherings, providing an additional way to hear what’s going on and provide insight to those people who can’t attend.

The future of communicating through podcasts is bright. With a rapidly changing environment and our ambition to be a Digital Council in a Digital Place we can all benefit from knowing how digital is contributing to making Dorset an even better place to live and work, these podcasts have the potential to communicate these messages and ideas to a wider audience through informal conversations.

Why can’t children resist toilet humour? When we asked a group of kids at Prince of Wales School what they thought the future would look like, why did one suggest there would be toilet robots to hand out loo paper and candy? Could a group of sensible, serious and stereotypically boring adults – council staff and businessmen – turn this wacky, imaginative but apparently childish suggestion into a #techforgood idea?

Using the recording function on a mobile phone, we listened to the students’ visions for the future and recorded this podcast so you can hear our responses. And, hopefully, react! But it’s the warmth and power of human conversation, of the people – perhaps not so boring after all – that engages.

Digital Dorset’s – in fact Dorset Council’s – first podcast is an experiment. What happens if you put five comparative strangers with a shared passion for digital in a room and give them some prompts from another sector of Dorset society – in this case, youngsters?

We certainly didn’t set out to cover any of the Dorset priorities, or themes in our transformation programme. Yet, to our enormous surprise, we touched on quite a few: economic growth, tackling our health and social care challenges, Microsoft Office 365’s accessibility features, opportunities for school leavers to have exciting, tech-driven careers in Dorset and more.

Like the Digital Network, the podcast aims to be eclectic. We found new voices and combined them in a novel way. And yet we shared an implicit understanding of Dorset’s challenges – which suggests they run deep. We’re going to need all the help we can get – from today’s businesses and tomorrow’s workforce – to solve them. Tech may be part of the solution but at the heart, like all digital transformation, it’s about people. Bring it on – more partners, more conversations and, maybe, more podcasts. Have a listen and let us know how we can improve and how you can help.

Listen to the podcast here:

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