Our journey to a smarter Wigan

Wigan council

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

Earlier this year we launched the Deal 2030, which sets out ten key priorities for our city, Wigan. This strategy was published following a Big Listening exercise we undertook with our residents, where more than 6,000 people gave their ideas. Those ideas, which included making our borough more digitally friendly, have been pulled together into this one strategy. 

One of those priorities is ‘Confidently digital’. This priority sets out how we will harness the power digital has to improve people’s opportunities and prepare for the future. This means changing the way we operate as a council and using digital to transform the borough.  

From this we have developed our digital strategy which looks at this ambition in greater detail and is divided into three elements: Digital People, Digital Place, Digital Council. 

Digital people asks how we can help equip people with the digital skills for the future. This means working closely with schools to upskill our teachers and provide professional digital leadership skills to ensure they have the right tools to deliver cutting edge digital learning. One of the projects we’re rolling out in schools, and to the wider population, including our staff is iDEA. Our digital inclusion strategy has been designed to break down the barriers that impact disproportionately on the most vulnerable groups in our community. Working with libraries and our Digital Taskforce partners we will aim to unite people, organisations and communities with a shared vision of digital inclusion for all.

How can we make the borough a more digital place? This is the theme of our second digital strategy strand and perhaps the most challenging and ambitious.  We want Wigan to become the first choice for digital business by reimagining our economic strategy to create a vision based around connecting residents to new emerging digital skills and attracting businesses to unlock new local employment opportunities.

To support our ambition for a Digital Place, we and our partners are working alongside the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on an Initiative and led procurement programme which aims to increase penetration of full fibre within Greater Manchester – improving our Wi-Fi connectivity offer throughout the borough and making it a more attractive place to work, live and visit.  We are also following the progress of 5G with a very keen eye as this an exciting development which will further support our aspirations for the borough. 

We recognise the opportunities of Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things to help redesign the way in which we deliver services and as such we are currently exploring ways in which we can adopt these technologies in areas such as Adult Social Care,  Health and Wellbeing as well as how we interact with our residents on a day to day basis.  We’re currently working on our smart homes projects which will use data to reduce energy consumption in our social housing, which will not only be good for our resident’s finances but will have important environmental benefits too.   

In July 2016 Pokemon Go, an augmented reality (AR) mobile game, was launched. By September the game had been downloaded over 500 million times worldwide and become the fastest game to make over $500 million in revenue. Using the mobile device, GPS to locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures, the game got people out of the house and moving around. Forbes Magazine said that Pokemon Go is the world’s most important game, because of its broader impacts on society through its health benefits.  Like Nintendo, we want to explore how smartphone games and apps can encourage a greater footfall to our town centres, thus having a positive impact on our local businesses and on the health of our residents. One tool that we’re currently looking at is ‘Beat the Street’ which has been implemented very successfully by a handful of local authorities. This walking points-based scheme is designed to get you walking to collect points for your team. In Swindon 31,000 people took part last year. 

How can we become a more Digital Council? We already do so much work with our communities and they’re a great asset. We’re working with them at the moment to design a one stop fully integrated digital platform for residents with accessibility at the heart of design, this will include access to GP services, something that through our Big Listening Project was raised. 

We recognise the power digital has to improve the potential and growth of our borough and to transform the way we deliver services. We also know it has wider benefits, helping to address some of our biggest health issues.  We’ve already embedded the digital agenda in everything we do and will continue to push the bar to ensure we get the best possible outcomes for our residents.


Read More of ‘The Deal 2030’


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