A new research paper advises newly elected councillors and other local authorities on how innovative technologies can address public service challenges.
The paper, entitled ‘Council of the future: a digital guide for councillors’, was published today by techUK, an organisation which represents more than 950 technology companies and around half of the technology workforce in the UK. The paper seeks to explain to newly elected or inexperienced councillors how innovative technologies can address public service challenges, and equip them with the knowledge and vocabulary to discuss issues confidently with the relevant stakeholders.
This, in turn, could help to build the capacity of the council to respond to challenges, and also improve the level of service that local authorities are able to deliver for residents. The report explains how councillors can use digital technologies to respond to challenges of demographic change, environmental challenges, crime, housing and employment.
What approach should councillors take to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by digital technology?
The report recommends several key considerations for councillors, including ensuring that the right leadership is put in place to further a digital agenda, whether this is done in the form of a chief digital officer, or the establishment of a digital board, which can advise the council on such matters.
Councillors also need to ensure that they are able to put user needs first, in order to build stronger relationships with residents and help them to engage with authorities in a way which suits them. This must all be done in the context of the current mechanisms that are in place in the technology market, so that councils are able to access the latest innovations.
What impact could the report have?
According to Georgina Martheftis, techUK’s programme manager for local government, the role of councillors in delivering on smart city ambitions means that a greater understanding of the ways that innovative technologies can address public service challenges is vital.
She said: “By grasping the digital agenda and having a digital-first mindset, councillors can be at the forefront of spearheading the transformation of the area into a ‘smart community’ where citizens are empowered to shape services and create the places where they want to live… We look forward to working with the councillors across the UK to help them realise their digital ambitions and reimagine what 21st century local services look like.”