What Does Digital Innovation in Local Government Look Like?

Digital innovation in local government can look physically different within every organisation it’s used in due to the differences in needs and types of technology used to resolve the issue. However, the key principles utilised in its implementation remain largely similar across each use case.

So what exactly does digital innovation look like when successfully employed in local government? 

A Clear Vision for Public Services

The need for digital innovation is predicated by the need to improve community service. Across the UK, staff in local authorities will recognise which areas of their service need improvement. As these staff are usually not technological experts, it takes a wider team to discover a potential digital solution. 

This is the point where a vision is determined. It shouldn’t be a case of ‘technology for technology’s sake’. Each approach must be considered carefully so any investment isn’t squandered and the initial problem added to. 

Digital innovation looks seamless when implemented correctly. It’s based around the right needs, integrates with current practices well and improves conditions for both of them. 

Community Consideration in Digital Innovation

One key aspect of successful digital innovation is understanding local demographics. For many populations, overarching statements don’t hold true. Digital innovation needs to provide bespoke recognition for the differing needs of a community and implement individual measures to help solve them across the board.

This means all touchpoints of a project need to be engaged with. After all, digital innovation is pointless if it isn’t inclusive, meaning demographic and user research is essential for local governments. What you find is that user-focused design, such as easy-to-navigate web layouts, are key focal points for any digital innovation. If it’s not done, changes made could be met with an uninterested population.

Successful projects in local government have included using a range of methods that cover reviewing existing evidence, interviews of potential users and talking to those outside the organisation who understand the service. Digital innovation in local government needs to be built upon a basis of universal research. 

Digital in Every Department

Digital innovation is about providing worth for each department and creating the alignment that will help them better support themselves and their target audience. 

Developing innovation throughout the departments of a public service organisation requires two significant changes in the approach to culture. The first is about recognising that new systems aren’t about preserving the IT teams’ influence, they’re about enhancing everyone.

As public sector services are people-focused, so too should be the digital innovation employed there. There needs to be a good understanding of digital innovation as a way to transform the relationship between citizen and state. Without this, any change will lose impetus.

The second is to select IT companies that aren’t merely providing the tech solution to a particular problem but are actually being seen as partners. They understand the needs and the vision and are working collaboratively to get the job done.

This is where implementation between public and private sector corporations can be essential - which is also a growing trend and can help to bring both the public sector and everyday citizens on board.

Everyday citizens expect any changes to directly benefit them, rather than being implemented solely for an increase in departmental efficiency.

Examples of Successful Digital Innovation in Local Government

There have been multiple examples of where digital innovation has been employed for public service organisations up and down the country. Here are some examples plus their benefits.

Chatbots for the Digital Channel Shift Programme

In Newcastle, the City Council worked to develop SMS-based chatbots that allow residents to apply for a permit to access household waste and recycling centres.

The chatbot, known as ‘Wastebot’, delivered an improvement in processing times from 14 days to 90 seconds. This improved customer experience and reduced costs - for example, their prototype Bin Information Bot helped to support £500k in savings by providing real-time information on collections and ‘missed’ bins.

Live Web Chat To Improve User Experience 

Leeds Council launched a live web chat service which helped users find what they needed more efficiently. It was set up to help people while they are online, guiding them through processes which help to reduce resource cost as it means telephones or face-to-face conversations aren’t needed.

The transition to live web chat over phone calls helped to save Leeds Council £18,360 over eight months. On top of this, more than 80% of those with enquiries stated their enquiry had been resolved successfully. 

Improving Parking and Reducing Congestion

Experiencing significant pressures on its parking structure, Westminster City Council introduced a range of innovative technology to improve services

Cashless parking payments were introduced, saving over £6 million a year by preventing theft. Also, smart sensors were incorporated in parking bays to sense occupancy and increase parking space efficiency. A payment by phone service was also began, which helped to produce a 77% rate of customer satisfaction and 86% of customers stating the technology was easy to use. 

Digital Transformation in Waste Services

As part of the Digital Channel Shift Programme, Sunderland City Council enhanced the digital interface for waste services in a number of ways. They redesigned the web-pages, implemented mobile solutions for reporting environmental problems and capitalised upon in-cab technology to provide real-time refuse collection information. 

This saw a vast improvement across the board. The percentage of transactions online increased from 14% to 55% and delivered £136,364 in savings. 

Digital innovation in local government is inherently linked with a transformation in culture. Think of them as two sides of the same coin. For further information on cultural transformation and how it can provide a solid basis for new digital tech, read our guide.

The Cultural Transformation Roadmap

Undertaking both digital and cultural transformation is no walk in the park - it takes time, effort, passion, collaboration and the relevant information. Our roadmap to cultural transformation is a great resource for those looking to enhance their working culture. It covers best practices, cultural transformation for the public sector and expert insight.

Click on the link below to explore the roadmap today.

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