The challenges of the pandemic have shown how, faced with necessity and a healthy dose of crisis, local and regional government can deliver rapid change. The speed of transformation, creativity and innovation has been truly phenomenal.
It will be interesting to see the lasting impact of the pandemic on IT and digital across the sector. Here’s how I predict technology will continue to play out post-pandemic.
IT’s evolving role
Thanks to the accelerated modernisation of IT – cloud migration, modern workforce technologies, moving networks to modern SD-WAN within a zero-trust environment, etc. – IT departments are showing a clear desire to rapidly move to a function focussed on driving digital capabilities for the organisation.
It’s clear that many local authorities have already laid the groundwork by stripping out excess cost and noise to become digital enablers. Crucially, they’ve also started to shift their thinking.
Changes at board level
Since the pandemic, there has been a rise in demand for CIOs and CDIOs that have recognised that the world isn’t just about looking after infrastructure. Those who are thinking about where the organisation could go and what their leadership can add.
Councils that get this are putting these tech leaders on their board. You cannot pivot your business models without having digital leadership properly challenging business thinking.
Improved customer experience driven by digitisation
We have seen a noticeable change in the way people are approaching digital opportunities to support customer experience.
How do you start connecting services, data and content to change interactions with your customers to be pre-emptive? How do you leverage data to make the customer’s life simpler across all their transactions? How do you create the digital experience that citizens expect? Technology can provide much lower cost methods of managing contact, while also delivering a significantly better experience.
Tech-led demand prediction will be critical
Given the challenge of demand versus resource, using technology to get ahead of the curve and being able to pre-empt and automate demand is vital.
Post-pandemic this is important for several reasons. To name a few, services need resilience because demand will inevitably creep back up. Automating decisions such as planning applications will speed up your economy, while pre-empting and pre-authorising processes such as blue badges or parking will revolutionise the customer journey.
Harnessing the power of data
For lasting change, digital leaders need to use the information available to understand where demand is coming from, not just a week before, but many years out.
Adult social care is a good example. Using data, ideally as part of an integrated care system, you can predict demand on an individual-by-individual basis. This operational pivot requires the belief that investment today will pay off in the future, versus dealing with multiple fires today.
A skillset shift
The rise of sensors, IoT, video technology and automation mean that skills will need to shift.
It’s very hard to get hold of good social care staff, but if some can be replaced by data specialists, analysts and home tech specialists, it shifts the narrative completely and allows specialists to deal with challenges such as isolation, dementia, etc.
Thinking beyond the cloud
The reality is you’ve got to move to the cloud if you are to become a true digital enabler. If you want to properly predict demand or understand how to communicate with people on an individual basis, the on-premise computing power needed is prohibitive.
There continues to be huge spend on cloud innovation. The three big cloud providers spent £70bn on development last year, which all authorities need to leverage.
The climate emergency will drive transformation
Well over 100 authorities have declared a climate emergency, meaning a move to the cloud is a no-brainer. All three big cloud providers have declared they’ll be carbon negative by 2030, it’s a compelling reason to head to the cloud sooner rather than later.
Whilst there are many other predictions that could be added to this list, one thing is clear: the COVID-19 legacy will be far-reaching across local government.