People first, digital always

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2017

Dionne Lowndes, digital lead at Staffordshire County Council, explains how an innovative partnership in the area aims to develop an integrated strategy providing services for the ‘Digital Citizen’.

Digital is a means for us to achieve the outcomes that we seek for our citizens, for them to be prosperous, healthy and secure. The overarching approach is that we enable our staff to do the human aspects of their role more effectively by using technology. It’s not about replacing people with technology, not just about automating processes, but rather about using the technology to allow us to concentrate on the things that people do best, which is supporting others. This will help us to transition into a council vision where workers can focus on delivering place-based outcomes for our citizens. We need to make a step change towards service provision and act as a conduit to an effective and well-networked voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, supporting and promoting independence.

Placing our services and information under a single digital access point makes life a lot easier for everyone. Both local and national research tell us that residents want both choice and convenience. Our vision is to use data to identify local needs to design more responsive services. Strategically, this has meant significant development of a ‘One Council’ approach through Staffs Connects partnership, comprising eight district and borough councils and Stoke-on-Trent, a unitary authority. The aim of the partnership is to develop an integrated strategy providing services for the ‘Digital Citizen’. The ambition is to collectively provide an ‘Amazon’ customer experience in the future. This will not just be about digital platforms but a broader strategic approach that will need to enable citizens to be more involved in decision-making.

Our digital approach is place-based as follows:


Digital council

Our workforce needs to be ‘Digital First’, built around meeting local needs and agile delivery to combine our ICT and digital strategy to ensure our vision for a new ‘digital first’ culture is supported by our technology decisions.


Digital community

Taking a digital approach is fundamental to citizens becoming self-supporting and encouraging social action. It gives us the opportunity to deliver on our responsibilities within our limitations. We need to work with our partners, particularly in the third sector, to develop community-based services and promote digital inclusion.


Digital County

There is an opportunity to establish a Digital County open for experimentation and innovation encompassing an empowered and skilled workforce and citizen. To deliver a digital future we need to develop a Staffordshire which connects the council, communities and businesses, utilising our assets such as HS2 and superfast broadband, to develop our infrastructure for our citizens, and to provide an attractive destination for businesses.

Our approach recognises that although infrastructure is key, our focus is on our communities and using data to understand and anticipate their needs. It is also about helping our staff to gain a home/life balance through home/remote working and mobile technology. We also want to make it easy for our residents to navigate services and we are working with our stakeholders such as Staffordshire and Keele universities, Staffordshire police and fire services, NHS and the Local Enterprise Partnership to develop a Smart Staffordshire approach.


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