Comment

04.01.17

Unlocking smart capabilities for local authorities

Source: PSE Dec/Jan 17

Matthew Evans, executive director of techUK’s SmarterUK programme, discusses the need for the government to deliver a coherent digital strategy that demonstrates the importance of smart cities that local government and the technology industry can collaborate on to succeed.

Smart cities have the potential to create a better quality of life for citizens, and more inclusive and informed communities across the UK. Local government has a leading role to play in transforming cities and places for all citizens. With technology as an enabler, there is a huge opportunity for local government to redesign how to serve citizens’ rising demands. 

We are already seeing pockets of excellence across our cities – Essex, Milton Keynes, Manchester and Glasgow, to name just a few. However, now is the time to accelerate the pace of transformation. This can be achieved through a collaborative approach working with the technology industry to create more responsive and intelligent public services. 

The squeeze on cities  

In line with global trends, our cities are growing. London, for example, is growing by two tube trains every week. The population is also ageing; the median age of the UK population is over 40, up from 36 years in 1996. This places intense pressure on our services in cities. At the same time, local authorities have squeezed budgets and tough targets, such as reaching our domestic target to reduce emissions by 80% from 1990 levels. And cities also face their own unique challenges – air quality, a transient but demanding student population or inefficient housing stock. 

Why get smart? 

Digital technology can provide citizens with public services that are more responsive and intelligent. By implementing smart technology, services will become more joined-up and it will be easier to manage demand across public services and cities. For example, NHS figures have shown that using telehealth services for patients with heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes can reduce A&E attendances by 15% and emergency admissions by 20%. 

Also, automated vehicles, when combined with a smart city platform, have the potential to drastically reduce congestion. This will  improve air quality, lead to productivity increases and help ease congestion, which is set to cost the UK economy more than £300bn by 2030. 

The opportunities are endless if we get this right. Not only will it help regional economic growth, but if the UK can become the exemplar for smart cities, then there is a worldwide market as large as $408bn by 2020 waiting for us. 

Capability to drive transformation 

There is no denying that those local authorities who sit at the heart of the most successful smart cities projects have done so by going through a complex process. Local governments often have universal service obligations with intricate and multiple services to deliver. However, those that have made the investment have found the rewards to be worth it. For example, Exeter and Devon councils were feeling the strain of congested roads and unhappy commuters. Having reviewed the problem, the councils worked closely with technology partners in the development of an Engaged Smart Technology project where real-time data from sensors, eyewitnesses and behavioural information generates accurate congestion updates and immediately act to solve the problems.

In order for any smart city strategy to be a success it must have the capability and buy-in to drive the transformation. Those global cities that are most successful have buy-in from the top and are often accompanied by a chief digital officer. There must be focus on leadership roles, skills for the whole team and capacity, driven by government, to support local government digital transformation. This could take the form of a central body to co-ordinate skills training and support capability-building for local government as a smart community is developed.   

In it together 

Knowledge and information sharing is critical as local governments go on this journey. There should be a unified approach to building smart cities where government and the technology industry work with local government to create the blueprints for digital transformation that others (at home and abroad) can learn from. 

The time is right for smart city investment. Technology can enable local authorities to transform and collaborate, and the technology industry and public sector must work together to deliver a shared ambition. The government also needs to espouse a coherent digital strategy that demonstrates the importance of smart cities that local government and the technology industry can collaborate on to succeed. Working together, the UK will be able to improve quality of life for all citizens, and become a global exemplar for smart city development.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

W: www.techuk.org/focus/programmes/smarter-uk

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Councils divided as HS2 Bill is given Royal Assent

23/02/2017Councils divided as HS2 Bill is given Royal Assent

HS2 will be the “catalyst” in driving economic growth in the West Midlands as the eagerly anticipated high-speed rail link was given ... more >
Services failing children with complex needs as national data ‘not fit for purpose’

23/02/2017Services failing children with complex needs as national data ‘not fit for purpose’

Concern has been voiced by the National Children’s Bureau that government and local authority services for children with complex needs are ... more >
Bristol: the booming smart city

23/02/2017Bristol: the booming smart city

Barney Smith, CEO at Bristol Is Open, explains how the innovative project can help make cities more liveable and sustainable. Bristol is the... more >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

And justice for all

23/02/2017And justice for all

Nothing less than a ‘whole-place’ pooling of public service budgets and devolution of criminal justice system powers to local level can create the conditions for community transformation, argue former communities secretary Hazel Blears and Lord Patel, chairman of the Mental Health Act Commission. Reform of the Criminal Justice... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

interviews

McMahon: I worry that the public are not part of the devolution conversation

20/12/2016McMahon: I worry that the public are not part of the devolution conversation

Jim McMahon, Labour’s shadow minister for local government and devolution, talks to PSE’s David Stevenson about the need to radically... more >
Solace president mandate: Champion diversity and celebrate great public services

20/12/2016Solace president mandate: Champion diversity and celebrate great public services

Jo Miller, the recently-elected president of Solace, talks to PSE about the need for championing great public services and ensuring inclusion at ... more >
The secret to the success of one public estate

19/08/2016The secret to the success of one public estate

Central government has faced strong criticism of its many estate schemes in recent years, but one in particular seems to steer clear of the backl... more >
Joint ventures: Are we better together?

19/04/2016Joint ventures: Are we better together?

Vivien Holland, local government advisory director at Grant Thornton UK LLP, examines the potential of Joint Ventures for local authorities going... more >

last word

Some libraries are better than others

Some libraries are better than others

Helen Milner, chief executive of Good Things Foundation, formerly the Tinder Foundation, expands on the organisation’s recent claims that protecting libraries at all costs could be hol... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

21/02/2017Untapped potential

As PSE went to press, the government had just released its Industrial Strategy green paper, which has an ambitious aim to “improve living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country”.  Overall, the strategy was welcomed across the public sector. However, as you&rsqu... read more >

public sector focus

UK public sector sustainability priorities for 2017

16/02/2017UK public sector sustainability priorities for 2017

Richard Rugg, managing director of programmes... more >
Cloud phone systems redefine public sector costs

16/01/2017Cloud phone systems redefine public sector costs

James Passingham, chief technical officer at ... more >