Interviews

16.02.16

Local government as a platform: The power to transform

Source: PSE Feb/Mar 16

Leigh Whitehouse, joint chief executive at Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, explains how Government as a Platform can be the catalyst for changing the delivery of local public services for the better.

The advent of austerity, more complex organisational delivery arrangements and the disruptive influence of rapid technological change have all contributed to a different sort of strategic environment for local government: one where quick responses to changing circumstances, the rapid transfer of resources from one activity to another, and the ability to experiment and innovate, are likely to determine success. 

Radical transformation is a necessity and the obvious place to look for inspiration in relation to these challenges is the technology sector, where small, innovative organisations regularly steal a march on large established ones, despite inferior capacity and resources. 

At central government level, the Government Digital Service has achieved some notable advances with Government as a Platform – a digital platform that acts as a base for providing public services – and is currently focusing on standardised government-wide platforms for payments or booking appointments. However, while a cheap and reusable standardised IT platform for this type of function available across local government could cut costs, it can also be seen as the antithesis of what is good about local government. 

Government as a Platform will only succeed if it is seen as being about more than technology, but it is in danger of being reduced to something that is only understood by those who know their APIs from their Open Standards. Even more importantly, the notion that standardised IT systems represent the full potential of the concept as Government as a Platform could undermine one of the most intriguing ideas about how technology can change the delivery of government functions and public services for the better. 

Collaborative services 

In the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, as in many others, instead of public services being binary transactions between councils and their residents, where the resident has the need and the council provides the solution, we believe that by working together we can deliver better for less. 

The council will not always provide a direct solution to challenges within the locality, but instead will look to marshal all the available resources – public sector, voluntary sector, business, community and individual – and create an environment in which a collective response can flourish. Government as a Platform can be the catalyst and the launch pad for this. 

In the technology sector, many of the  well-known businesses that are growing exponentially are ‘platform businesses’ that are using the power of technology to connect consumers and providers on their ‘platform’. Think Ebay, Amazon, Airbnb or Uber. All part of the ‘sharing economy’, they harness the collective power of the system by providing a way for it to connect. In the case of Uber, for example, they don’t seek to meet the demand for taxis by providing a fleet of taxis; they do so by providing a platform so that those who already have the necessary resources are put in touch with those who need them. 

Platform as a foundation 

A platform provides a foundation on which others can build. It doesn’t have to be a technological solution. The parallels with a local authority looking to promote strong and mutually supportive communities within its local area are clear. Instead of looking to provide direct point-to-point solutions, authorities can seek to manage and regulate the market so that demand can be met within the system. 

Crucially, in the same way that Airbnb enables individuals with a spare room to compete with global hotel chains, Local Government as a Platform must bring together established care providers with socially aware citizens who want to play their part in helping fellow community members. Now that really could be transformational.

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

Comments

Den   25/04/2016 at 12:03

So given the above, can an explanation be provided on why Kingston has recently appointed idox , one of the most traditional silo and non platform applications to be it's it's provider of Built Environment function? Talk about believing what one preaches...

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Sales of social housing increase 10% on last year as Right to Buy takes hold

24/11/2017Sales of social housing increase 10% on last year as Right to Buy takes hold

The government has released figures showing that 13,400 social housing properties were sold last year under Right to Buy, an increase of 10% on 2... more >
Authorities given powers to recoup 80% of temporary accommodation spending in £70m UC reform

24/11/2017Authorities given powers to recoup 80% of temporary accommodation spending in £70m UC reform

Councils will be able to claim back over 80% of the money they spend on temporary accommodation after the government announced new reforms to the... more >
Living standards set to fall for longest period yet , think tank says

24/11/2017Living standards set to fall for longest period yet , think tank says

Britain is heading for the longest period of falling living standards since records began, the Resolution Foundation has warned this week. In it... more >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

City-centric, deeply disappointing and a nightmare – criticisms pile against the Budget

22/11/2017City-centric, deeply disappointing and a nightmare – criticisms pile against the Budget

It’s been a busy day in the PSE office. Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget included a number of interesting announcements, ranging from new devolution deals and housing measures to changes to business rates. This year’s Statement was described well by Lord Bob Kerslake, who said it had been a “mixed bag” for hous... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Driving forward a healthier Scotland

10/11/2017Driving forward a healthier Scotland

Dundee City Council is leading the way in boosting electric vehicle (EV) uptake in Scotland, writes Rebecca Wallace from the local authority&rsqu... more >
A smarter approach to digital transformation

10/11/2017A smarter approach to digital transformation

Catherine Bright, Smarter Digital Services (SDS) manager, explains how a partnership of 12 councils across Kent and Surrey are jointly funding a ... more >
Delivering on estates

10/11/2017Delivering on estates

Sam Ulyatt, strategic category commercial director at the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), on how a new framework can help public sector organisat... more >
Open for business

10/11/2017Open for business

Clare Moore, senior specialist of valuation and disposals at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), explains how public sector bodies looking to... more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

public sector focus

Visual.ONS: How to compete with the big data aggregators

13/11/2017Visual.ONS: How to compete with the big data aggregators

Advertisement feature Christopher Gallag... more >
Social value: A fresh way of approaching investment

10/11/2017Social value: A fresh way of approaching investment

In an age of austerity, council leaders are a... more >