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Digital tech can ‘transform services’ – Lewis

Councils must embrace digital technology to achieve savings, local government minister Brandon Lewis has urged.

A new report, Local Digital Today, commissioned by the DCLG in partnership with the LGA and the Society of Information Technology Management, showed that 40% of councils have not yet adopted new technology.

But the survey of local authorities found that 91% believe digital will help to provide services at lower cost and 84% feel that online and mobile apps can improve the quality of their interactions with the public.

Lewis said: “It is heartening that 6 in 10 councils are already reporting savings from their digital endeavours.

“However it is equally troubling that 40% of councils are yet to drive efficiencies from this opportunity and I would urge these councils to reach out, learn from the best, and accelerate their digital programmes.

“Few would dispute the willingness and ability of many of our citizens to engage with public services online. Fewer still would dispute the cost savings that can be made from the move to digital services and processes.

“While much progress has been made across frontline services it is essential that the sector now works together to share learning and best practice and rapidly transform the ways in which we join up and provide services. Excellent, efficient, joined up digital and assisted digital services that our citizens choose to use should be our universal goal.”

Chief Information Officer at Hampshire County Council and chairman of the Local CIO Council, Jos Creese, said: “There is still surprisingly little data and evidence about the power of ‘digital’ to modernise the public sector. We all know that ‘channel shift’ to web transactions saves money, but it’s not enough.

“Much more evidence exists in the private sector where digital leaders are shown to outperform their peers in every industry. Yet the public sector now depends on a shift to digital delivery wherever possible to drive out cost while protecting services.

“This survey is therefore very helpful in aligning technology opportunity with business benefits in the public sector - productivity, efficiency, improved customer service, new service design. It demonstrates why ‘local’ matters and that it’s all about technology use, not just innovative technology.”

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