A Framework for the future of Digital Local Public Services

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently and actually decided to draw a picture of what I thought a Framework for Digital Local Government might look like…so this post is about that.

The reality is that you can’t really create one just for Local Government as we aren’t designed that way. We are about people and places underpinned with effective democratic governance so any framework needs to be designed in such a way that in encompasses those things and that means it needs to involve everyone.

I’ve been lucky enough to have many conversations with people who have helped/challenged/reflected on which have all helped me refine my thinking and about 4 weeks ago I met Martin Howitt for our usual lunchtime coffee and chat and it was this conversation which sparked a few ideas and helped create a synergy in my head around the stuff I was thinking about and then later that day I draw a picture on my ipad which you can see below (i make no apologies for the quality of drawing :) ).

Since then I shared the picture and explanation with colleagues on the LocalGov Digital Network Steering Group and I received positive feedback so I then decided to share it again and test it wider at last weeks Digital Summit in London and you can read the notes of the session on the public Khub group. On the whole a broad agreement, some people have even created very similar frameworks already which is reassuring but they are looking at it from a different perspective, but yet the underpinning framework is the same, there were some semantic language issues and some challenges about risk, financial landscape and actually making it happen…all great points but I don’t have any answers.  However in terms of risk, I didn’t want to see risk in the framework as it sits around it…your view on risk will influence your view on the framework itself.  The same issue goes for financial climate, if we target savings of 100 million we will only aim for 100 million and we may miss the opportunities which deliver a complete transformation and deliver 1 billion.

This post is about that picture and the explanation about it. The only thing that has actually changed about the picture since i first draw it is the title. I have started to add to it and extend certain bits but I’ve also started to draw more pictures which digs deeper into this picture…more on that in another post.

It is also worth sharing that since I’ve been using this framework I’ve actually discovered that it works just as well when you look internally…starting from the left these represent the key building blocks to ensure that your organisation and people can explore and discover new opportunities and create new services etc. Something that has been validated recently here in Devon with a report to our corporate leadership team around the barriers to digital innovation. The resulting actions have created a massive open door to make progress but we need to ensure that we see the wider picture and framework to help us move forward and not leave anyone behind.

So onto the picture and explanation…

A Digital Climate for Local Public Services – Open by Default, Digital by Design

The following drawing focuses on the underlying proposition that every citizen can and will meaningfully integrate the internet into their daily lives. This level of active and capable participation should allow for new opportunities to emerge which reduce and divert demand to alternative tools which are open by default and digital by design.

The environment will not simply develop, and the transformative opportunities will not unfold, unless people, businesses, service providers, government, community organisations and others fully understand and integrate digital into everything they do.
This requires pervasive digital awareness and education — a ubiquitous digital climate that animates and inspires creativity and transformation and enables growth and wellbeing.

We must acknowledge that a digital climate is different to a transformation programme. It is a shift in thinking in which people and institutions are routinely aware of and constantly incorporate digital technology and opportunity into whatever they do.

Here is a rough picture of how I see this, which I also tested out at the recent Digital Summit.

Digital Climate for Local Public Services Framework v2


Open by Default – Digital by Design

Open by default = Everything we do is open, our processes, our data, our decision-making etc

Digital by design = Digital by default is a channel decision and my personal opinion is that digital by design is a philosophy which we should adopt to ensure that others can build on our open platforms and processes. 

Capabilities

  1. Connectivity:  Access that is high-speed, reliable, affordable and available everywhere (wired, wireless, digital).
  2. Education: Provide access to training and technical support for users to become comfort-able and proficient. Enable a mind shift in citizens that value learning, connecting and communicating through technology, and that recognise the business and other opportunities of expanding Internet participation.
  3. Hardware : every citizen requires the capacity to connect to the Internet and tap into the full range of its resources and content.
  4. Software: that meets the needs of individuals, families, businesses and communities.
  5. Participation:  Access to and participation with local data and intelligence to help shape decisions in communities.

What I want to do with this section is to start to map what activities are happening in each of these areas (internally and externally) to help me understand where we can add value or realign things to increase value. It should also allow opportunities for us to rethink decisions we’ve made in the past which are no longer future proof.

One example here is how are we in the public sector looking to support a greater level of connectivity within communities over and above the broadband roll out…It feels to me that our public sector networks in local government, health and education are providing robust and significantly higher levels of connectivity into communities which we perhaps could unlock. You can have an example where a primary school in a rural area is served by a 10-20mb connection but the community around it is on dial-up or has no connectivity. I know there are challenges with this but we have to and must think differently about our assets.

Leadership/Decision Making
We require strong visible leadership to enable transformation and strong decisions that ensure that we all contribute to creating a climate for growth and wellbeing. The leadership can also come from anywhere not just local public service providers
Capacity Building / Networks and Networks of Networks
Stimulating local action and identifying and connecting with networks and networks of networks to generate and create new opportunities and markets.
These connections can and will come from anywhere, this is not solely down to the council or local authority – this is about people and places.

Principles

  • People and communities are unique
    • Design “with” not “for” people and communities
    • Design for Inclusion and accessibility
    • Enable independence
    • Foster health and wellbeing
  • Positive relationships and networks
    • Respect diversity of opinions
    • Connect people and connect networks
    • Co-operate and collaborate
    • Open by default
  • Enabling communities and environments
    • Evidence based research and decision-making
    • Support everyone to achieve
    • Think Local and Global
    • Digital infrastructure for smart communities/cities
  • Learning and development
    • Learn, discover and explore though experience
    • Create space for reflective practice
    • Foster creative and divergent thinking
    • Enable sustained learning

I’ve blogged previously on principles here, here and here and it is something that lead me to the wider framework. Within this section we also need to think about the various ways in which people can discover and explore things…This is where the climate comes into itself. We in Local Government have to accept that we will not be solving the problems we have created alone…this climate and environment is about creating new relationships, new networks, new business models, new value.

One of the biggest hurdles we must get over is we need to stop thinking we have to solve this by ourselves. We don’t and shouldn’t think like that…creating a digital climate allows others to be part of that discovery and exploration and we should focus on creating that above all else.

Value
Everything has a unique value, we should understand this value and look to grow or transform its value.

Basic Example:

A Public right of way (PROW) = value
Local Community Centre = value
Public Transport network = value

We can increase and transform the value of each by connecting them redefining the value and by doing so contributing to a climate of growth and wellbeing.

Outcomes (a possible future state scenario)

Outcomes will always be up for debate and some will argue that these are not good enough and that doesn’t matter…What does matter is that we agree what outcomes our communities want and allow them to achieve them. The outcome of the framework is to create a climate for growth and well-being underpinned through:

  • A digital climate that inspires transformation and creativity
  • Everyone having universal access to meaningful participation and democratic processes
  • Everyone having opportunity to seize new markets and generate new opportunities
  • Everything is inclusive and accessible

So where do I see this going…The LocalGovDigital Network will be using this framework to help guide our work programme in the coming year, I personally will be using this to guide my work in Devon and I’ll be working with others on developing this further so it is used and helps drive change.

I personally believe that people are either contributing to the delivery of this framework or they are not and if not why not?

More will follow in the coming weeks…

12 thoughts on “A Framework for the future of Digital Local Public Services

  1. Diane Demeger

    This is really good stuff but you’ve packed a heck of a lot into it and my brain is spinning off to all sorts of odd places.

    Firstly who’d’ve thought that the fax machine would be a key component in undermining the Soviet Union in the 1980s and yet that’s the view of Gorbachev. I know they were smuggled in by dissidents so that the government didn’t have control over information. And then there’s the Arab Spring… There must be reason why your blog has made this connection in my brain but I’m not sure what it is.

    There’s no doubt that technology will change the people-government relationship so a framework is definitely the right approach. It will also change unpredictably, and people-power in Western democracy is as much a threat as it was to Gorbechev, so does the framework needs some political involvement within local government? Whether that is having chats with Members or asking them to comment on it or whatever… as long as they have a starting point to grasp the potential political implications before they are forced to knee jerk when something happens.

    If the future of local government is to enable things to happen rather than do it then “Open by default, digital by design” is our motto. It encapsulates the intentions and future of local government not just for the web.

    Got other thoughts rumbling but will try and make sense of them before I post them

  2. Hi Carl,

    As ever a really thought provoking post and I can see how this is building from previous thinking – I can’t really argue with any of it! Love the stuff on principles – will feed very well into more agile project management approaches as well.

    There are a few extra things I would throw into the mix – as ever include/discard at will:

    1) I think you need to include an outcome that describes more resilient and self-reliant communities – and this is paired with a prescribed shift to a citizen rather customer relationship with the public. I can unpack this if you want but I think it follows on from other stuff we have talked about
    2) I think we have to ensure that our decision making processes are amended to fit with this model – I think to do this you need to add two things: an open agenda setting process and active listening to external data
    3) This leads to the third aspect which is an acknowledgement of the relationship between this eco-system and the wider social web – I think government needs to either accept that it is currently largely reactive to wider trends online or start to lead the way with some more magical thinking about vital but hugely complex issues like identity management. You are spot on with your reference to the need to accentuate collaboration but this is more than that I think

    This might all feel a bit bigger in scope that the original but I think without an awareness of these external factors there is a risk that you lead people to think in isolation. This is a great picture but also needs to acknowledge the big picture!

    Would love to have a proper chat about this at some point – will stalk you to Devon if needed!

    C

    • Thanks Catherine, I need to reflect on your comments.

      My initial reaction is that I’m pleased this is almost at the point it can bring things together to help make sense of stuff.

      Would certainly value a conversation with you

  3. Suzy Rook

    Excellent model. Even made sense to a Luddite like me! Also, like Catherine’s comment about the outcome based on the shift from a customer to a citizen relationship. All makes perfect sense.

    You are a complete star. Really helped me with a work problem.

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