The capabilities for digital local public services – hardware and software

Continuing the development of my thinking around the Framework for Digital Local Public Services and following quickly on from my previous posts on Connectivity and Education. This post focuses on Hardware and Software and some of the opportunities to think differently around this area.

The framework outlines the following:

Hardware : every citizen requires the capacity to connect to the Internet and tap into the full range of its resources and content.

Software: that meets the needs of individuals, families, businesses and communities.

Taking all the capabilities together can be seen a like looking at a whole system and we are essentially trying to change the whole system.

Nesta recently published a Systems Innovations discussion paper and I highly recommend it.

The description states:

Over the past few years there has been growing interest in systemic innovation. We are defining this as an interconnected set of innovations, where each influences the other, with innovation both in the parts of the system and in the ways in which they interconnect.

Yet rather than simply theorising, we want to make this practical. We want to explore the potential of systemic innovation to help tackle some of the key challenges the UK currently faces, from supporting an ageing population to tackling unemployment.

I’ve found this discussion paper helpful in defining some of the challenges these framework wishes to address also.

On page 39 of the discussion paper it states:

System innovation involves a powerful combination of new:

  • Products, services and technologies (tablet computers, containers, stamps, digital projectors);
  • infrastructures that make these innovations widely available;
  • alliances of partners who provide complementary services, software and assets;
  • consumer norms and behaviour, which often emerge peer–to–peer, through a process of social learning, copying and emulation.

these basic common ingredients of systems innovation, however, can be combined in many
different ways.

The first two points are really what the hardware and software components are looking to foster and address, whilst the rest are also picked up by other areas of the framework.


Like connectivity if we focus on public sector organisations, we currently all provide staff with a range of computers and those inevitably need recycling or replacing and we need to start questioning where those are going – this would be PC’s laptops; smartphones etc.

We should think about how we can capture the needs within communities around access to appropriate hardware and we should prioritise the needs of our own communities first and connect the devices and equipment with them.

As a new system of local public services emerges communities and individuals will need adequate hardware to access and connect to that system in order to be able to engage with it.

This pretty much leads into the next area of software…


The software that underpins any new system of local public services has to be open and available for communities and individuals to create new services and opportunities to access and deliver local services. This links very much with having access to open and linked data, but critically means that we need to be able to ensure that people have the ability to connect to the system of local public services.

If we see public services as a system, we can’t simply do more within the current system as that won’t work – we need to change the purpose of the overarching system of public services and do things differently.To re-purpose and re-frame local public services we have to open it up in order to allow it to change.

It can be seen like the android or apple ecosystems – Apple and Google provide a system for which stuff can be created, developed and delivered and it only requires people to resolve the connectivity and education aspects in order to actively participate with those ecosystems in order to gain the wider benefits and value that being part of them brings.

We all need to start questioning how these things can start to be realised and not wait for other people to make them happen as i don’t believe that will be the case. What we need to do more of and quicker is open up the system to be challenged and disrupted as well as allowing people to take ownership of parts of the new system of public services.


Proving concepts with Open and Linked Data (and wordpress)

I love finding excellent examples of stuff, more so when you find them in your own council and especially when they actually prove some concepts to other people.

So I was very excited to hear and actually see what a colleague here at the council Mark Painter has been doing with WordPress and linked data.

Mark has been doing lots of work on understanding open and linked data and recently put together a proof of concept site for area profiles, which brings together mosaic data (as an xml file), neighbourhood statistics and IMD data from CLG support by swirll.

I love this proof of concept because we need to do more of this here in Devon and it also supports and proves the concept around my content strategy…one other reason I love this is because this was all done through good old WordPress 🙂

I must reiterate this is a proof of concept and may break at any time as mark continues to explore how to make this better…he has already started to look at how he incorporates the Crime Data into this as well…


Linked Data & Business Intelligence – Is this a two sided coin?

I haven’t blogged much lately and there is good reason for that, firstly I’ve recently gone through a restructure and redundancy process, I still work for the council but have moved somewhere else as part of the redeployment process (more on this in a separate post).

However one of the things that remains the same is that I’m still lucky to get involved in very interesting projects and this creates many problems for me. 1) I try to create links between projects when none clearly exist, but when they do they make a lot of sense, 2) my mind is never really quiet for long periods to allow me to find inner peace and 3) there is so much to get involved in that I have to ensure that I stay focused on the now, whilst keeping an eye or two on the future.

I’m fortunate to be involved in some Linked Data work that going here, mainly thinking and planning first steps but it is really fascinating and I can see why Linked Data fans champion the need to do more – I really do see the value, but we need to actually provide it through real world application before some senior folk will really support it.

For those who don’t know what Linked Data is:

Linked Data describes a method of publishing structured data, so that it can be interlinked and become more useful. It builds upon standard Web technologies, such as HTTP and URIs – but rather than using them to serve web pages for human readers, it extends them to share information in a way that can be read automatically by computers. This enables data from different sources to be connected and queried
Via Wikipedia

We had a session today to learn more about Linked Data and the practical first steps we can take in order to start proving value not just internally but across some partnerships.

One of the others areas that I’ve been involved in but not so much on a practical level is looking at the Business Intelligence capability across the council.

For those who don’t know what business intelligence is:

Business intelligence technologies provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations. Common functions of business intelligence technologies are reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, process mining, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining and predictive analytics……..Often Business Intelligence applications use data gathered from a data warehouse. However, not all data warehouses are used for business intelligence, nor do all business intelligence applications require a data warehouse
via Wikipedia 


Now one of the interesting aspects for me is that there are similarities in these two areas which I think I need to explore further as I learn more about each over the coming months etc.

On face value they seem to be two sides of the same coin – Linked Data looking primarily externally to create meaning and context, whilst business intelligence looks across internal systems and applications to create meaning and context.

I would think it is fair to say that we are in the very early stages of each of these projects and it will take time for us to get to grips with how we want to see both develop.

But I can’t help but think that we need to bring these two agendas together somehow without compromising each project – perhaps through shared learning, data modelling, data cleansing and approaches to master data management.

I could be wrong and I maybe over complicating two very complicated areas already….but surely the outputs of the internal business intelligence tools should form the basis of our published linked data for others to consume.

I guess time will tell 🙂