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London’s tech - the rise of the smart borough
London is one of the most digitally advanced cities in the world and a hotbed for investment into the tech sector. But whilst the private sector booms, what about London’s public services? Sean Price explores
London is a hub of tech innovation – in fact, 2017 was a record year for UK tech investment. Findings from London and Partners found that the capital’s tech firms raised a staggering £2.45 billion and accounted for almost 80 per cent of all UK venture capital tech spending in 2017.
But it’s not just about the booming private tech sector - London itself is increasingly being run in a smarter, more connected and digitally-savvy way to better serve its citizens. Despite budget cuts and constant pressure to do more with less, more boroughs across the city are realising the potential of harnessing technology to improve both resident and visitor experience. More data-driven decision making can help councils across the city drive efficiencies and create significant improvements for service experiences for end users.
For example, Camden Council has demonstrated the value of executing more plans centred around data. By doing so, the organisation has been able to transform public services with data-driven intelligence across all operations, so that the lives of its 240,000 residents can be improved. Camden Council has a bold vision, which it hopes to achieve by 2025 – to make the borough a place where everyone has a chance to success, where nobody gets left behind, and where everybody has a voice. Data sits at the core of this vision and is going a long way to help the organisation fulfil it.
Executing a data-driven strategy
It’s not just about cost savings, it’s also about improving services: Despite more efficient working leading to financial benefits, the primary aim is constructing a strategy around data which can have a direct impact on the wellbeing of citizens. For example, it can help improve experiences in areas such as parking and housing management, adult social care, benefit provision and council tax administration, which has a positive impact on everyday services. By slicing and comparing datasets across service areas, emerging patterns and problems can be identified and addressed quickly. For instance, Camden Council is using dashboards within housing repairs services to manage operational processes better.
A data-centric strategy can instil significant cultural changes: Data visibility and intelligence sharing is transforming local government organisations, from the traditional model comprising of a cluster of siloed departments to full integration across all areas of service provision. The improvements are significant, allowing staff to focus on meeting the needs of citizens and providing them with solutions, rather than struggling to catch and process customer queries. As a result, Camden Council has seen a 45 percent saving in working hours in some areas (using open data sets to answer freedom of information requests for example).
Data can be a powerful weapon for staff empowerment: Data virtualisation in real time through bespoke apps offers finance managers, staff and even the public an unprecedented overview of how council services are being received and budgets spent. For instance, visualising information can show a summary of adult social care provision in the borough, including features such as the numbers of clients and the uptake on types of support, as well as budget allocation and spending. It is this level of visibility that drives business decision making, all the while emphasising the needs of the service user.
Towards a national approach
Although this demonstrates what can be done, it is vital that boroughs with the right expertise work with others across London to dramatically enhance services. By working through an Open Data Platform, local government organisations can share data and insights and co-operate on service provision. Furthermore, by collaborating with initiatives such as the Smart London Board and the London Office of Technology and Innovation, local councils are also benefitting from data sharing and co-operation with SME circles, coders and researchers to develop applications and services, including bespoke planning alerts.
Once a data-driven strategy has been implemented, local government should take a ‘building blocks’ approach to generating and applying even better-quality data. Ultimately, successful data integration should mean that councils no longer differentiate between digital and operational strategies. Organisations such as Camden Council are leading the way in this respect; they are one of ten local authorities that are developing a shared vision of exemplary digital processes, providing a template for other councils around the country.
London is one of the most digitally advanced cities in the world and a hotbed for investment into the tech sector. But, more must be done to shout about how the city itself is increasingly being run with smarter, more efficient and more logical data-driven services. If all boroughs and councils across the city can achieve this, this will ultimately improve the lives of all citizens and visitors to the capital.
Sean Price is EMEA Industry Solutions Director – Public Sector, Qlik