This article originally appeared on the HP Business Value Exchange.
We all know that technology now plays an indispensable part in our lives, at work and at leisure … and increasingly in our relationship with the State, the Public Sector, where governments around the world are making more use of the flexibility and value for money that IT can deliver.
In the UK at least, one aspect of Public Sector IT take-up is perhaps less well advanced than in central government: in local councils and authorities.
Recent research by Capita suggests that 80% of councils in the UK have some sort of digital plan in place, including social media development and/or improving their websites. At the same time Zurich has predicted that 2014 will be the year of the “virtual authority,” with councils using Twitter and other online tools to talk to their residents and deliver more services through the web.
Generally though, with some notable exceptions, the take up of what HP calls the New Style of IT – for instance involving the management of big data and the delivery of information securely through the cloud – is patchy to say the least.
But, in a development that somewhat bucks this trend, my own business, HP Enterprise Services, has recently announced a unique deal with Norfolk County Council (NCC) that is the most far-reaching IT project so far with a local authority.
Working with NCC and our technology partners Microsoft and Vodafone, HP will create a cloud-based information hub to transform the delivery of integrated public services in Norfolk. The projects will provide a new style of public service that enables multiple agencies to participate in the joint delivery of services. The hub will unify public services in Norfolk, so frontline staff will be able to see data held by the council and its partner agencies in one place so it can be used to target help to those in need.
The technology partners will focus on education, skills and jobs in Norfolk. The information hub will be developed by graduates from the University of East Anglia, along with NCC and HP staff and will include internships and placements.
The initiative is predicted to help the council save £10m from its IT budget over the next five years and make a major contribution to the council’s overall challenge of meeting a £189m shortfall in the next three years. The partnership will encourage investment to the county by supporting schools and universities, small- and medium-sized local businesses and the council.
I think this project provides a template for the future, with its innovative relationship between client, IT providers, users and citizens in a truly exciting, creative and innovative technology ecosystem. It is a pattern that could be replicated in other local authorities, making their data useful and helpful for councils’ citizens and the staff who serve them, while stimulating inward investment, education and saving rate-payers’ money.
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