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Getting the kids involved ...
Getting the kids involved

On A run-down estate vandalism is rife and street crime is on the increase. The local youth feel they are not involved in their community and the whole area is in need of regeneration.

The council wants to discover what the needs of the community are and how they would like their environment to change. Existing consultation methods have only reached so far and do not attract the interest of young people - a key group who need to be consulted, especially as they are often blamed for the estate's problems. Youth and community workers state that young people find traditional consultation methods 'boring' and they 'take too long' to show results.

Ourtown uses 3D modelling and virtual reality techniques to empower young people to create their environment as a 3D model. Using these models they can make suggestions and build other models to show areas of improvement. These can be as simple as additional lighting in areas where street crime is rife or as complex as redeveloping derelict land. These models can be presented to decision makers enabling them to make improvements in their area to suit the local residents.

The idea is to use new methods of community consultation and participation, to engage young people so they become involved in consultation initiatives. The Ourtown project enables local government workers to consult young people directly in the community. Primarily those involved in the following local government areas can benefit:

n Economic development and regeneration

n Youth work

n Community consultation

n Community safety

n Planning and development.

In Lincolnshire, youth workers take laptops and digital cameras out on the streets to young people. A website discussion board where models can be placed means everyone can have a say.

Consultation initiatives using virtual reality modelling not only capture the interest of the community but also go some way to fulfilling the objectives of

e-government requirements.

Ourtown can be used to consult the wider public. For example, preliminary discussions are underway with Brighton & Hove Council, which has seen a way of using it to support the city's bid for European Capital of Culture 2008. The council recognises the value of utilising 3D modelling to consult the public on what kind of city they think, and would like, Brighton & Hove to be in 2008.

Harvey Atkinson

Local government liaison officer, NVisage

The virtual marketplace is setting a new standard

E-procurement - the creation of online market places for the billions of pounds worth of goods and services bought by public sector bodies each year - is a hot topic.

For councils, the Improvement & Development Agency is teaming up with MDA and Hays to develop a local government e-procurement gateway, the Marketplace. In a separate move

the Association of Colleges has teamed up with E-Government Solutions to create FEOnline for the further education sector.

The stakes are high: the figure bandied around is that e-procurement will reduce costs by 20% by: cutting out internal process costs; passing supplier savings on to the customer; increased competition; the 'commoditisation' of hitherto premium products; and by smaller players combining to increase their buying power.

Earlier this year the Future Government Forum, an online experiment backed by BT, examined the issue of e-procurement and found it can generate a variety of spin-off benefits such as increased transparency, less fraud, and by assisting the internal distribution of procurement expertise.

It was established 10 years ago that UK universities could save£1.6m in VAT each year if the expertise of the single VAT specialist in Aston University was available to all the clerical staff who made an order. They were paying VAT when something was zero rated, or not paying it when they should, leading to penalties from Customs & Excise.

Electronic systems could ensure everyone involved in procurement can access the relevant expertise.

Further into the future, the forum mooted the prospect of auctions to match individual needs and suppliers. Generally government agencies contract to supply a standard service. It is conceivable online auction sites could be developed, where beneficiaries of a service could register their own specific needs, and different suppliers (such as charities or voluntary organisations) could bid to include their needs in their government-funded service contract. Meals on wheels from your local deli perhaps?

Dan Jellineck

IT consultant

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