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In times of adversity, look to innovate

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ICT departments in local government want to, and can, enable transformational change, but some councils are not listening to or utilising the full scope of technology. That is according to research carried out by the O2 Local Government Futures Forum.

Last year, the forum asked more than 150 senior local government leaders and professionals their views on ICT and how they wanted services to develop. The responses were eye-opening.

Some councils said that although they wanted to provide an excellent customer service, they saw themselves as being reactive rather than proactive. Others said they wanted to be at the heart of the transformational agenda, but stated they were viewed internally as just being there to ‘keep the lights on’.

Some said they had hugely ambitious technology plans but were frustrated by a lack of board and political support.

One chief information officer told me that he wanted his team to be viewed as a trusted adviser, but most queries his team dealt with were about office printers that were broken.

And this is at the heart of the issue. In times of limited resources and higher expectations, ICT teams need to demonstrate their strategic intent as well as do the day-to-day tasks such as fixing printers.

Local government spends about £3.2bn a year on ICT, according to public sector market intelligence expert Kable. With budgets getting tighter in a difficult financial climate, such investment needs to be maximised more than ever before.

There have been high-profile ICT failures in the past and no doubt these will always occur.

But a balance needs to be struck between a successful ICT transformation programme and fulfilling the local political agenda.

The O2 Local Government Futures Forum report, drawn up by Kable following the research, concluded that an ambitious council ICT service should have five key priorities to: become a ‘centre of excellence’, deliver better business outcomes, increase its influence, develop innovative technology and become central to the council’s transformation.

Change in local government comes from within. A senior minister spoke recently about local government being born in adversity and becoming the innovator. Now is time for the people of local government to embrace that adversity and innovate once again.

Councils are at best risk-averse and at worst resistant to change, but ICT departments are ready to rise to the challenge. Are councils ready to accept the offer?

Neil Prior, head of Local Government Futures Forum, O2
Twitter: @NeilPrior_O2UK

  • The Local Government Futures Forum is run by O2’s dedicated local government team.


How it works

  • Launch event held in Stratford-on-Avon, 25 April
  • Open for entries, 25 April
  • Entry deadline, 20 June 2012
  • Finalists pitch to judges, July 2012
  • Winners announced
  • LGC follows progress as projects get under way

Any UK council is eligible to take part

Get involved

The launch event on 25 April will be an opportunity to find out more and to gather inspiration from shared examples of what technology can offer.

Register your interest at:

If you are not able to make the event, you will still be able to enter.

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