As we shared in our recent article on smart city initiatives, a changing social and economic landscape is forcing local government organisations to rethink how they deliver services and interact with citizens. As the capabilities of technology and our willingness as a society to adopt it increase, organisations should think about how and when this technology fits into their services, can help them streamline, reduce costs, improve security and how ultimately it can help them improve their services.
Here are 3 areas of innovation in local government public service delivery.
We all know the administrative tangle you can get stuck in when trying to prove your identity. When it comes to interacting with local authorities, citizens need to continually prove who they are in order to access services. This can often mean working across disparate systems and having to provide identification to more than one organisation multiple times. With paper-based documents and ID cards, this can prove to be incredibly time-consuming and represent not insignificant cost for both the individual and the organisation.
The UK government has already begun launching a system for verifying your identity – GOV.UK Verify. The use of blockchain technology also has the potential to give users more direct control around who or which organisations they share their identity with – which if employed would increase security and ensure privacy around identity and help to reduce fraud.
If implemented and managed correctly, digital identity could streamline an individual’s engagement with both government services and from a wider perspective with healthcare, education and the private sector.
Bots and AI
A prominent and consistent challenge for local authorities is managing demand for their services. While many constituents may have very little contact with their local authority – limited perhaps to paying their council tax and checking when bins are being collected – others rely on continuous contact and assistance from their local authority. Managing the demand effectively is about identifying how contact with those “lighter touch” citizens can be streamlined.
While many local authorities have brought in the use of self-service forms, web chat and other initiatives to try and streamline services, the real opportunity is in utilising AI and chatbot technology to make these kind of everyday queries completely automated, freeing up staff to spend more time on those more complex cases and those who need more support.
There is obviously more work to be done here to understand the opportunity for bots and AI and how they fit into the distinct services offered by local authorities. In a Local Digital project involving 13 councils, an initial market analysis found that there was more opportunity in certain service areas than in others. For example, it was found that in Waste and Recycling, all calls could be categorised into 7 areas, and within those, 80% were in 3 of the categories. Conversely, in Highways, there were 30 distinct reasons for calling.
Internet of Things
Local authorities exist to support their communities – and this consists not just of people, but of things too – everything from buildings to traffic lights. Managing all of these assets and ensuring services and facilities are up to standard is as time-consuming as dealing with increased demand and customer enquiries.
Using a network of Internet of Things (IOT) smart devices, sensors and controls, local authorities can reduce costs, improve response times to issues (or even preempt potential issues), and pass these benefits on to citizens. This could be an alert which gets sent to the relevant organisation as soon as a traffic light bulb blows, reducing the chance of congestion or potential safety issues caused by a non-working light.
The use of IoT sensors could also help with things like monitoring water levels, helping councils to act if they identify a reduced risk of flooding and take proactive action, reducing the impact on citizens, their homes, and local assets.
With the right technology and the infrastructure to support it, the opportunities for cost-saving and improvements to services that IoT devices represent are almost infinite.
Opportunities for innovation may seem like they involve bringing in technology that reduces contact with people in local communities – but in fact, it’s about meeting increased demand with smart solutions and freeing up staff to spend more time on complex queries and issues for the most vulnerable in the community. Reducing the costs associated with dealing with queries, managing assets and administrative work can be passed directly into improving services by freeing up budget to spend on more and better ways to support the community.
DigiPitch is an opportunity for suppliers and senior leaders in the public sector to simplify the engagement process, collaborate and innovate to find solutions to the new normal. Find out more.