UK local government is warming to the idea that technology has the capability to deliver the “transformation” it has failed to in the past.
This is according to new research by not-for-profit cloud services provider Eduserv published in its Putting IT At The Heart Of Local Government Strategy report.
The study claims that local authorities are currently working hard to change the way services are managed and deliver in a climate where budgets are unlike to improve.
As a result of this, many councils have turned towards technology and IT to help bridge the gap between funding and the needs of citizens.
According to the organisation’s research, 79% of senior decision makers say the focus of IT is on improving services in comparison with just 48% who says its focus is entirely on cutting costs.
However, 76% of participants said that a lack of investment in technology undermines the quality of current services and 77% say this makes it harder for them to do their jobs.
“Demand for services may be growing year on year, but it seems there is now real hope that IT can provide the solution that will enable councils to continue operating effectively, even with static or declining budgets,” claimed Andrew Hawkins, business development director at Eduserv.
“Unfortunately our research also suggests that hope is being tempered by a real fear that IT won’t be backed by the investment or skills needed to deliver the changes required,” he added.
The report claims that in order to tackle this problem, CIOs need to change perceptions and support new technology with rigorous business change programmes.
“The real problem is that councils aren’t doing enough to reconfigure their whole mode of operation around a digital model, often choosing to apply ‘more or better’ IT to out of date and inefficient working practices,” claimed Hampshire County Council interim digital lead Jos Creese.
“Much of this is because of the fear of the unknown and limited capacity to manage business change programmes.
“Whilst this will be more upfront investment in business change as well as technology, the potential benefits in terms of both cost-savings and improvements to service deliver are just too great to ignore,” he added.
Eduserv, in partnership with the Local Government Chronicle, surveyed 108 council IT and business leaders, alongside in-depth interviews with three local authorities.
Socitm, the representative body for people working in public sector IT, also provided some additional input with the intention of providing practical steps authorities can use to make more effective use of IT.