Achieving the holy grail of ‘always on’ citizen services

Written by Colin Marrs on 13 November 2014 in Opinion

Steve Shakespeare says cloud services offer councils the chance to deliver efficient, accessible, always-on services.

How we access public services is no different to how we buy cinema tickets, view our bank statements or do our weekly food shop.

Whether we want to sort a claim, check a local service, log a request, have a complaint dealt with or access new information, it is now accepted that this type of information can be accessed online from any device and at any time.

Digitally savvy and demanding citizens now expect technology to just work and the public sector organisations they engage with to have modern communication channels easily available to them.

But we also can’t forget that there are still many people who prefer to discuss a problem or request in person, either on the telephone or face-to-face.

As local government spending belts continue to tighten, streamlining and integrating services is vital to overcoming the hurdles ahead.

The provision of ‘always on’ citizen services could become a reality through the cloud, helping to deliver both improved services and reduced costs.

Cloud research firm IDC predicts that global investment in cloud services will increase by 25 per cent.

It’s clear that the benefits around cost savings, resilience and access afforded by the cloud are encouraging investment across private and public sectors.

However, total spend through the G-Cloud framework rose by the end of March 2014 to £155 million, and only 6% of the total spend came from local government.

The question being asked is whether local authorities are missing a trick when it comes to procuring and delivering citizen centric services via the cloud - particularly in terms of cost savings and integrated services?

There is increasing recognition that improvement in public services is dependent on IT-enhanced ways of working, that support agile and mobile working, lower cost self-service and more immediate access.

For many, the challenge is in where to start.

But, the reality is that there are many success stories which have paved the way for other local authorities to invest in digital and cloud services.

Consider Luton Borough Council.

Through outsourcing IT services, the council has been able to deliver an agile working environment for its employees and made improvements to citizen services.

Offering more flexibility to the workforce means that the council can deliver services in the most appropriate manner from the most appropriate location.

To support this transformation programme, the council moved a disparate set of applications, data and infrastructure into a virtualised environment through a managed private cloud.

This marked a significant step forward for the council’s agility, through a reduction in costs and improved working practices.

The challenge for local authorities to manage ongoing budget constraints whilst meeting citizen demands is not going away anytime soon and local authorities have a responsibility to explore the opportunities enabled by the cloud to deliver efficient, accessible, always-on services.

The success stories to date show that real change and long-term benefits can be achieved with the right planning and with the right partners on board able to support that transformation.

I’d urge all local authorities to consider the cloud as a valid enabler to deliver their transformational agenda.

The cloud could just be the answer to help local authorities deliver many of their objectives.

Steve Shakespeare is managing director at supplier Civica Services

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