IT Norwich Ltd and the Local Digital Declaration
In July of 2018 the UK Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published a ‘Local Digital Declaration’ which covers four key aims as follows:
- To design services that best meet the needs of citizens
- To challenge the technology market to offer the flexible tools and services we need
- To protect citizens’ privacy and security
- To deliver better value for money
The full text of the declaration can be seen at https://www.localdigital.gov.uk/declaration/ and you are encouraged to read it and then come back here. This article seeks to unpick some of these broad aims and explain how IT Norwich Ltd sits as a suitable service provider for local government.
Collaboration is in our nature.
In a world where competition seems to be the driving force behind the economy it is both ironic and refreshing that the government are hoping to encourage a collaborative approach to the digital future of government.
Humans thrive when they collaborate, and when they compete there are always winners and losers.
Collaboration is second nature and forms part of our ethos. While our business is a commercial organisation ‘competing in the market’ it is our stated aim to act in a collaborative way. It’s the foundation of our business and the platform for our growth. Our own Purpose and Values statement covers a lot of ground – but it is worth highlighting two points here:
- First, one of our social values is “Collaborating with stakeholders – to ensure we can work together in a mutually beneficial way. This includes staff, customers, business owners and suppliers.”
- Second, another social value is “Having a sustainable business model – so we can run at a profit, but in a way that supports stakeholders, and in the longer term, allows us to move to a co-operative model.”
You can see that our own Purpose and Values fits the needs of the Digital Declaration; if you want the evidence that we already collaborate in a socially beneficial way, check out our Community Technology Programme.
The declaration calls for ‘local sovereignty’ and we take this to mean that local councils have control of their own data and technology. We fully support this approach although there are some considerations as follows:
- Local sovereignty starts with knowing who hosts your data and where it is stored.
- Local sovereignty requires that you know who is accessing your data and it is accessed safely and securely.
- Local sovereignty requires that your technology is owned by local council and managed properly.
These are grand aims and ones we support, but like small businesses, small councils will not have the skills or technical knowledge to do all of this in house. We have already alluded to this elsewhere ( see Is Your Local Council Being Grown Up About UK GDPR? ) but suffice to say that a small parish that has a handful of councillors that meet once every month or two may not have an officer that can undertake the management of an IT platform. Such councils might need to collaborate with an IT provider such as IT Norwich Ltd who will enable local councils to maintain local sovereignty in a managed way.
The declaration seeks to “be an enabler rather than a barrier to service improvements” and has five principles to support this ambition. They key elements are here in an abbreviated format
- “redesign our services around the needs of the people using them”
- “break our dependence on inflexible and expensive technology […] and open standards to give a common structure to the data we create.”
- “safe, secure and useful ways of sharing information”
- “demonstrate digital leadership, […] and challenging those we work with to embrace this Local Digital Declaration.”
- “expects digital ways of working […] working collaboratively with other organisations, and reusing good practice.”
Again, all of these ambitions are significant, and we’re here to help local councils meet these objectives.
Open Standards and the “Technology Code of Practice”
Most interestingly for us the Local Digital Declaration refers to the Technology Code of Practice. It is worth quoting the whole section verbatim:
“Where appropriate, every new IT solution procured must operate according to the technology code of practice, putting us in control of our service data, using open standards where they exist and contributing to their creation where they don’t.”
For us, one of our two core principles meet this need exactly:
To use, and encourage the further use of open, effective, and socially responsible technology solutions.
The subject of open standards is relatively simple to grasp but is not ‘being done’ by local government as far as we’re aware. Most councils are using commercial, closed source solutions and so there is either an ignorance of these aims or an inertia to adopt open standard as a result of perceived difficulty or lack of expertise. The barriers can all be overcome, it just requires a little time, education and the application of effort.
Start now – to learn more about the Technology Code of Practice please visit our page on the subject: Open Source IT Services for Parish and Town Councils