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Digital in local government: a case study from Camden Council

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There’s huge potential for digital transformation in local government as well as national government.

One person with opinions on the subject is Camden Council's Chief Information Officer, John Jackson. Camden has already started making use of digital technology, using smart road sensors to cut down the costs of monitoring car parking, and investing in digital skills, APIs and shared code.

We invited John to share his thoughts about all of these innovations on camera, and here’s what he had to say.

Digital technology in local government

Local government as a platform

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Digital technology in local government - video transcript

John Jackson, Chief Information Officer, Camden Council

I think we’re seeing real innovation on the Internet of Things in local government, harnessing the power of the Internet of Things to just do services completely differently.

Using sensors to control car parking

Putting parking bay sensors in is revolutionising parking, so we don’t have to send round lots of enforcement officers, we don’t have to have big back offices.

When we started off with parking, it was a system that everyone was complaining about; we had lots of complaints about the standard of service that we were delivering, and we had a lot of calls to our call centre. By adopting an open systems architecture, what we did was first of all we separated out the user experience, so we designed the user experience with residents. The second thing we did was we said to the supplier, “Don’t you try and do the workflow; provide us with the APIs to connect to your services and share data.” They did that, so we’re using their workflow to connect to other systems to validate whether or not, for example, somebody is resident in Camden.

What’s great about this is we’ve harnessed the innovation, we’ve got a more usable system, and we’re using an approach which is scalable to other councils who want to do it. It’s scalable because we’re going to open source our code and share it with other councils.

Local government as a platform - video transcript

John Jackson, Chief Information Officer, Camden Council

Digital transformation is about making our services citizen focused, easier to use, and accessible. Secondly, it’s about making our workforce more efficient, digital by default, and mobile. Thirdly, it’s about harnessing the power of information and data to join services up so we do things once and we can spot problems sooner and help vulnerable clients earlier. It’s also about linking up with our partners so we don’t do things in different ways; we break down the silos to make us more efficient.

Part of it for me is creating a platform that you can actually make it possible to share information on. You can make it possible to connect things together so they can share data. It’s about making systems more user friendly and co-designing those solutions with citizens and residents, and it’s about harnessing the other legacy systems that are already out there and connecting them up rather than spend lots of money on new systems.

There are not enough APIs available at the moment in government to allow us to connect the system together, to allow us to share data, to allow us to transform processes, so let’s pick up APIs and focus on doing more with those.

Open source, open data

Open data is fundamental. I think part of it is getting the information out there helps us to be more transparent, but it also allows us to design new digital services because you can bring data together from different sources to design things that otherwise you couldn’t do in isolation.

I think also what I’d like to see is more of a commitment on open source, really. I know it’s controversial in some respects, but I think we’ve got a great crowd out there. We’ve got lots of people doing civic development; we’ve got lots of councils developing solutions. What’s the point of doing that lots and lots of times? Let’s just turn government into one big crowd – open source stuff, share it; make it easier to get to.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Tariq Rashid posted on

    Inspirational! And spot on - open data, open source, lowering barriers to getting good stuff done, focus on user experience, and all making a real difference to people's lives.

    And that smart-city sensor tech looked like a really fun project!