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September 3, 2014

Three key challenges Socitm’s local GDS faces

Who would fund the initiative, and what level of co-operation is required?

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Socitm has proposed the creation of a local Government Digital Service (GDS) to help councils as they shift most services into the digital realm.

Similar to Whitehall’s GDS, the local GDS would help public bodies share digital best practice and resources as they shift more of their functions online.

But there’s a few challenges the idea faces if it ever gains traction.

We put those challenges to TechMarketView analyst Georgina O’Toole and research director for local government and education, Michael Larner, and here are their answers.


How effective would a local GDS be in driving digital change across wider public sector?

A local GDS has more chance of being effective if local authorities feel it is ‘owned’ and operated by local government, rather than just being an offshoot of something that has already been put in place in central government/Whitehall.

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It would avoid the ‘not invented here’ syndrome which is often apparent in local government. In fact, it would probably be better if it wasn’t called GDS in order to distance the initiative from central government.


What priorities should a local GDS have, and what could it achieve in local government that the GDS cannot?

It’s not that GDS wouldn’t be able to achieve the same things, it is just that local authorities need to buy in to the idea, as they would need to invest in their own internal digital development resources and also change their modus operandi to embrace modern digital technologies and ways of working.

The priority for the locally-invented and locally-owned organisation (whatever it might be called) should be to look at the SMAC technologies (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) and give clear guidance and advice on how the different components can be brought together to improve public service delivery and reduce operational costs.

It should also ensure that components are re-used across local government organisations. Crucially, this would need to be seen as happening in partnership with the local authority rather than IT dictating what needs to happen.


Who should take ownership of a local GDS, and how could it be funded?

This has been recommended by Socitm. And actually Socitm might turn out to be a good vehicle to allow this to happen. They have been strong supporters of digital by default in local government. And its members are the local government CIOs themselves so they already feel part of it.

In addition, Socitm has a consulting business, which could be used to assist in the design and delivery of a local GDS.

Importantly though, this initiative would require significant funding. GDS in Whitehall has only been successful as it has had significant funding and significant top level buy in behind it.

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