We’re incredibly pleased to have been nominated for digital council of the year in the Digital Leaders 100 and being shortlisted alongside other councils whose work we admire and who we have been fortunate to learn from.
Local government isn’t a zero sum game – our residents all benefit when we work together, even if they live in areas of the country with very different local needs. At Hackney we are committed to collaboration across local public services and we believe strongly that local government can be much more than the sum of its parts. We’re determined to make sure that we are playing our part in making that happen and that is why Hackney was a founder-signatory of the Local Digital Declaration.
We are working in the open and are playing an active role in partnerships between councils and other partners so that as many taxpayers as possible can benefit from our work. And this works both ways – we know that we’ve benefited from the work that other councils have shared with us and the insight we’ve gained from their feedback on our work.
Among the things that we are most proud of are our open User Research Library, which shares the insights we’re getting from our user research; the improvements to Pipeline that we’ve led, helping to catalyse collaboration across local government; our ambitious apprenticeship programme, with a cohort of 21 apprentices joining our team last autumn and growing network of local employers working together to build digital opportunities in the borough; and also sharing our code through GitHub and our API hub, so that other councils can reuse and contribute to the development.
Our team blog shares updates from the work we’re doing and our team’s progress. When I joined Hackney I was pleased to find that the Council had taken digital seriously for a long time, with investment in in-house skills, data and bringing core systems up to date. By sharing our work in the open we have been able to raise the profile of Hackney’s digital work, make new connections, broaden our supplier base, bring in innovative new thinking, and attract great people to join our team which is helping us to accelerate our progress.
We are also making some big strides towards addressing some of the key technology challenges that all too often hold back real transformation of local public services. Our work in Housing Services and Planning is helping us to move away from big monolithic systems provided by a single vendor, which is too often cited as a reason why councils have struggled to meet citizens’ rising expectations for services. Through use of the Government’s Digital Marketplace, open source software and open standards, based on modern cloud services we are demonstrating that local government can work with SMEs, tackle vendor lock-in and develop user-centric apps that can be continuously improved to better meet users’ needs.
The Mayor of Hackney’s Digital Advisory Panel, bringing in local digital experts to help us explore emerging issues and opportunities, and our determination not to have a standalone ‘digital strategy’ but instead to embed technology and data across the strategic plans for every Council service show Hackney’s deep commitment at a senior leadership level to using technology and data to deliver better services at lower cost.
Looking forward, we know that we have plenty of challenges that we will need to focus on. We need to continue to push ourselves to deliver excellent digital services for our residents through the work we have in progress. We are working hard to provide our users with workplace technology that will enable modern and collaborative working styles. And we need to make sure that we apply the principles of user centred service design to internal processes as well as to the services we provide to the public. Our residents’ expectations and the need to respond to the further budget challenges facing local councils will make the contribution that our works make ever more important.
Whether or not our work at Hackney makes us digital council of the year is for others to judge. But we are delighted with being nominated and shortlisted and we see this as an endorsement for the commitment and vision shown by everyone at Hackney (including our suppliers and partners from other organisations that we are working with) who is helping us to deliver digital change for our borough, not just the people with ICT on their badge. In my first year at Hackney, I emailed 76 colleagues across the Council at Christmas to thank them for going above and beyond to support our work. Last Christmas it was over 200 people and this year it will be even more.