With the increasing pressure on local authorities to do more with less, next year looks to be another year in which digital transformation will, rightly, play a huge role.
But I believe there are five key areas in particular where technology will lead to a monumental shift for local authorities. Some of this is already being introduced, but I predict they’ll move from being the preserve of early adopters to becoming the norm.
Prediction 1: Robotics
Robotic Process Automation is already being introduced, for example in revenues and benefits, but I believe it will spread to many other areas, as senior leaders see more and more evidence of the benefits and cost efficiencies and lead the push to drive automation across their organisation.
Prediction 2: A single view of each citizen
Arguably the most significant development will be consolidating information to provide a single view of a citizen so all the information the authority holds about a person is joined and held together in one place.
This is important not just because it would make all back-office processes more effective – not least by removing the issues associated with duplication – but because it would enable local authorities to be much more proactive in providing services. They would have an overall view of which support and services are needed and could act more quickly to address them.
Prediction 3: Predictive analytics
Once we have a single view of each citizen, predictive analytics will reveal the stories behind people’s lives so that services and support can be targeted to prevent a negative outcome happening in the first place.
For example, if social care and NHS information is joined, proactive intervention could be taken to prevent A&E beds being taken up by someone who would be better cared for with appropriate social care. The trickle-down benefit of this has the potential to save millions of pounds.
Or with homelessness – overlaying analytics with information on education, health issues and housing, can reveal the story of how that person became homeless. We can learn from this to put support in place before it happens, potentially transforming a person’s future.
Prediction 4: Beyond channel shift
Channel shift may no longer be a new idea, but how local authorities respond to it is evolving. While once it was about moving services online so staff can perform their jobs more easily, looking to the near future, councils will focus much more on the customer experience. Mirroring citizens’ preferences in retail, for example, using apps and sourcing information via virtual assistants.
Prediction 5: The Internet of Things
Despite great excitement about the potential of smart homes, the reality is that the Internet of Things (IoT) has had a slow start. Not only did it look as if it was always going to be prohibitively expensive, but there have also been concerns about privacy – particularly around having a sensor in your home.
However, we’re seeing a dramatic drop in costs, particularly when the technology is applied to a large number of homes, in the way that social landlords are able to do. I also think we’ll see a big shift in how people welcome the technology. From sensors which predict when a boiler needs servicing to monitoring damp in homes, the IoT will be accepted as a feasible solution.
So next year I believe these technologies will start enabling local authorities to achieve their core aim of supporting communities, as well meeting financial targets, providing tools to deliver effective services, alongside the insight they need to support the most vulnerable.