Digital Pathfinders Programme

The LGA has launched Digital Pathfinders Programme. The programme is designed to support councils seeking to innovate and develop pioneering initiatives to advance digital inclusion, digital connectivity, and cyber security.

The LGA has awarded nine councils funding to deliver pioneering solutions to improve digital inclusion, connectivity and cyber security. Each project will contribute to service transformation to meet the needs of local communities.

The programme is working with councils whose work will offer a positive example to others in the sector, through sustainable change programmes. As such, councils are asked to not just consider how innovative the technical aspect of any proposal is, but also its scalability, sustainability, and transferability across multiple community/council settings within the sector. Whilst of course focusing on one of the three challenge areas of digital inclusion, connectivity and cyber security.

A list of councils on the 2021-22 programme cohort, along with a description of their project, can be found below:

Digital inclusion

Hull City Council

Working with Hull and East Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and their Humber Digital Skills Partnership, Hull City Council will create a digital tool which can assess an individual's digital skill level, and assign a digital skill 'profile' to the user.

The tool will be easily and readily accessible to complete online, and data captured will be held safely and securely, accessible only by appropriate officers within Hull City Council.

The tool will also insights and date that can be used to provide rich demographics and allow for bespoke follow-up support with those in need of digital inclusion offers .

Leeds City Council

Leeds City Council’s 100 per cent Digital Leeds team have created a Community-based model to increase digital inclusion. The model takes other councils through the Stages required to foster collaboration between key partners in a place. Each stage includes steps to be followed to build partnerships and bridges between services and organisations that serve a particular community.

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

Barking & Dagenham council commissioned Citizen Online through the Switch Project to carry out analysis of digital inclusion issues within the borough. 9 per cent of adults in Barking and Dagenham are not online (around 15,000 people) and they estimate 25 per cent of adults don’t have all of the ‘Essential Digital Skills’ for life. The report suggests that Barking and Dagenham council should aim to recruit around 150 Digital Champions (DCs) across the borough so 1 Digital Champion to every 100 digitally excluded people.

Their solution is to recruit volunteers and provide them with the training and tools they need to support residents to improve their digital skills either in community hubs or remotely. With this funding, the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham are proposing to build a training portal for digital champions/friends/assistants which can be used as a shared resource with other public sectors.

London Borough of Havering

The London Borough of Havering have identified that frontline, voluntary and charity sector staff  have limited information on where to signpost residents who need additional digital inclusion support. The authority understand that they aren’t utilising all the services and support that are available around digital inclusion.

LB Havering believe that a shared triage and signposting system/tool would help the most at-risk residents to get the support they need and enable a more joined up approach between the council and organisations providing this support.

LB Havering anticipate this tool being used by residents, their family members, volunteers or frontline staff (e.g. staff working in social care, libraries or foodbanks) to identify the type of exclusion and triage them to appropriate services or schemes that can help with this issue.

Long term, it is envisaged that this tool will function like the NHS diagnostic tool.

During the discovery, LB Havering aim to:

Create user journeys and types based on specific needs Identify the touchpoints within the council, health and voluntary sector who could use the triage tool to identify Havering residents that are digitally excluded Create a questionnaire to identify the type of digital exclusion (or potential issue) e.g. no device, connectivity or lack of skill/confidence.  Identify how the council store, manage and maintain the details of services offered e.g. a directory If there is a viable product that could be built in alpha Constraints.

Triaging support for digitally excluded residents — Discovery and approach to Alpha

Digital Inclusion Triage — Alpha

London Borough of Redbridge

London Borough of Redbridge’s current challenge is around assurance of their estate and working to assure that there are no exposures or compromises.

Through their work to secure systems and networks, London Borough of Redbridge are creating a toolkit which can be used for both assurance and in the event of an incident.

This toolkit would include: 

  • a firewall review
  • a password audit
  • an artefact and forensic detection and report
  • an analysis of network traffic
  • a cloud system compliance review.
Norwich City Council

Norwich City Council think that there are devices which are no longer needed by the business community, and they know there are people who are in need of technology but can’t afford to buy it themselves. The Pathfinders project will start with a research piece through speaking to local stakeholders and learning from past initiatives, and will recommend the best social value model of getting devices to people who need them. Norwich City Council will then work with partners to pilot a recommended community model for safe refurbishment and distribution of devices, complimenting the other great digital inclusion initiatives in the city. Norwich City Council will make this report, process and evaluation available to other councils, sharing learning along the way.

Project update

Digital Connectivity

Dorset Council

There is a national shortage of trained fibre engineers to enable alternative network providers to roll out in rural areas and the proposal aims to tackle this at a local level. The proposal will bring together a consortium of stakeholders from the public, private and third sector to develop a pilot training programme to recruit, train and retain local fibre engineers. This will be used as a catalyst to set up the project’s legacy, which will be a local consortium, who work together to overcome the barriers to rural connectivity as the rollout continues, and beyond as needed.

Read the Dorset Council partnership fibre engineer training pilot feasibility study

Nottinghamshire County Council

The aim of this project is to independently benchmark mobile coverage via the process of connectivity mapping, to produce qualitative, real-time data, to identify gaps in mobile coverage to gauge an overall picture of mobile connectivity across Nottinghamshire. This will allow Nottinghamshire County Council to use the data to align future plans to its strategy, influence internal governance/policy decisions and aid in high-level discussions with local mobile operators to address mobile coverage gaps across the county.

Rochdale Council

Through the Pathfinders funding, Rochdale Borough Council will be providing large scale internet access to households in one of their more deprived neighbourhoods. This will be through the use of a Mesh network, which is far more cost effective than doing things on an individual level and is one of the biggest barriers to digital inclusion.   Additional digital skills support and equipment will be provided for residents that need it, by using other initiatives that are already in place. Rochdale will utilise the opportunity and make sure that ‘Good Help’ is given to every resident that they engage with. This system will make every contact count in terms of linking in other services and support that people would benefit from. 

Cyber Security

Copeland Borough Council

Copeland will be working on a project to create a re-usable cyber security supplier assessment tool that can be used to facilitate cyber security conversations between local authorities and suppliers for introducing new technology solutions to a local authority. This tool will be available in a form that can be reused as often as required and made available to anyone within the sector. It will be developed by working with a representative selection of different local authority types and sizes.

London Borough of Redbridge

Project description to follow.

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

This project will explore a principle and risk based approach to vulnerability and asset management processes, in order to share learning with the sector.