Enhancing local productivity by supporting the use of digital technology
Find resources to support work for getting local businesses, partners and third sector organisations connected to the internet, and the capability to benefit from the engagement it enables.
Resources and support
- Digital switchover - In 2016, it was announced that the telecommunications industry would replace all analogue lines and upgrade to digital internet-based infrastructure by 2025. As part of the LGA sector-led improvement work, this resource intends to offer support to councils throughout the switchover period.
- Digital Switchover Toolkit for Commissioners - a practical tool to enable commissioners within councils, housing associations and third-sector organisations to understand the implications of the Digital Switchover for Care Technology and to provide guidance and signposting.
- Local Government Digital Switchover Working Group - aims to give councils an opportunity to discuss issues, opportunities and good practice relating to the analogue to digital switchover for adult social care and local government more broadly.
- Digital Connectivity Programme - delivered by the LGA, this is a grant funded programme that builds councils' skills and capacity to take advantage of the opportunities offered by connectivity to their local place and communities.
- LGA Digital Showcase Conference - a conference showcase some of the excellent and innovative work councils are doing to redesign and improve their services and ways of working, using digital tools and solutions.
- Local Government Digital Committee (LGDC) - established in late 2007 in order to provide leadership across the sector on the service transformation agenda.
- Middlesbrough Council - Launching an app to aid the town's recovery
In response to Covid-19 pandemic, Middlesbrough Council have launched a new app to aid the town’s commercial, cultural and social recovery during further lockdown restrictions.
The council had established thematic working groups with local stakeholders to work on different sectors of accommodating recovery and renewal in the face of covid-19 challenges. The combined recovery group focusing on the business sector and town centre was made up of local universities, federation of SMEs, Colleges, council officers and a consultant from the local tech cluster.
This recovery group sought to launch an app that would host information on the town centre’s shops, restaurants and cafes in a move designed to boost the accessibility and real time information on local businesses that often lags behind the usual online search engines.
Furthermore, the group wanted an app that did not duplicate but add a quality of information to an already crowded space in the covid-19 narrative. The app therefore embraced a smart places agenda to create hub for data inputs to produce a reliable source of visualised information.
The Visit Middlesbrough App provides important travel and safety information to encourage a controlled return to the town centre using sensors to track footfall to allow the most vulnerable and shielded people plan their visits by highlighting the quietest and safer times of the day. The app is also working to integrate rail and bus company timetables that also provides a seat counter to let residents know the busier times for the public transport system.
Users will also have the latest news from the council immediately at their fingertips with push notifications to receive up to date covid-19 information directly.
The App rather than developing a completely new map system, integrates google maps information and interface to provide easy and direct access to local business websites, contact details and opening times. The council want to make it as easy as possible for residents to find relevant information given the ever-changing environment with restrictions. The app also has accessibility options for text size and day/night mode to ensure the usability is as easy as possible.
Through a £20k fund the council onboarded Dominic, Lusardi, digital consultant/project manager, and supplier MCD, a Digital Product Engineering Company based in Middlesbrough's Boho Zone, who have offered extensive support and development opportunities for council staff to learn the skills to update and work on the app through a wireframe structure that ensures a high level of content management for the app.
Moving forward the council and recovery group are seeking out new opportunities to develop the app by including a ‘What’s on Guide’ when lockdown restrictions make this possible. This would include events profiles, QR codes or beacons for front of house in shops that will be accommodated with discounts and offers to encourage residents to return to shops, businesses and cultural venues.
The app is available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Search ‘Visit Middlesbrough'.
Sam Gilmore, Head of Economic Growth, Sam_Gilmore@middlesbrough.gov.uk
Dominic Lusardi firstname.lastname@example.org
- Newcastle City Council - Online footfall assessment tool
Newcastle City Council has worked with partners to develop an online tool How Busy is Toon focused on the main high street, Northumberland Street, that helps residents to keep safe when coming into the city centre by providing data to help ensure where and when social distancing is possible.
It has been developed in partnership between the council, teams at Newcastle University and the NE1 business improvement district.
The website uses real time information from computer vision cameras that tracks footfall data from this particular street in the city centre updating information every five minutes. The technology and equipment were intended to gather routine footfall data by the University’s Urban Observatory for high street data and since lockdown they have been utilised for this COVID-19 purpose to help residents resume normality while staying safe.
The tool uses a traffic light system based on the real time information to advise people on how easy it is to social distance in the city centre at a certain time:
GREEN: The data shows that footfall in the city centre is low and there is sufficient space to safely social distance.
AMBER: Our data shows that footfall in the city centre is average and may be getting close to capacity within the social distance measures.
RED: Our data shows that footfall in the city centre is high and you are advised to delay or postpone plans to visit.
The site also has real-time information about car parking spaces in the city centre to help residents plan their journey.
Howbusyistoon had a soft launch in July 2020 to test the concept and the public’s reaction.
There have been more than 25,000 visits to the site with interest shown from users in expanding the scheme into other areas of the city which the team are actively investigating.
Contact: Jenny Nelson, Digital Newcastle Programme Manager, email@example.com
- Nottingham City Council - PPE distribution network
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nottingham City Council came under pressure to coordinated and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to social care settings and other key services to ensure that staff were enabled to carry out roles in a safe and secure way.
The distribution network was initially centred around a paper based, scanning and spreadsheet orientated process detailing deliveries, requests, batch quantity and quality. Stock was manually managed each night by working through dozens of paper records and updating PPE accounts by hand while having to comply with government returns on PPE distribution. Those collecting PPE would require identification at collection with wet signatures.
The digital team were tasked in creating a PPE stock management system to streamline the processes for recording and tracking deliveries. The team sought to make this process as convenient for the users seeking PPE as well as those tracking stock levels by taking a user centred approach to design creating a system with similar features to a mainstream online delivery service.
The customer stage allows users to request the PPE they require by filling out a form that allows account login to remember orders or associated profiles with the approved list of suppliers. The user must enter the number of staff they are providing for, what equipment they need and the size and quantity of supplies required. The user is provided with a summary of the order while they wait for the team to confirm and approve the request.
The team receive the request and triage the order. They will authorise the provider and are able to view previous orders from the user, approve repeat orders and the system gives the team an overview of current demand against the request for certain items to ensure stock is available. Once the team has reviewed the order, they are able to accept, reject or escalate the order. Escalating will forward the order onto a Public Health Consultant who is able to deal with more complex areas and queries.
The customer is then sent the confirmation email and notified when the equipment with be available for collection. While the team at the distribution centre are packaging the order customers are able to log in to their account and track the progress of the package.
At the packaging stage, staff input the batch numbers of equipment, product descriptions, case numbers and contact details for each delivery as this ensures the stock is traceable should they be required to recall faulty equipment. Each package are given a reference number which allows customers to collect the correct package without having to sign for it or provide identification. This leads the case to be closed from the initial request stage of the process.
Further to this process, the system generates power BI dashboards that detail the volume of stock over time periods for various items of PPE. This provides the council with the ability to track stock trends, areas of demand and have a true understanding of PPE provision in the locality.
James Steele, Web Manager, James.Steele@nottinghamcity.gov.uk
- Oxford City Council - Online business directory
In March 2020, due to the coronavirus lockdown, many businesses were forced to completely shut down face to face operations. The main source of food at that time was supermarkets, but they were under immense pressure to continue regular supply and provide online delivery slots. Several small local businesses across Oxford decided to try to maintain supplies to customers by focusing on online ordering and delivery, and the City Council looked to take on a supporting role of those efforts to continue operating under the new lockdown restrictions.
The Council’s Economic Development and City Centre Management team was in touch with businesses city wide to alert them to the support that was available to them including loans, grants and rate relief, and created a Survey Monkey powered questionnaire to help better understand how businesses were adapting ways of working to operate under lockdown, and how the council could best help.
The response led the team to launch an online business directory to help promote those that were still available by operating online and providing their services via the internet or by telephone. The initial businesses to feature included fresh food providers, and restaurants and cafes that were available for online delivery or takeaway. This meant that, from a residents’ perspective, the directory brought together local businesses to provide a holistic offer to those on the vulnerable and shielded list, and to those who wanted to support local business.
The directory proved so popular that the initial 60 businesses quickly increased to include additional commercial offers as the lockdown restrictions impacted more and more sectors. Book stores, photography studios and architects were some of those that were added to the ever-growing directory list.
Similar initiatives to promote Oxford businesses operating online were also created by local organisations Independent Oxford, Bitten Oxford and Daily Info. The council created links to them on the directory, which was being promoted via a coordinated social media campaign to increase awareness and its popularity.
The directory provided users with an easy to use interface with a content list of various services ranging from fresh food to revised hospitality offers. It featured links to websites, social media pages, contact details, emails and important information such as delivery options and opening times.
The links and collaboration that have been created through this portal have been substantial. For instance, a group of market traders combining their offer of products into a single online portal, and a bike courier service first connecting with local traders to be their delivery service and then creating an online local supermarket itself offering fresh produce shopping so that residents have a spontaneous food delivery service to use.
The success of the Oxford initiative prompted other councils and organisations to launch similar directories with Boston Council and a team brought together by Newcastle Building Society replicating the approach.
By the start of June, the directory had more than 275 businesses signed up and the web page has received tens of thousands of page views, becoming, for a period, the busiest on the Council’s website.
As lockdown eases, the Council is working with businesses to review the directory and agree what its best role is going forward.
Iain Nicholson, City Centre Manager, INICHOLSON@oxford.gov.uk