Working in a digital council video

Watch our video to discover how the increasing digitisation and automation in the transformation of our services is affecting the very nature of what it means to work for a council, and see if robots really are stealing our jobs.



Siobhan Coughlan, Programme Manager, Productivity, LGA
(00:00:05 – 00:00:43)

Councils have been doing an awful lot in terms of the space around digital. Most councils, for example, will have all their top transactions online, so you can go on and pay or book or request a service.  We now have to be even more ambitious, so how can we use digital tools and technology to transform ourselves to work in completely different ways to capture that information once, share it across different service areas and indeed share it with partners. We’ve got to step beyond the kind of tactical fixing a service on a one by one basis, and actually think more whole council. 

Do we have the skills to go digital?

Andy Watterson, Digital Economy Fellow, British Chamber of Commerce
(00:00:48 – 00:02:11)

Last year the British Chambers of Commerce conducted our Digital Economy Survey, which looked at how businesses perceive and use technology in the workplace, and one of the areas that we’ve focused on quite significantly, was skills in the workplace when it comes to IT and all things digital. And one of the areas that was probably of most concern, where there was a lack of skills in the workplace, even in terms of some of the very, very basic IT skills, just the basic use of just computers and technology in the workplace. Where businesses need to really make sure that they don't fall down, is actually making sure that ‘all their staff’ are well trained and situationally aware about how they use technology and their role in protecting the business moving forward. I think it’s very important that the chief exec’s and the other leading minds in our organisations actually have a more fuller appreciation of the fact that, adopting digital new technology is very much more than just buying a new piece of kit; there really does have to be a proper strategy in place to ensure that in acquiring these new pieces of equipment or the new technology, that the skill is there in the workforce to actually adapt and adopt those technologies.   

What is the impact of digital technology on productivity?

Lesley Giles, Director, The Work Foundation
(00:02:16 – 00:03:48)

How do you effectively deploy technology alongside people?  So this was something that we really wanted to understand within The Work Foundation and we’ve done some research on it. We were frustrated because a lot of the research that’s been done on technology has just often drawn attention to the fact that technology can actually remove jobs, and so we’d had this endless debate about machines replacing people but actually technology and what’s more accurately happening, is that technology is enriching jobs. What’s really interesting in terms of our research, when we were asking about the potential for technology and we were speaking to workers and managers, is that the workers said that in terms of their own experiences in their organisation, 80 per cent of them said that technology had the potential to increase productivity. And in terms of the managers, two thirds of the managers said that technology was directly driving organisational performance improvements. But then having said that, when the individuals were asked about their own performance and what was really happening in recent times, they said that in the last three years their productivity, two thirds of them said that their productivity hadn’t improved at all and in fact 17 per cent said their productivity had got worse; so there was something wrong there in terms of turning the aspiration of ambition of what technology can do into reality.    

How can digital technology support new ways of working?

Maryvonne Hassall, IT Strategy Manager, Aylesbury Vale District Council
(00:03:54 – 00:05:21)

We have a connected knowledge strategy, this is about connecting together all of the bits of data that we’ve got spread across the council and putting those in a form that we can use them to provide a single customer view, which means that we get very customer focused services and customers can actually see their own data and if their data’s not right they can tell us it’s not right or they can correct it themselves. So by connecting together all of these bits of information we can turn that into knowledge to best serve a customer. 

We are operating a kind of three pronged approach, so we have an innovation strand running where we’re using some of the kind of cool technologies that I’ll come back to; we’ve got a transformation stream, which is about really challenging the processes that we’re doing and seeing if we can do them in a completely different way or whether we need to do them at all. And then we have a strand around replacing some of the legacy things that we have, the things that are holding us back and actually stopping us from making those steps forward.  And what this means is we’re actually saving people’s time, so they’re able to deal with the web chats much quicker, they are able to deal with emails much quicker, which frees up their time to deal with the more complex queries where you actually need a person to help somebody through the process. 

For me it’s more of a kind of augmented intelligence, it’s more actually using the artificial intelligence to do the grunt work, to do 80 per cent of the task, and then the 20 per cent the human can do on top of that. The other thing is actually it’s going to change our roles because the standard repetitive things we’ll be able to get the machines to do and then we can refocus our energies on other things, on the more high value activities.      

How is digital technology changing the care sector?

Jim Thomas, Programme Head, Workforce Innovation, Skills for Care
(00:05:27 – 00:06:40)

We see lots and lots of talk and discussion about the role of artificial intelligence and robotics and what that might play in terms of social care in the future. There’s some caveats you need to play with that, firstly we need to make sure that we don't get hung up on the technology. There’s a lesson that we can learn about artificial intelligence and robotics from when assistive technology first came in, that lesson is this, that we went out and we got loads of amazing kit but nobody knew how to use it, nobody had the confidence to use it, and nobody had the confidence to be able to assess properly when they should be putting it into somebody’s life and when it was there, it would often sit there. In artificial intelligence and robotics we’re at risk of making the same mistake and what we need to make sure we do for the social care workforce and for commissioners is that we ensure that those commissioners realise that when they can commission that digital tech to support someone, they still have to commission the human tech in order to make sure that people live independent quality lives.  

Will robots replace humans?

Pepper the Robot, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
(00:06:45 – 00:06:46)

My name is Pepper.

Phil Webster, Robotics, AI & Technology Lead, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
(00:06:48 – 00:08:17)

There will obviously be changes in the workforce in the future.  There will also be new opportunities for people to develop new skills supporting the robotics industry. In Southend we are using a robot – Pepper – we’re using him across the wide range of the council, mainly in social care setting; we are confident that it will not replace ‘hands on’ care. We’re using Pepper to enhance, to enrich people’s experiences of perhaps living in a care home or living with dementia or Asperger’s.    

(00:07:31 – 00:07:36) Pepper: How are you today? I'm glad you are fine.

We’ve had disruptive technology before, we’ve had computers introduced into the workplace; computers were going to replace all of our jobs, you only have to look at the change in the skyline of the City of London to see that actually computers have generated new industries, generated new opportunities for people to work differently with different skill sets, so whilst there will be certain jobs that may be affected, the opportunities will be there for people to actually have new skills, and new skill sets.  

(00:08:19 – 00:08:20) Pepper: Goodbye.