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Observations from a Business Analyst

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LGA Conference 2010 – Day 1

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So how was today for you? Did it meet your expectations? Was there something lacking, something unexpected? or was it as planned?

I spent today at the LGA Conference in Bournemouth, talking to councillors and finding out what Digital Inclusion actually means to them. For me it was a very worthwhile exercise. What made it more interesting was the challenge that Digital Inclusion is facing in today’s councils.

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State, announced a series of measures and strategies to put the ‘local’ back in ‘Local Authority’, to remove centralised control and encourage community responsibility. He is now challenging councils to come up with ways to deliver more of what the voters need rather than what Whitehall wants. (See here for the full speech.)

This freedom is allowing Councils to choose where to invest and how much to invest. They are now looking for the magic business case to please the electorate while saving money and delivering better services. It’s now time for Digital Inclusion to step up to the mark.

How can Digital Inclusion deliver the magic business case? I don’t think that it can. Eric Pickles challenges Councils to “Show me the money”, Digital Inclusion cannot do that, but let me ask you, dear reader, what do the people want?

Digital Inclusion changes lives; Digital Inclusion saves costs from occurring; Digital Inclusion can save a Council money, but probably in ways you may have never thought.

The councillors I talked to today feel into 3 categories:

  • We’ve already done that, we’re efficient as we can be

They were the ones that walked away, not willing to listen or be challenged. How are these Councils going to make savings, deliver what the voters want, if they’re not willing to listen to or learn from other local authorities? Or if they are as efficient willing to share that knowledge. I won’t dwell on this point.

  • I love ICT, I appreciate the benefits let’s get Digital Inclusion out there

I cannot deny that these councillors were my favourite to talk to, and it is great to hear some of the projects that are going on elsewhere across the country to engage the community digitally.

  • I don’t know about Digital Inclusion – Tell me more

These councillors I respect the most. They took the time to learn more and each time, I am proud to say, I could see some real recognition coming across their faces as they started to understand how Digital Inclusion could be made to work for them. They happily accepted the challenges that I put to them, they pictured the projects and examples working in their area and went away realising that Digital Inclusion, may not be the golden ostrich egg but could well be a stream of golden hummingbird eggs waiting to fall into their laps.

So what will tomorrow bring? I don’t know, but I do know that I will be looking to challenge more councillors about Digital Inclusion and, hopefully, talking more with those who have gone away tonight and thought about what I have said.

Till next time, or if you’re in Bournemouth – tomorrow!

Paul

I am currently exhibiting on the Digital Inclusion Stand in the Purbeck Room at the LGA Conference, you can find me there.

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Written by Paul Jennings

July 7, 2010 at 12:07 am

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