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Schools, communities and homes across the capital to reap the benefits of superfast multi-gigabit digital network

Supercharging educational technology in schools . Free internet connection for disadvantaged families . Free 1Gbps connections for community-led initiatives

Schools, communities and homes across the capital are set to reap the benefits of a safe, highly resilient1, superfast2, multi-gigabit, digital network to be installed over the next five years by edtech charity LGfL–The National Grid for Learning and its partner, award-winning Internet Service Provider (ISP) Community Fibre. 

The unique partnership with Community Fibre enables LGfL to install a second, diversely routed fibre connection into schools delivering a level of unrivalled resilience which is now critical given the dependence of a modern curriculum on continuously available internet access.  Unplanned outages severely disrupt schools and lessons,” said John Jackson3, CEO, LGfL-The National Grid for Learning.

John Jackson, CEO, LGfL-The National Grid for Learning

“LGfL’s investment means that London will benefit from an advanced , fast and resilient education network that is amongst the best in Europe, if not the world. Building a network of this standard would not be possible without Community Fibre,” he said.

Roll out has already begun with the aim of providing back-up internet services to 500 sites this year.  Each school will be serviced with a 100% full fibre installation, which uses 70% less energy than traditional copper, making it a future-proof energy efficient and sustainable solution.

Graeme Oxby, Chief Executive Officer of Community Fibre, said, “We’re delighted that LGfL-The National Grid for Learning has appointed Community Fibre to provide London schools with fibre support. Stable and reliable connectivity is vital for teachers and school children across the capital, and we’re thrilled to roll out a 100% full fibre network to each location using the UK’s most reliable broadband technology.”

LGfL and Community Fibre will also work together on the broadband provider’s Community Investment Programme – to provide free 1Gbps full fibre connection for community-led initiatives and free digital skills training for Londoners. 580 free connections for community-led initiatives have already been installed.

“Digital inclusion and removing the barriers to education are top of our agenda at LGfL,” said John Jackson. “There are an estimated 2.2 million Londoners living in poverty – 25 per cent of its population4. Our intention is to work in partnership with Community Fibre to help identify children and families in need, and pair them with the broadband provider who will deliver free and safe connectivity into homes and community centres. Community Fibre has significant resources as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility programme, and we are delighted to be working with them on this initiative.”

Commenting on the announcement, Theo Blackwell, London’s first Chief Digital Officer – who leads on London-wide digital transformation, data and smart city initiatives at City Hall – said, “This initiative will provide hundreds of London schools with full fibre connections, supporting teaching and learning. It goes hand in hand with our efforts to promote investment in gigabit connectivity to homes, businesses and public buildings – up from only four per cent in 2017 to 89 per cent today.  Better digital access is a priority for the Mayor and an important part of making a better London for everyone.” 

Further to the completion of the London-wide network, LGfL plans to secure strategic alliances with other telecoms providers and to roll out its multi-gigabit network across the nation. In rural areas without existing internet connectivity, LGfL will offer Starlink, the world’s first and largest satellite constellation using a low Earth orbit to deliver broadband internet capable of supporting streaming, online gaming, video calls and more.”

Schools keen to join LGfL’s network should visit lgfl.net/smartbuy/connectivity  or call 0208 408 4455, option 5.

1. Source: Community Fibre’s network has been running for over 99.9% of the time every month since March 2022. Data is measured monthly across all consumer connected homes on Community Fibre’s network.

2. Source: Fastest consumer broadband speeds independently verified by FDM on behalf of Community Fibre 30th November 2023. Community Fibre 3 Gbps Fibre Broadband package offers average download speeds of 3000 Mbps. All other providers listed offer the maximum download speed of 1,600 Mbps or less: Virgin Media, Openreach, Hyperoptic, G Network, 4th Utility, FibreNest, Hey Broadband, Gigaclear, OFNL, Pure Fibre & Switch Fibre.

3.John Jackson – 2022 ERA Outstanding Achievement Award winner, recognised for accelerating the adoption of new technology in schools and his dedication to saving them money, keeping children safe, tackling inequality, energising teaching and learning and promoting wellbeing.

4.The estimated number of Londoners living in poverty for 2019/20–2021/22 was 2.2 million, or 25 per cent of the population

Bridgeworks shortlisted for Computing DevOps Excellence Awards

WAN Acceleration company Bridgeworks, has been shortlisted in this year’s Computing DevOps Excellence Awards, which will be hosted on Thursday 14 March 2024 at The Montcalm, Marble Arch in London. IT industry magazine Computing writes that year-on-year, DevOps Excellence Awards showcase achievements from organisations, personalities and solutions that have successfully applied DevOps methodologies. The publication adds: “It’s an outstanding achievement to be shortlisted for Best AI/Automation Project, a very competitive category during the entry stage and to be shortlisted as a finalist is a phenomenal milestone for Bridgeworks.”

Tackling digital infrastructure deficits in South and East London

Over 150,000* premises in south and east London do not have access to high speed – Gigabit capable – internet connections.

Contrary to perception, hundreds of thousands of addresses in London are affected by slow digital connectivity, causing digital inequalities that impede the lives of people and businesses.

The ‘Sub-regional Digital Infrastructure Strategy’ launched today by Local London and the South London Partnership, identifies gaps in 14 south and east London boroughs. It includes recommendations for driving up the quality and accessibility of services in them and will help channel investment to areas of economic opportunity.

With an estimated population of 3.8 million, Local London and South London Partnership are two of London’s four sub-regions, representing the interests of the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Bromley, Enfield, Greenwich, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Croydon, Kingston-upon-Thames, Merton, Richmond-upon-Thames and Sutton.

There are over 103,000 premises in Local London and 53,000 in the South London Partnership sub-region unable to obtain a Gigabit capable broadband service with many sitting in a ‘not spot,’ unable to receive even a 30 Mbps service.

Mapping out the digitally poor postcodes, the strategy highlights best practices, learning and actions that the public and private sector can take together to build world-leading digital infrastructure for some of the fastest growing parts of London. 

Commissioned by the Mayor of London’s Infrastructure Coordination Service, the ‘Sub-regional Digital Infrastructure Strategy’ is part of a wider pilot which will deliver an interactive mapping tool and an online digital toolkit that will assist borough officers to deliver digital infrastructure to their sites and leverage additional commercial digital infrastructure investment in the sub-regions.

The ‘Sub-regional Digital Infrastructure Strategy’ provides a compelling argument for actively pursuing digital investment along with step-by-step guidance to public sector officers to attract investment and promote better quality and more accessible services, including:

  • Map and statistics illustrating clearly where poor digital infrastructure issues lie.
  • Recommendations for public sector resourcing and roles, industry engagement, procurement options and commercial models, and key components of a successful delivery strategy.
  • Case studies and examples from across the UK demonstrating successful ways of working and benefits gained.
  • The strategic, commercial, financial, management case and options analysis.

Theo Blackwell MBE, Chief Digital Officer, Greater London Authority said “Widely available, easily accessible digital connectivity is essential for people to reach public services and is key to helping cities grow through driving innovation and the creation of new businesses.

“Yet there are still parts of London that suffer from a lack of commercial investment in digital infrastructure, and this results in gaps in internet coverage or ‘not spots’.

“We must address these gaps and drive up the quality and accessibility of the services that are already available, to help the capital to be a fairer, more prosperous, and more equal London for everyone.”

Cllr Baroness O’Neill of Bexley OBE, Chairman of Local London and Leader of London Borough of Bexley said “We are delighted to launch the ‘Sub-regional Digital Infrastructure Strategy’ with our colleagues at South London Partnership. This provides step-by-step guidance to public sector colleagues for unlocking inward investment and maximising existing infrastructure to benefit people and businesses in the area. Along with the database and digital toolkit, this pilot approach will help all 14 boroughs tackle the digital divide, whilst also creating a legacy of learning that have even wider benefits.”     

Cllr Gareth Roberts, Chair, South London Partnership and Leader of London Borough of Richmond upon Thames Council commented “This joint strategy demonstrates the benefits of a cross-boundary approach. Addressing the issues at a sub-regional level, with colleagues at Local London, this strategy provides clear guidance for unlocking rapid deployment of next generation wireless infrastructure and gigabit capable full fibre, to align us with other urban areas in the UK, whilst responding to the distinct social and economic needs of each borough.”  

Find out more: londondigitaltoolkit.org.uk 

*Figures based Ofcom Connected Nations research published December 2023.

CONCRETE ASSURANCE FOR BUILDING FIRE SAFETY

A new guide outlining how concrete construction is best placed to meet the requirements of the Building Safety Regulator has been published by the British Association of Reinforcement (BAR).

The Building Safety Regulator is the Building Control Authority for higher-risk buildings. This includes buildings that are at least 18 metres in height or at least seven storeys.  The Regulator was a key requirement of the Building Safety Act 2022. The Building Safety Act forwards the majority of recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry – the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 tragically resulted in the death of 72 people in the worst UK residential fire since World War II

The Grenfell Tower tragedy underlined how fire safety must be an essential key consideration in the design and use of buildings and structures. The subsequent Building Safety Act is designed to provide greater safety, quality, transparency of the building process and accountability of the professionals involved and provide key stakeholders, such as residents, with reassurance and confidence that the buildings that they are utilising are safe.

BAR maintains that the inherent fire resistance of concrete enables owners, developers, designers and constructors fulfil their legislative and regulatory responsibilities and deliver, with confidence, the necessary fire safety.

Concrete is one of the most fire-resistant construction materials. Under European Standards (EN 13501-1:2007-A1:2009), it is classified as an A1 material – the highest grade of fire resistance. The construction fire safety of concrete is underlined by the fact that it is non-combustible, is non-toxic and has low thermal conductivity.

This means that concrete does not easily transfer thermal heat and does not react easily with other substances (meaning that in the event of a fire there are no noxious gases released). These inherent benefits make concrete one of the safest and most effective materials for structural fire protection. Indeed, in most cases, concrete does not require any additional fire-protection because of its built-in resistance to fire.

This resistance also means that concrete buildings can provide a high level of fire resistance and safety well above that required for life safety. This provides greater evacuation and rescue time plus increased structural integrity and safety for fire fighters entering burning buildings.

Steve Elliott, BAR Chairman, said: “The inherent fire resistance of concrete means that, compared with other building materials, it can meet the stringent requirements and inspections of the Building Safety Regulator with long-term assurance and provide the necessary safe built environment envisaged by the Building Safety Act.”

To view the guide visit: bit.ly/49xNPlm

Calls for greater data-led efficiency in the public sector

The Information Commissioner’s Office has just gone out to public consultation on its new data strategy.

The ICO teamed up with Oakland, an independent data consultancy, to develop its data strategy using the Government’s new Data Maturity Assessment for Government framework.

The data strategy sets out a clear vision for responsible innovation in the use of data, aiming to provide real value for the organisation and its customers.

Commenting on the project, Rob Holtom, executive director of digital, data, and technology (DDaT), transformation, and delivery at the ICO, said: “The data strategy is a hugely important piece of work that will put our own use of data at the heart of how we operate and transform as a regulator. It was important to seek external views, and we teamed up with an experienced team at Oakland to deliver this milestone project.”

“The collaborative partnership has developed a strong foundation on which we can build internally and with our external stakeholders. We hope sharing it will also inspire others to optimise how data is used to create value and improve outcomes in any organisation.”

The teams worked in partnership to develop the data strategy. The project identified the key initiatives and activities to improve data capability and set out the behaviours and beliefs needed to drive a better data culture.

Craig Lambert, senior data strategy consultant at Oakland Group, said: “The team at Oakland worked in a true partnership with the ICO on this project. Building a data strategy is a wide-ranging effort that covers an organisation’s capability, effectiveness, and readiness to use data fully. For the ICO, this data strategy is fundamental to delivering better public services and regulation of such a rapidly evolving market.”

UK PUBLIC SECTOR HARBOURS HIDDEN DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION ‘DEFICIT’

  • Almost all UK central and local government organisations are skipping key steps necessary to deliver successful major transformation programmes, according to new research from ArvatoConnect.
  • ArvatoConnect provides customer experience and business optimisation services to public and private organisations. 
  • The findings show that the majority of organisations don’t set key performance benchmarks, secure citizen and employee buy-in or have a data strategy in place.
  • Many organisations also admit their strategies are led by technology over citizens’ needs, or are driven by an effort to keep pace with other government departments or private businesses. 
  • ArvatoConnect says this is significantly elevating the risk of projects falling short of their potential or missing the mark completely.

Many UK public sector organisations are missing key steps necessary to achieving their digital transformation objectives, a new report reveals – creating the risk that public transformation projects fail to fully deliver their intended benefits. 

Nearly two thirds (65%) of public sector organisations currently delivering digital transformation projects don’t have an overarching data strategy, while 71% can’t effectively gather, collate and manage data and 68% aren’t confident they can protect it once they have it. 

The research, published by ArvatoConnect – formerly Arvato CRM Solutions – and which surveyed* 200 customer experience, IT and transformation decisionmakers in UK central and local government bodies also found that four in five (83%) haven’t gathered feedback from citizens on how their existing solutions are working and nearly nine in ten (87%) haven’t trained employees on new technologies or processes. 

Similar proportions admitted to not gaining employee or citizens’ buy-in on their transformation plans (both 79%), or even setting key performance indicators (KPIs) (78%).

ArvatoConnect, which provides customer experience and business optimisation services to central and local government organisations and other public sector bodies, says that organisations are misplacing their confidence and that skipping these important steps is creating a ‘digital deficit’ – a disconnect between transformation plans’ objectives, and the reality of what they are likely to achieve.

James Towner, Chief Growth Officer, ArvatoConnect, said: “While our research tells us that many public bodies are confident in delivering successful digital transformation projects and have such projects underway, this confidence may be misplaced. 

“Transformation is critical to delivering better and greater value public services, but the programmes that are missing steps like gathering citizen and employee feedback and even setting KPIs is concerning. 

“These steps constitute key foundations of successful digital transformation projects, and organisations must take this into account and focus on closing these ‘digital deficits’.”

ArvatoConnect’s report also uncovered that many public sector transformation strategies were being driven by technology or competitive impulse, rather than by organisations’ or citizens’ needs. 

Nearly three quarters (72%) of decisionmakers admitted that their transformation strategies were being led more by available digital solutions than what their citizens or organisations actually require. Meanwhile, two fifths said their plans were being shaped by simply trying to keep pace with other public bodies (40%), or even private businesses (36%). 

This type of transformation approach could mean that common customer experience problems are left unaddressed. A separate YouGov poll of UK adults**, commissioned by ArvatoConnect, found that nearly half (47%) of UK adults had experienced an issue when contacting a government body in the last 12 months, while more than two thirds (68%) had experienced an issue contacting a company.   

James Towner continued: “Any transformation programme needs to be grounded in a clear understanding of the needs of the organisation, its customers or its citizens. 

“Organisations mustn’t fall into the trap of spending time and money on developing solutions that are then left looking for a problem to ‘fix’.

“Taking the time to get the basics right – and seeking the right support with digital transformation planning – will only generate better results over the long term.”

The Digital Deficit report is the first launched by ArvatoConnect, formerly Arvato CRM Solutions. 

The business is a trusted partner to government departments and local authorities, with clients including Crown Commercial Services and the Department for Education.

The new brand – launched in February 2024 – reflects the expansion of the business’ proposition to incorporate both customer experience and business optimisation services, underpinned by innovative, technology-led solutions. 

To read the complete Digital Deficit report, click here: www.arvatoconnect.co.uk/arvatotalks/uncovering-the-uks-digital-deficit 

LUNAZ UPCYCLED ELECTRIC REFUSE TRUCKS GET GREEN LIGHT TO OPERATE ACROSS LONDON

  • Lunaz upcycled electric vehicles (UEVs) achieve the highest Direct Vision Standard (DVS) for driver visibility
  • Responds to ongoing demand from London borough councils
  • New tech maximises vision for operators; makes streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and other road users
  • Lunaz UEVs ready for deployment in the capital and other metropolitan areas
  • Supports long-term plan to increase production to 1,100 UEVs per year

Lunaz begins 2024 in a strong position to continue its journey towards producing 1,100 upcycled electric vehicles (UEVs) a year, with confirmation that its upcycled refuse trucks achieve the highest five-star Direct Vision Standard (DVS) rating for driver visibility.

The DVS has been developed by researchers, academics and representatives from the freight industry, Europe’s leading HGV manufacturers and regulatory bodies. Vehicles are rated from zero stars (poor) up to five stars (excellent).

The DVS five-star rating for Lunaz UEVs is significant because under Transport for London (TfL) rules, HGV operators can apply for a permit without needing to provide any additional evidence. However, from 28 October 2024, HGVs rated zero to two stars will need to be retro-fitted with a Progressive Safe System.

The five-star rating clears the way for Lunaz UEVs to enter service in London without any further documents or modifications being required.

Safety in focus

As a ‘better than new’ upcycled electric vehicle, each Lunaz refuse truck is equipped with a suite of technologies to help drivers see around the vehicle from all angles.

The external camera monitoring system comprises two assemblies containing three cameras mounted on the top corners of the vehicle, which send images to screens on the dashboard display. The original wing mirrors are replaced with digitised versions that eliminate rear and blind spots around the UEV.

Unlike standard mirrors, these mirrors operate under all conditions, including rain, snow and total darkness, dramatically increasing visibility and safety. The driver can also see what’s directly in front of and below the vehicle via a dedicated downward-facing camera.

In addition to the cameras and mirrors, an object detection system instantly picks out cyclists, pedestrians and other potential hazards, alerting the driver via the dashboard display screen.

Looking ahead

The green light for service in London is another major step towards the wider adoption of Lunaz UEVs by local authorities as replacements for their end-of-life diesel refuse trucks.

By reusing and recycling existing vehicles, Lunaz seeks to break the destructive replace-with-new cycle, preventing unnecessary landfill and minimising the overall lifetime environmental impact of operating commercial vehicle fleets. A Lunaz UEV is cleaner and better equipped than an all-new electric equivalent, while the restoration and conversion process captures more than 80% of its embedded carbon.

Better for the taxpayer

It can also deliver a 25% lifetime capital saving over its as-new equivalent, providing greater value for money for local authorities, business operators and taxpayers. Indeed, over a normal seven year life-cycle a Lunaz UEV matches a polluting diesel refuse truck for ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ (TCO) meaning Local Authorities and private operators can make the transition to zero emissions vehicles without pressurising existing budgets.

Lunaz has pioneered commercial vehicle upcycling and electrification, a sector predicted to grow tenfold over the next five years, driven by the global transition to net zero and clean-air mobility. Lunaz itself expects to employ 350 staff by the end of 2024 – up from just five when it was founded in 2018 – in pursuit of its stated long-term goal of producing 1,100 vehicles per year.

OIX launches short videos to help businesses understand what digital ID will mean for them

  • It is becoming more urgent that organisations take steps to understand how digital ID will impact them, says OIX.  

The Open Identity Exchange (OIX), a non-profit organisation, has launched a series of short educational videos about digital ID for organisations that will come to accept and rely on digital ID as the primary way for their customers to access their products and services.

These are the organisations that need to know with confidence who their customers are when it comes to onboarding and managing them. For them, digital ID will be a gamechanger. However, digital ID is complex and confusing, and the OIX continues to see high levels of uncertainty among those organisations that will come to rely on it the most.

According to the OIX, many do not truly understand what digital ID is, how it will work for them or what the benefits for their business and their customers will be. It is also shrouded in myths about fraud and privacy issues that need dispelling.  

The OIX believes that it has now become increasingly urgent that these organisations – across various sectors including, finance, property, employment, travel, gambling, telcos, insurance, legal and any age restricted service – understand what digital ID is all about and why it will be a positive development for them.

Some of the benefits include enabling instant access to services for customers, moving away from forgettable passwords, no longer needing customers to find and provide paper ID documents and being able to easily update details as customer data changes.

Ensuring that digital ID works well for these organisations is a key focus for the OIX, so as part of its education work, the OIX has launched a series of short and clear educational videos to provide clarity on the key questions being asked.

Nick Mothershaw, Chief Identity Strategist at OIX, said: “All businesses are going to be impacted by digital ID one way or another. It’s a major focus all around the world. Specifically in the UK, the government is certifying private sector digital ID providers to start working with the businesses that will come to accept and rely on these digital IDs. In some countries, it is now the primary way people can access both public and private sector services. 

“What this means for businesses is that there is digital ID ecosystem in place. They cannot ignore the fact that digital ID is ready to be adopted. The sooner they take steps to make it key part of onboarding and managing their customers, the better.”

The full series of videos about digital ID can be found here.

Highland Marketing welcomes Natasha Phillips to its advisory board   

Former national CNIO and founder of Future Nurse will bring passion for digital transformation to debates and discussions     

Natasha Phillips has joined the Highland Marketing advisory board, to contribute her passion for nursing and digital transformation to its debates on health and care technology and the guidance it provides to the agency and its clients.  

Phillips, who stepped down from her role as NHS England’s first chief nursing information officer last year to found her own company, Future Nurse, said: “My ambition for Future Nurse is as it was in my national role: to ensure nurses and midwives are well served with technology that makes it easier for them to do the right thing for the people in their care.  

Natasha Phillips

“We will do this by bringing nursing experience and expertise to all aspects of digital transformation of health and care.”   

“With its advisory board, Highland Marketing brings together an experienced and talented group for relevant and pertinent discussions. In publishing those discussions widely, it encourages further conversations and debate, influencing decisions made. I am delighted to be part of this group, bringing a wider clinical perspective to the discussion.  

“It is my ambition that wherever discussions about digital health and care policy are happening, a nurse, and indeed a diverse group of clinicians, are actively involved.” 

Phillips started her nursing career in London and has held many senior operational and strategic positions with a focus on improvement.  

She has led multiple technology and data enabled projects including Hospital@Night and the nationally recognised Exemplar Accreditation Improvement programme before she became CNIO at UCLH, leading the successful deployment of an enterprise wide EPR.  

As the first CNIO for England, she led the development of What Good Looks Like Framework for Nursing, the Digital Clinical Safety Strategy, and a Review of the Preparation of Nurses and Midwives for the Digital Age (awaiting publication). 

During her tenure, Phillips transformed the landscape of digital nursing leadership establishing a national team, a CNIO in every region, increasing the number of CNIO’s and NIO’s in provider organisations, and developing a vibrant community of over 1,300 digital nurses on NHS Futures. 

Future Nurse aims to bring nursing, midwifery & allied health professional priorities to the centre of digital and bio tech innovation, through a mix of practical project delivery and a global network of nurses, med tech, and bio tech employees who work together to develop the next generation of technology. 

“If you look at the red thread that runs through my career, it is a passion to improve services and the care we deliver to patients,” Phillips said. “I realised early-on that data is essential for improvement and that digital technology is critical for clinical colleagues who want to improve care.  

“So, my interest is not in IT, but in using data and digital to make the NHS better, improve the lives of clinicians, and make sure that patients get the great care we all want to deliver for them.”  

Highland Marketing is an established PR, marketing and content agency with more than 20 years’ experience in health and care tech and med tech. It employs or works with more than 30 experts in strategy, content creation, PR, and sales acceleration.  

The Highland Marketing advisory board is made up of NHS and industry experts. It holds regular debates on hot topics in health and care tech and provides advice and guidance to the agency and its clients on market issues and effective communications approaches.  

Susan Venables, co-founder and client services director at Highland Marketing, said: “It is always a privilege to welcome such skilled and qualified individuals like Natasha Phillips to join our advisory board. We work with many health tech companies who want to bring a clinical perspective to their work. But it is important to remember that ‘clinician’ does not just mean ‘doctor’.  

“As Natasha has already reminded us, nurses, midwives and allied professionals make up two-thirds of the NHS workforce, and she will bring a strong and experienced voice for them to discussions about the future of digital – which is more than ever up for debate as we go into an election year.” 

Reinventing Local Authorities To Leverage Transformative Ability Of Software

Local authorities across the country are struggling to fully embrace the use of software to improve efficiency, streamline operations and optimise decision-making. Historically, new software has been introduced to a process or system that has been used for decades. Bolt on approaches can work but in recent years, across the public sector, there have been huge failings in doing this which have caused chaos and mistrust around the use and reliability of software.

Rather the simply implementing a ‘software solution’, local authorities need to reinvent themselves to leverage what software, and big data, can do to help them deliver a greater service for public whilst also increasing the level of transparency and efficiency. But how can this be done?

Sascha Dobbelaere – Founder and CEO at Tweave.tech www.tweave.tech

Sascha Dobbelaere, founder and CEO at Tweave, gives his insights into the role of robotics in the retail industry. Tweave Is a specialist in optimising businesses results through digital means by becoming part of the team, developing intelligent software tools and supporting the change.

Streamlining Operations with Automation

Automation offers local authorities the ability to overhaul operations, amplify efficiency, and significantly mitigate the risk of human error.

AI serves as a powerful ally to local authorities, significantly empowering their decision-making capacities. By analysing and processing huge amounts of data quickly, AI provides an impressive platform for accurate predictions and robust risk management. This allows local authorities to approach decision-making with a level of confidence and precision previously unseen.

AI also offers the ability to model potential outcomes, exploring different scenarios and their possible implications. From urban planning to social services and everything in between, AI can be a game-changer for local authorities in helping anticipate challenges and opportunities.

Workflow management software could support workers with time-consuming, monotonous tasks. Automating routine processes would free up your team’s time, allowing them to concentrate on strategic tasks – reducing time and budget costs on unnecessary activities.

Software that can replace paper forms with a digital system, would significantly speed up data entry, and manage document filing. This one-stop shop would enable all departments to store, search, and retrieve digital records – creating a super slick user-friendly efficient system that not only reduces the risk of human error and but also increasing the overall accuracy of data.

Increased transparency is another invaluable benefit. With digital tools, every action and decision will become traceable. This produces a place of significant accountability – which leverages trust among your team and your community.

How To Choose The Right Software Solution

Finding the perfect software solution can feel like navigating a maze, and it’s crucial to choose a solution tailored to your local authority’s requirements. But where do you start? Once you have a organisational structure ready to integrate a software solution, ease of use is essential. The more user-friendly the system, the quicker your team can get up to speed and see its benefits. 

Scalability is also a key element of your chosen software – it needs to be able to grow with the organisation to ensure the investment remains future-proof. Customisation also plays a crucial role. A one-size-fits-all approach might not necessarily suit your local authority’s specific needs – a system that can be tailored to your operations will ensure a better fit and higher user acceptance.

The ability of your new system to integrate with your existing software infrastructure is another important consideration. Seamless integration facilitates a smooth flow of data across your systems, eliminating data silos and duplication of effort.

Software, AI and automation have the ability to collectively deliver seamless public services, AI intelligence guides impactful decision-making, and automation refines operational efficiency. It is a challenge to merge old and new systems together – but it is not impossible. Successful software integration isn’t just about installing the latest version of a software programme. What is key, is aligning this new way of working with the organisations key objectives – and its community’s needs. 

Looking Forward

In the face of the digital revolution, local authorities are presented with a unique opportunity to transform whilst embracing the strengths of software, AI and automation. It’s about more than just keeping pace with the times; it’s about optimising service delivery, enhancing decision-making, and streamlining operations for a more effective, efficient future.

However, it’s key that the approach to this transformation is strategic, measured, and gradual. The integration of digitalisation must align with the overall goals of the local authority – and must be tailored to suit the unique needs of the community. 

By adopting a proactive approach, local authorities can effectively ride the wave of the digital revolution. However, it’s important to remember that digital transformation isn’t just about adopting new technologies; it’s about changing mindsets and fostering a culture of innovation and agility.

By reinventing how local authorities communicate, engage, and serve their communities, we have the essence of truly transformative public service.

Tips for Evolving Your Public Sector Database Strategy in 2024

By SolarWinds Senior Vice President of Engineering Krishna Sai

Krishna Sai leads the engineering, technology and architecture teams at SolarWinds. He is a seasoned leader and entrepreneur with over two decades of experience scaling global engineering teams and building winning products across multiple industries. Sai has held leadership roles at Atlassian, Groupon, and Polycom, co-founded two technology companies, and holds several patents.  

Krishna Sai

New data is being created and accumulated at a relentless pace. One recent estimate found a whopping 328.77 million terabytes of data are created each day. Managing this flood of data in all its forms is no easy task – but the potential business insights that can be gleaned from this data are enormous.

Government organizations have opened their eyes to the vast amounts of data they generate and the various ways this data could be leveraged to improve citizen services. Deep learning technology, which leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology to mimic human learning and decision-making, is a critical tool for uncovering data insights and driving innovation. For example, the Home Office could use deep learning technology to help streamline intricate tasks like the handling of visa and immigration applications, improving employee productivity, and accelerating visa decisions. Meanwhile, air traffic controllers could leverage deep learning to more accurately predict short-term congestion spikes at busy airports, helping improve the safety and efficiency of the national airspace system.

As government organizations explore ways to harness deep learning technology, database managers should start to prepare. Here are four key considerations for database management in this era of big data and deep learning.

Strengthen Database Foundations

The foundation of successful deep learning initiatives lies in high-quality, real-world data and consistently high-performing databases. While AI can process massive datasets at unprecedented speeds, government databases must be able to support the complex processing requirements needed to extract actionable insights.

To meet the growing demands of advanced AI algorithms and deep learning, government IT teams need to plan and execute effective strategies for their data and databases. This could include upgrading to more powerful and efficient databases equipped with unlimited throughput, scalable processing power, and zero latency.

Harness the Cloud

Database managers are increasingly turning to cloud-hosted database services to help manage the vast amounts of data government organizations generate and collect. Unlike on-premises data centers, cloud-based solutions are less constrained by operational and technical requirements. This means cloud-hosted databases can more quickly and easily scale to process growing amounts of data. When managed effectively, cloud-hosted databases can also help organizations optimize IT spend and improve performance across the technology stack.

But Don’t Rule Out On-Premises

However, factors like an uncertain economy, budget constraints, and high up-front migration costs are causing some public sector organizations to hold back on cloud investments. And that is a valid choice. The reality is not all database workloads perform optimally in the cloud, and migrating might introduce unnecessary complexities. Additionally, inflationary pressures have impacted some pay-as-you-go cloud models, making on-premises database solutions an attractive and reliable option.

Prioritize Observability, Regardless of Environment

Government CIOs must manage concerns around cost, productivity, and efficiency whether they prioritize cloud-hosted or on-premises databases. That’s where observability technology can make a difference.

By implementing observability, IT pros can get a comprehensive view of the IT environment and databases – no matter if they’re on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment. Observability technology discovers and maps the data estate and provides health and daily performance metrics. Down-to-the-second data collection allows teams to uncover issues connected to an error or outage, accelerating root-cause analysis and remediation. With observability, database teams can help ensure the success of deep learning implementations, enabling the government to more effectively serve its citizens.

Fusion21 and Newlands Developments announce new partnership to drive social impact

National social enterprise Fusion21 has officially announced a new nationwide social value partnership with Rugby based developer Newlands Developments.

The ground-breaking collaboration will see social impact incorporated into all Newlands Developments’ projects at the pre-planning application stage to ensure multi-million pound developments benefit the local area and people who live there.

Fusion21, based in Merseyside, specialises in public sector procurement and social value services, and first joined forces with Newlands Developments in 2021 on their Brackmills Gateway project in Northamptonshire.

L-r Mark Chadwick and Sarah Maguire from Fusion21, Ben Taylor and Ed Pigott from Newlands Development

The support from Fusion21’s social value experts saw significant benefits delivered for the local community, including the creation of 45 full-time jobs, subcontracting packages awarded to 23 businesses within a 20-mile radius, and a dozen on-site training courses provided to local residents.

Impressed by the success of Brackmills Gateway, Newlands Developments approached Fusion21 for their help with projects nationwide.

Fusion21’s social value team is now working with the developer on extending their social value footprint with a number of major planned schemes.

The team is helping them to maximise social value within developments, which could be through creating jobs, offering work experience opportunities for young people, or reinvestment within the local borough through using local supply chains.

Ben Taylor, Planning Director at Newlands Developments, said: “This is an exciting partnership for Newlands who are fully committed to embed our schemes in the communities they serve.  Fusion21’s experience will assist us in meeting the social value objectives contained in our ESG & Sustainability Strategy published earlier this year, that includes preparing detailed Employment, Training and Skills Plans for all of our projects.”

Fusion21’s strong track record was also a key factor for Newland Developments.

They were involved in the £80 million Headbolt Lane infrastructure project in Kirkby, which resulted in £518,000 of local investment and jobs for 117 Knowsley residents.

Over the previous 12 months, Fusion21’s work to support developers and contractors linking social value to development resulted in over 300 jobs for local people and 16 new apprenticeship opportunities.  A further 30 young people benefited from work experience placements with a focus on inspiring the next generation to consider careers in construction. This generated almost £7 million in social return on investment.

The procurement and social value specialist is also working with a number of major house builders to monitor and support delivery of social value including Taylor Wimpey, Bellway, Equans, Redrow, Gleeson Homes, and Vistry.

Sarah Maguire, Head of Social Value at Fusion21, said, “Our partnership with Newlands Developments is reshaping how we approach social value on a large scale. Our expertise in social value linked to planning and new development is a real USP and Newlands is a developer who is keen to really give back to the local community.

“Together, we’re rewriting the rules of development to ensure we deliver lasting change for local people and businesses.

“Having a social value strategy embedded at the planning application stage is something we’re seeing more and more local authorities requesting. Our ambition is to become the social enterprise of choice for forward-thinking developers who want to embrace a transformative approach.”

For more information about how Fusion21 can support developers keen to add social value to their projects, visit www.fusion21.co.uk/social-value or contact sarah.maguire@fusion21.co.uk.

Tel. 0845 874 4082

Asset Alliance Group hires Strategic Development Manager to steer decarbonisation plans

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Robert Gwynn

Experienced transport policy and public affairs specialist, Robert Gwynn, has been appointed as Strategic Development Manager at Asset Alliance Group.

Gwynn joins the commercial vehicle specialist to support its plans to increase the number of alternatively fuelled vehicles across its fleet, as part of the company’s long-term commitment to serving customers’ changing needs.

Joining from Volta Trucks, where he was Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Gwynn previously spent more than six years at Hermes in operational and public affairs roles.

“I’m really excited to be joining a forward-thinking company that is keenly aware of the importance greener fuels have in a more sustainable future for the transport sector,” says Gwynn. “With financing one of the key challenges in the decarbonisation of transport, Asset Alliance Group has a huge part to play in facilitating operators’ transition to a cleaner and greener future.”

Bringing experience of policy analysis and lobbying campaigns in the transport industry, Gwynn will be responsible for developing strategy to transition Asset Alliance Group’s vehicle fleet from diesel to renewable alternative fuels.

Willie Paterson, Chief Executive of Asset Alliance Group, says: “Rob joins us at a pivotal moment in the company’s journey towards decarbonisation. By harnessing his expertise in environmental and sustainability issues, we will be better equipped to meet the changing needs of our customers.”

One of Gwynn’s immediate priorities is to bring fresh insights on alternative fuel technologies and government policy driving developments to advance the company’s ambitions on the road map to decarbonisation.

“With this knowledge, and working closely with vehicle manufacturers, we can determine what type of assets we need to have on our books, ensuring we offer expert advice to our customers on how alternative fuels can fit in with their own sustainability plans,” Gwynn adds.

Based in the Wolverhampton office, Gwynn will report to Asset Management Director, Marc Mellon.

Local Government Recruitment: Addressing Challenges and Proposing Solutions

By Rod McMillan, Marketing Manager, Monster UK

Rod McMillan

As we usher in 2024, local authorities across the UK find themselves at a crucial crossroads in the continually evolving employment arena. A Local Government Association survey reported last year that over nine out of ten councils were experiencing recruitment difficulties in at least one occupation. 

Although councils offer a wide range  of over 800 roles –  spanning social work to IT – they grapple with persistent staffing challenges. These include employee shortages, budget constraints, outdated recruitment processes, and a growing reliance on agency staff. However, there are a number of steps that local authorities can take to improve the situation.

Key Challenges

  • Recruitment and Retention

An alarming 78% of councils report difficulties in attracting qualified staff, with retention posing a significant hurdle, as per the Local Government Association’s 2021 report.  Particularly problematic is hiring and retaining younger talent in areas such as social services, education, and healthcare, recruiting skilled professionals.

The Office for National Statistics reveals that, despite a modest increase in public sector employment to 5.87 million employees in June 2023, local government experienced slower growth compared to central government, not helped by ongoing issues in recruitment and retention.

  • Financial Constraints

The burden of financial constraints, exacerbated by unresolved pay disputes, further complicates the recruitment landscape. Examples such as Guildford Borough Council freezing recruitment due to a £300 million debt and Glasgow City Council having to settle a £770 million pay dispute underscore financial strains faced by local authorities. With costs rising, many councils are struggling to balance their budgets, intensifying the urgency for strategic solutions.

  • Outdated Recruitment Processes

While the private sector has largely adapted to modern recruitment practices, many local councils lag behind, and  it is high time they followed suit. Workforce planning strategies must include a thorough review of processes and tools. Notable efforts, such as Halton Borough Council replacing long paper application forms with CVs and introducing immediate interviews highlight some positive strides. Centralising departmental recruitment, as many councils are now doing, and implementing modern applicant tracking systems and recruitment software help standardise processes and enhance efficiency.  This enables potential employees to find the roles that fit best and helps councils hire better candidates faster and cost-effectively.

Developing Solutions

  • Employer Branding 

Creating a compelling ‘Employer Brand’ – that is, how candidates perceive a potential employer – is pivotal in attracting and retaining talent. Many factors influence this, including their positive and negative experiences with the council as constituents, and news coverage. Local councils, delivering essential services to the community as they do rather than selling a product,  must differentiate their value proposition to potential employees. Understanding employee aspirations such as flexibility, security, and meaningful work in a culture that aligns with their values is crucial. It’s important to communicate shared values to potential candidates, and deliver on those promises, especially in attracting younger workers and competing for experienced talent against the private sector.

  • Communicating Unique Benefits

Emphasising the unique advantages of working in local government is also vital. Stability and job security, work-life balance through innovative practices such as the four-day work week, diverse career opportunities, and the ability to make a tangible impact on the community are powerful selling points that recruiters should underscore.

  • Community Impact: Working for a council means making a tangible difference in people’s lives, a powerful motivator for many
  • Stability and Job Security: The public sector offers a lifeline in an era of economic uncertainty and recruiters should not underestimate this advantage.
  • Work-Life Balance: Innovative councils are finding ways to introduce flexible work arrangements, including the four-day work week 
  • Diverse Opportunities: With roles spanning urban planning to environmental health, local councils offer many diverse opportunities, with clear progression paths.

All this needs to be communicated clearly to candidates.

  • Process Modernisation

Leveraging technology for online campaigns and streamlining application processes is imperative for councils to stay competitive. Embracing such change while ensuring a consistent employee experience not only aids recruitment but also reduces risks and enhances return on investment. Council successes, such as those highlighted in this local government recruitment case study, demonstrate the positive impact of embracing modern tools and strategies.  It shows how campaign tools such as  our Pay for Performance helped the council increase their application volume and improve their conversion rates, particularly in sectors requiring specialised skills. 

  • Strategic Planning and Partnerships

Recruitment is not a one-off activity but an ongoing process that demands meticulous planning. Identifying current and future workforce needs and establishing the right  partnerships with educational institutions and commercial organisations are strategic moves that can offer invaluable support to local councils.

The challenges facing local government recruitment are many but not insurmountable. By modernising processes, strategically highlighting the unique benefits of council jobs, and forming effective partnerships, local governments can attract and retain a skilled and committed workforce, thereby shaping the future of effective local governance.

Genetec adds CAPSS 2023 certification to cybersecurity credentials

First manufacturer to be recognised for unified video and access control software

Genetec Inc. (“Genetec”), a leading technology provider of unified security, public safety, operations, and business intelligence solutions, has announced it is the first manufacturer to achieve the Cyber Assurance for Physical Security Systems (CAPSS) 2023 standard, for unified video and access control software. The specific solutions to be granted CAPSS approved status are Genetec Security Center Omnicast™, Genetec Security Center Synergis™ and the Genetec Synergis™ Cloud Link.

@GPSJ file image

Unlike its competitors, Genetec does not rely on third party integrations to provide video and access control through a single interface. This is significant as it not only streamlines deployment and maintenance of the system but also simplifies the process of CAPSS recertification for all parties.   

In the UK, the prestigious CAPSS programme is jointly written by the UK’s two technical authorities; the National Protective Security Authority (NPSA) and National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). It was introduced in recognition that cyber-attacks are an ever-increasing threat to critical national infrastructure and aims to set the gold standard for the cybersecurity of physical security systems.  

CAPSS certified technology is a requirement for high security government projects and is increasingly being specified in tenders for other critical national infrastructure (CNI) sectors, such as telecoms. It gives security managers confidence that the software and hardware solutions they select have strong and effective cyber mitigations at the core of their development and operation.

“Our Certification with CAPSS and equivalent standards is an essential element in demonstrating our comprehensive approach to cyber resilience,” explains Mathieu Chevalier, Principal Security Architect and Manager at Genetec. “Customers can be sure that the cybersecurity of physical security is hard baked into the design of our solutions”.

“We’re thrilled that consultants, channel partners and end users can now confidently specify Genetec for any deployment in which CAPSS certification is mandated or desired,” adds Paul Dodds, Country Manager, UK & Ireland at Genetec. “We are already very well established in the government and CNI sectors, where there’s a great need for trusted unified video and access control software that enhances cyber resilience.”  

CAPSS is the latest in a growing list of certifications held by Genetec that demonstrate its unwavering commitment to cybersecurity and privacy. Others include ISO 27001 and 27017, the UL 2900-2 – level 3 standard, SOC 2 Type II and the European Privacy Seal.

For more information, about Genetec and its accreditations, please visit the Genetec Compliance Portal: Genetec Compliance Portal

Reducing the stress of financial hardship on the most vulnerable

Charis client services director Jonathan Hunt outlines the impact the Charis Shop platform is having on organisations working directly with the most vulnerable in their care.

Jonathan Hunt

Supporting vulnerable people in their homes is a fundamental aspect of community care, whether they are recovering after a stay in hospital, struggling with mental health issues, or are simply becoming overwhelmed by the additional financial burden imposed on them by higher energy bills, inflation and general increases in the cost of living.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is simply ensuring that their homes are fit for purpose. Discharging an elderly patient who has no family support into a cold, empty house with an empty fridge is not an option. Housing a single mum in a home which is inadequately furnished with carpets, beds and kitchen appliances will simply add to the overall sense of anxiety. The time and resources that are needed by vulnerability teams involved in finding solutions do not represent the most cost-effective use of a hardship fund.

Charis is working increasingly with NHS Trusts and local authorities responsible for supporting those in the community who struggle with independent living. The rapid and secure distribution of a broad range of products and vouchers through its Charis Shop platform, can generate significant time and money savings on the allocation of the funding.

Energy and food vouchers make up the fundamentals of financial support, ensuring that at the very least individuals can keep warm and have a plate of hot food. Beyond this, the Charis Shop can be used to access the supply of clothes and soft furnishings (such as carpets, curtains, and bedding), furniture, small and large electrical appliances as well as emergency Winter Warmth and Heat the Home bundles containing everything you need to retain heat both personally and within the home.

Products are carefully selected to provide an immediate relief to the intense discomfort of living in poverty. Energy efficiency is also a key consideration. We have recently added air fryers to the Shop, which can cook at 20% of the cost of traditional ovens. The more we can help vulnerability teams to set their clients up to be as energy efficient as possible, the better the use of allocated resources in the long term.

One of our local authority partners recently explained how the Shop has become an essential tool in helping residents navigate the cost of living.

“We work with vulnerability teams across the council and voluntary sector. The Charis Shop enables these teams to offer food and or fuel vouchers as part of a more holistic approach to money advice and support. Because specific criteria are built into the front end of the system, the teams can make fast and accurate eligibility assessments, which allow them to quickly meet the immediate needs of residents”.

Something we have been increasingly conscious of recently is the issue of digital exclusion – both among elderly residents who have not had reason to incorporate smart technology into their lives, and for whom the cost of a device and internet access is prohibitive. Too often people miss out on financial support simply because they cannot access online applications. As one of our NHS partners recently commented: “With the recent addition of digital products to the Charis Shop, we have been able to help individuals with access to vital services, including DWP, the Home Office and mental health support”.

Improving the physical comfort of vulnerable people has a massive impact on their emotional wellbeing too. NHS teams understand how the stress of returning to cold, ill-equipped homes can impede recovery and the Charis Shop enables them to efficiently establish the right environment into which patients are discharged. One of our NHS partners recently sent us the following comment:

“I am the Clinical Matron for the Discharge Coordinator Team within my local Mental Health Trust. We are increasingly using the Charis Shop and it’s rapidly becoming an invaluable resource. With new products frequently becoming available, we are better able to plan discharges, reduce length of admission, and minimise delays where practicable, which in turn leads to a better patient experience. Some of our patients are unable to manage independent living and, as part of their discharge plans, we arrange various levels of supported accommodation for them. This often comes without basic amenities such as cookers, beds and furniture. Many of our patients are not in a financial position to purchase these items at once, so to be able to support them via the Charis Shop is hugely beneficial.

“We have been able to clearly demonstrate the benefits of the Charis Shop, and this has led to all three of our Integrated Care Board putting funding in place. This allows patients from across the county to access this resource and experience the positive impact it can have on them moving forward, whilst reducing the stress of financial hardship”.

Over the last year 48 local authorities have put £2.6 million through the Charis Shop platform, issuing vouchers for food, energy and other essential items, and equipping homes with quality furniture, soft furnishings and energy efficient electrical appliances.

Navigating the digital frontier for local government

By TechnologyOne UK executive vice president, Leo Hanna

Leo Hanna

Local government is facing a perfect storm. Funding pressures and demographic challenges are getting worse, councils are having to pursue modernisation amid economic volatility, and they are still recovering from the disruption caused by Covid-19.  For some, this has been an accelerant to digital progress. For others, a blocker.

We partnered with Financial Times Longitude to survey 500 senior local government leaders across the UK to better understand how local authorities navigate the complexities of the digital landscape. In addition to the government leaders, a survey of 2,000 UK citizens was conducted to gauge sentiment on trust and satisfaction with digital services delivered by local government.

The resulting report, The new digital reality (and how not to get left behind) revealed that to navigate a path to progress, councils seek digital pragmatism – balancing value for money with joined-up services built on robust infrastructure. But to truly engage citizens in this new reality, an innovative digital experience will prove make or break.

The funding trap

One of the report’s key findings highlights a critical issue facing local councils: a gap between digital plans and the ability to fund them. A staggering 63% of councils identify this challenge. The Local Government Association is now warning that an “existential crisis” threatens the entire sector as inflation drives up wages and the cost of providing many services. Councils around the country have warned that they are close to bankruptcy, and some are now controlled by central government because of financial failures.

Unfortunately, this is becoming a recurring theme for local government. The report showed that more than half of local authorities in England plan to cut more services while raising council tax by the maximum possible amount, suggesting this list will only get longer in the months and years to come.

Thirteen years of budget pressures, more cuts expected, and rising resident demand for services amid the cost-of-living crisis are putting significant pressure on councils. It’s clearly time for new thinking and everything should be on the table. Part of the solution is digitisation. Ageing IT systems must be replaced by modern solutions capable of effective planning, budgeting, and forecasting.  

Mission: digital

The report addresses a crucial aspect of local governance – citizen satisfaction with digital services. With only 41% of residents content with their council’s approach, our research shows there’s room for improvement. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the research shows that digital channels are key to enhancing employee productivity and citizen engagement, to meet the evolving needs and expectations of their residents and employees.

So local government leaders know they must find ways to do more with even less. But they are also aware that there is no room for error on IT investment. Local government wants to innovate, and the challenges of recent years have accelerated digitalisation. But ambition must be tempered with realism: digital solutions have to come with genuine and measurable benefits. 

Smart and secure

In an era where cyber threats evolve rapidly, the report exposes a startling reality: 59% of councils have an outdated approach to cybersecurity. Despite the increasing risk of breaches, many local governments lag in adopting robust cybersecurity measures.

As we have seen over the last few years, cyber-attacks on councils are costly for taxpayers and pose a threat to democracy. We believe there is a role for government to provide funding to help local authorities invest in modern IT systems that act as a first line of defence against cyber criminals. This includes helping councils to move away from legacy, on-premise systems and upgrading to  Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. Systems haphazardly patched together still deliver mission-critical services at local authorities across the country but they need to be urgently overhauled if they are to remain secure. 

If you ask councils whether they would prefer to invest in frontline IT experts or teachers, the answer is clear. But the reality is that the cost of an incident can be catastrophic and have lasting financial impact on a local community. As costs and demand for services rise, modern software solutions can help to ease the burden, freeing up valuable resources when they are needed most.

In a world where digital transformation is no longer a choice but a necessity, local governments must lead the charge. The TechnologyOne and Financial Times Longitude report is a valuable guide for local authorities seeking to navigate the digital frontier successfully. As we stand at the intersection of technology and governance, the path forward requires bold steps and innovative solutions to create better, smarter, and more secure communities for all citizens, ensuring that no one gets left behind in this new digital reality.

The findings of the report will be explored with local government leaders in a series of events around the country this February bringing the stories, insights, and people behind our New Digital Reality report life. To register visit The New Digital Reality Launch Events.

TechnologyOne is a global Software as a Service (SaaS) company. Founded in Australia, we have offices across six countries. Our enterprise SaaS solution transforms business and makes life simple for our customers by providing powerful, deeply integrated enterprise software that is incredibly easy to use. Over 1,200 leading corporations, government departments and statutory authorities are powered by our software.  

Our global SaaS solution provides deep functionality for the markets we serve, including local government and higher education in the UK. For these markets we invest significant funds each year in R&D. We also take complete responsibility to market, sell, implement, support and run our solutions for our customers, which reduce time, cost and risk. 

How Swindon Council Improved Procurement Efficiency and Cost Savings with Matrix Workforce Management Solutions

Introduction: In July 2018, Swindon Council embarked on a transformative journey in partnership with Matrix Workforce Management Solutions to address long-standing procurement challenges. Through a strategic collaboration, this case study delves into the successful transition from a master vendor solution to a neutral vendor model. The study highlights the problems faced by Swindon Council, the innovative solution devised by Matrix, and the remarkable outcomes achieved.

The Problem: For over 16 years, Swindon Council grappled with a Master Vendor solution that led to a concerning predicament. Over 50% of services were being procured off-contract, leading to inflated costs, lack of standardised processes, and compromised quality control. The absence of an effective tracking mechanism hindered proper management of services and posed potential quality risks.

The Solution: Recognising the need for a comprehensive solution, Matrix proposed a tailored Neutral Vendor managed service model. Collaborating closely with Swindon Council, Matrix ensured that the solution aligned seamlessly with their objectives. The implementation, conducted within an eight-week timeframe, was marked by the successful onboarding of all off-contract expenditures. This swift action yielded immediate and substantial cost savings. Through the standardisation of processes, a clearer view of spending patterns emerged, enabling better decision-making and allocation of resources. Furthermore, adherence to compliance protocols significantly reduced the risks associated with off-contract expenditures.

The Outcome: The transition from the traditional master vendor model to the innovative neutral vendor approach proved to be a resounding success for Swindon Council. By effectively addressing the challenge of off-contract spending, the council experienced noteworthy cost savings, streamlined processes, and elevated service quality. This shift not only positively impacted the financial bottom line but also bolstered service delivery and vendor management.

Key Results: Matrix’s partnership with Swindon Council yielded impressive results:

  • Over £4.5 million in cost savings
  • Creation of more than 4,000 placements
  • An average of 10 candidates per order
  • An exceptional fulfilment rate of 99%
  • An impressive 220% expansion of the supply chain

Conclusion: The collaboration between Swindon Council and Matrix Workforce Management Solutions stands as a testament to the potential for innovation and efficiency in the public sector. Through a well-designed transition from a Master Vendor to a Neutral Vendor model, the council achieved substantial savings, enhanced service quality, and improved vendor management. This case study serves as an inspiring example of how strategic partnerships can drive positive change and deliver tangible results in complex procurement environments.

Why We Need to Close the Accessibility Gap for People with Sight Loss

By Kyran O’Mahoney, Chief Technology Officer– NCBI, National Council for the Blind in Ireland

As the digital era moves at an unprecedented pace, it presents a great opportunity for those with visual impairments to gain access to online assets that heretofore have been difficult to utilise. However, the Accessibility Index by the NCBI highlighted that progress is still needed, even among Ireland’s education websites and apps, many leading universities and secondary schools require additional steps to improve their digital accessibility.

Technological progress can allow those with visual impairments to engage in the world with much-improved autonomy. However, many institutions continue to trail in providing tools that deliver better digital experiences for the visually impaired. This technology should be a priority because removing hurdles and providing new resources makes life easier for the user.

For those with a visual impairment, navigating digital interfaces can be challenging, particularly for individuals dependent on-screen readers who rely on keyboard-based interaction. Web pages and applications lacking accessibility pose obstacles; it could be course enrolment, accessing content or joining virtual conversations or communities. Enterprises that fail to address these issues inadvertently alienate potential customers who cannot find the necessary information.

For accessibility to work effectively, it shouldn’t be an afterthought or just something to mark off a list when we create digital platforms or content. Accessibility should instead be at the centre of all decisions to ensure everyone can have digital access and control. When we design digital tools with everyone in mind, it helps all people use technology to a high standard. If organisations start including accessibility right from the start, they can make sure their products and services work well for all.

Making accessibility a priority means considering it from the start of any design process, particularly when selecting or designing digital platforms and content. Here are some top tips to help:

  • Vary formats:  Provide information in different ways and formats, like audio, big print, or electronic Braille, to help others. This allows those who can’t see well to access information in the way that suits them.
  • Keyboard tools:  Ensure you create websites using keyboard navigation to support special tools like screen readers to access and move through the content.
  • Visual support:  Add captions to help people who can’t see well understand what’s in the pictures and follow videos.
  • Feedback:  Test platforms and content on those with visual impairment to help find any issues. This can improve everyone’s accessibility.

The NCBI is determined to change these people’s lives. As Ireland’s agency for people who are blind or have trouble seeing, they work with 55,000 kids and adults nationwide, helping individuals live confidently and independently.

Through their work, NCBI knows it’s essential for everyone to be able to access the digital world and get to the content they need. Using Blackboard Learn from Anthology to help with this alongside Anthology Ally, they can change class materials into different types, like audio or electronic Braille. This lets learners get the class content in the most suitable format.

This technology makes a real difference to the people using it; one user said, “Being able to get class content in Braille made a big difference. Now I can use my electronic Braille tool without any problems.” This shows that technology that’s easy to use is essential for people who don’t see well.

Another area needing attention is social media platforms, which have created additional hurdles for those with visual impairments. In particular, image descriptions and accessible hyperlinks must be presented inclusively by incorporating image descriptions, appropriate hyperlinking and video captions to deliver true inclusivity.

Although there has been encouraging progress, to improve accessibility, there is significant work ahead. The Accessibility Index compiled by Inclusion Accessibility Labs highlights a growing necessity for enhanced digital accessibility and inclusiveness.

We know that technology has the opportunity to transform accessibility for individuals with visual impairments; to unlock and empower the user, organisations must prioritise accessibility thoroughly. By creating inclusive digital environments and adopting accessibility tools, we can bridge gaps, regardless of visual impairment.

Deyton Bell Managing Director joins the Institute of Economic Development Board

Neil Darwin, Managing Director of Cambridge and Leeds-based economic and commercial development consultancy Deyton Bell, has been appointed to the Institute of Economic Development (IED) Board of Directors.

Neil Darwin

With over 30 years’ experience working in economic development, Neil has led Deyton Bell’s support for global public, private and not-for-profit organisations via consultancy, in-house and outsourced services since December 2020, having first joined the organisation in 2017.

Neil was formerly Chief Executive of Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP and Opportunity Peterborough, the city’s urban regeneration company, and Managing Director of Regional Cities East. He specialises in strategy development, programme management, delivery and change management, developing organisational capacity and capability, and works with partners across the UK and Europe.

Having held a number of economic development roles across public and private sectors, and with extensive experience in political environments, Neil is aiming to bring a wealth of knowledge to support the IED’s mission for change.

“The economic development landscape is currently the most fractured I have known with a critical debate underway between growth and inclusion, with a need for rapid action to achieve net zero,” Neil said. “These macro challenges require the IED to have a strong national voice and exert influence as we move towards the next general election. Recent progress by the IED has been positive and the Grow Local, Grow National manifesto presents an important blueprint for the sector and government to grasp. The scale of the challenge facing the sector was my motivation for seeking a board position.”

Having been an IED member for around 25 years, Neil suggested that the Institute has “never been in better health” and that economic development is “as hot as it has been for a long time” as it rises to the forefront of the policy agenda.

“Throughout my career, operating around the country, I have developed strong insights into economic opportunities and threats impacting our towns, cities, rural and coastal communities,” he explained. “My work with various local authorities has shown that in an era of austerity, economic development capacity has diminished, yet those same authorities rely heavily on economic development to keep their communities prosperous and increasingly bring in new income. We are on the cusp of change, and the IED’s call for councils to be given statutory powers over economic development is the manifesto for delivering it.”

Neil added that “the next chapter for UK economic development is arguably the most important to date”, and he would also bring his specialist expertise in innovation, business support, infrastructure development and delivery, inward investment and skills to the Board.

The Chief Economist at Deyton Bell also reflected on his own experience as an IED member. “There is more value now than ever before,” Neil said. “Myself, and the Deyton Bell team, have attended different IED events and engaged in learning modules on the way. Connections are being facilitated above and beyond the Annual Conference, and we are seeing a more inclusive network, sharing of knowledge and experiences, as well as movement to influence national decision-making on economic development.”

IED Chair Tom Stannard added: “I am pleased to welcome Neil to the Board, not least given his vast experience working in economic development across public, private and government sectors, all of which make up IED membership.”