Citizens asking Local Authorities to explore digital solutions

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Published: 26/07/2013
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  • New study reveals digital divide between local authorities and the public
  • 48% of citizens want to embrace technology to engage with local councils, but only 7% say they have in the past 12 months

UK local authorities could be missing out on opportunities to cut costs as they are not giving citizens the means to connect with them using digital technology such as websites and social media, according to a new study from O2, conducted by analysts Conlumino.

According to the O2 Digital Community study, almost half (48%) of people say they like to use the internet, mobile apps or social media for essentials like paying for council tax or getting information on local services, such as social care and education services. However in the past 12 months, just 7% have used these technologies to communicate with their local authority either because they are unavailable or don’t provide the information and services they need.

With local authorities under more pressure than ever to improve efficiencies, technology offers huge opportunities to cut costs and deliver the best service. If local authorities harness technology in the right way and encourage people to embrace digital services, money saved can be put towards services that provide care and help for those that need it most.

According to the O2 Digital Community study:

People want more choice; they want to communicate with local authorities in a way that best fits their busy lives:

  • We are more connected than ever before and with smartphone penetration expected to reach 90% in the next three years, citizens increasingly expect seamless, connected services. However when it comes to simple tasks like paying council tax or receiving information on local services, two fifths (43%) of people are frustrated that they still can’t access the information they need from local authorities on their mobile or tablet.

Local authorities aren’t yet capitalising on new social tools:

  • While businesses are taking advantage of digital networks like Facebook, Twitter and mobile apps to communicate with their customers; only 1% of people say they have interacted with their local authority via Twitter and, when they do, 74% are left feeling frustrated by slow response times.

Local authorities could seize this unique opportunity to harness technology and deliver a seamless customer experience:

  • People aren’t getting the best experience when it comes to dealing with their local authority; 83% say information they receive is out of date and 71% say it’s not relevant to them – highlighting the need to do more to meet the needs of the communities they service and deliver accurate, joined up services, from council office, to mobile handset.

Mark Adams-Wright, Managing Partner of O2’s Local Government Practice commented: “Our culture of 24/7 connectivity offers many opportunities for local authorities to reduce costs, be more efficient and most importantly, deliver brilliant services to local communities. With the impending arrival of 4G with O2 this summer heralding an era of ubiquitous connectivity, local authorities have a great opportunity to deliver great digital services to the public.

He continued: “With local authorities under continual pressure to cut costs, digital services can play a big part in saving money and the technology is ready to be implemented. For example, every telephone enquiry from the community will cost a local authority £8.62, as opposed to 15p for a web enquiry*. The money saved can then be spent on people and services that really need help from local authorities.”

Billy D’Arcy, Managing Director, O2 Public Sector said: “Investment in digital technology can have a real impact on social value and improving services, whether that is devices to empower front-line staff to be more productive on the move, or a mobile app that makes it easier for local authorities to engage with their communities. Government and businesses need to work closely together to make sure that Britain’s public services are fit for the digital future.”

To help local authorities do more through technology, O2 today unveiled details of its 2013 Local Government Digital Fund, a new initiative to help local authorities across the UK tackle challenges in their local area by engaging staff, citizens and communities through technology. The initiative builds on the success of O2’s Future Fund, by empowering local authorities to take their most innovative ideas for digital services and role them out in their communities and across their organisations.

The winning local authority will be awarded access to a combination of O2 services and technologies, up to the value of £250,000, to help them turn their digital vision into a practical reality.

The Local Government Digital Fund will open for applications in October 2013, kicking off with a series of events in London, Birmingham and Glasgow.

 

* A 2012 SOCITM study across 120 local councils estimated that the cost of contact for face to face transactions averages £8.62, for phone £2.83, but for web only 15 pence.

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