Local Authorities have a number of duties which intersect with digital inclusion and skills:
- Service delivery: This involves sharing information and transacting with citizens. The more citizens can self‐serve online, the greater the efficiency savings. Services can also be improved by effective, well‐designed online processes;
- Commissioning, and in some cases provisioning, of relevant services such as anti-poverty work, welfare reform and benefits, adult education and health and social care;
- Provision of library services: Libraries are the most consistent provider of community access to computers and the internet;
- Some Local Authorities still provide housing services. Changes to the welfare system (pdf) will potentially affect revenues and residents’ well‐being.
This complex picture means that Local Authorities have so much to gain from a joined‐up, partnership‐based approach to digitally‐enabled citizens.
The pressure to save money is acute for Local Authorities. Citizens Online has extensive experience in developing localised, cross‐sector partnerships to ensure sustainable digital inclusion provision. Our experience suggests that digital inclusion needs to be embedded into service provision. As services are redesigned, the digital inclusion issue needs to be addressed and dealt with as part of that redesign.
Front‐line staff can act as digital champions, showing customers how they could find what they need online. Many staff may need training to improve their own digital skills. Staff can also signpost to other sources of support, access and training for digital skills. Work with external partners can help to ensure that digital skills are interwoven at other stages of customer journeys. For example, ensuring local advice and guidance providers are able to support online applications for benefits.
Before trying to improve digital skills and inclusion among citizens, Local Authorities benefit from taking a step back to understand the full extent of the issue they are dealing with. They can look for concentrations of need within the population, existing resources and gap analysis, find relevant partners to work with and link back into current, relevant policies and strategies.
Citizens Online’s Switch offer can help with this baseline work, which will guide strategy and action planning going forwards. Our Switch offer is flexible to your needs and can also assist with resource deployment, digital champions, coordination and project management. We have worked with over 50 local authorities including Gwynedd, Plymouth, Brighton & Hove, the Scottish Highlands and Orkney Islands.
Please contact us if you want support to tackle digital inclusion in your area.