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A local digital tripartite

To say the ”do we need a local GDS debate” is a slow burner would be an understatement, but recently it’s ignited again, just as it did before the 2015 General Election. I’ve been compiling people’s thoughts on it for the past 13 years , and looking back through them, what’s striking is that the debate hasn’t moved on a great deal in a decade. In fact some of the same issues Carl Haggerty talked about in 2012 are still being discussed today. So let’s think about what’s actually being asked. The majority of digital services offered by councils are procured from and provided by the private sector. Whether you’re looking for a planning application, reporting a pothole, searching for a social care provider, or applying for a school place, you’re probably doing so through something built and supported by the private sector. Even the growing number of councils building services themselves using low-code are doing so through a proprietary platform supported by the private sector.   Whilst it
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Your content is data

Content designers, we need to talk, and you might not like what I have to say. Just over ten years ago, I wrote a piece on  how to reduce visits to your website . Even then the concept wasn't new, but with the emergence of large language models over the past year, it's become even more relevant today. Over the past decade years, you probably found an increasing number of people obtained information about your organisation online via a third party. First through the growth of social media, and then personal assistants, mainly on smartphones and speakers. As a result we've had to think about how content will be delivered through different media and therefore design it differently. For example, here's Richard Copley asking Google Assistant about school term dates in West Berkshire in 2017. It works really well Phil. This is entirely about content rather than code, is that right? — Richard Copley (@Copley_Rich) December 31, 2017 In the next few y

Does the Service Standard work for Local Government?

A few years ago along with many others I had a small part in helping draft the Service Standard , a replacement for both the Digital Service Standard and Local Government Digital Standard . Four years on, whilst the Service Standard has been adopted by some digital teams within local government, my far from extensive research failed to find one council where it has been full adopted across their entire organisation, although some elements have been in some larger councils. So why is that?  Perhaps it's because the Service Standard describes how services can be built by the very few public sector organisations where large fully multidisciplinary teams of user researchers, services designers, content designers, UX spcalists, developers, and so on exist? In reality, for local authorities such as smaller districts which make up the majority of councils in terms of numbers, that kind of team will always be unobtainable. The second factor is that no matter what size the council, there i

Many Logins - Danger Zone

Kenny Loggins Dave Briggs recently wrote this excellent article asking should you develop a single customer account . What he’s actually asking following on from an article written by Carrie Bishop is should you develop a single customer facing website, portal, app, or whatever term you want to use to describe it, and as he says, the answer is no. Should you develop a single customer account though? The answer to that in my view is, yes. Different departments particularly in larger councils can work as independent business units, resulting in a requirement to create a multitude of logins for different services online. This could result in the need to create separate logins to council tax, planning, library, social care, education, and other services, and in areas where there are two tiers of council this is even more likely. It's an information superhighway to a danger zone of many logins. I hardly ever use council services as a citizen perhaps I might hear you say, how would a si

Steering a new course

I love using analogies and similes to explain concepts and ideas, so when someone described a council changing direction as being similar to a train changing tracks this week it bought a smile to my face. I was reminded of Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet which uses a method of transport to describe changing organisational culture, and also perhaps slightly unfair comparisons with turning round an oil tanker others have made in the past. This got me thinking, what's the best analogy for change in local government? Anyone who's worked in the sector will probably recognise that a council isn't a single vehicle, it's more akin to fleet of ships all sailing in formation.  When you think about it like that it's easier to understand that the challenge to deliver change in local government isn't altering the course of a single vessel, we know from the response to Covid that individual parts of a council can change direction very quickly, it's to alter the

A return to cross-sector collaboration

Even before LocalGov Digital was launched in 2012 I exchanged ideas and best practice with people across public sector organisations other than my own. In the following years I was part of the many that delivered things like the LocalGov Digital Content Standard , the  Local Digital Declaration , the Service Standard , and more. During the height of COVID discussion between councils didn't stop and the LocalGov Digital Slack was busier than ever, but for my team and I during that time understandably our focus was largely about delivering responses to the pandemic locally, as quickly as possible. Fast-forward to 2023 I was really pleased when DLUHC approved our application to the Planning Software Improvement Fund , and this week I attended the welcome event hosted by them with people from 18 other councils. In my post about LocalGovCamp last year I mentioned an emerging model for collaboration and delivery, and DLUHC's Planning Software Improvement Fund seems to follow that

Can ChatGPT write your strategies?

Tired of spending months writing a strategy or paying thousands for someone else to? Can ChatGPT do it for free? ChatGPT is, on the face of it, a website which you can ask questions that will provide answers in real time. That’s hardly revolutionary, but behind it is a natural language processing (NLP) machine learning model that's been designed to understand your questions and provide detailed responses to them. Again this isn't entirly new, in fact its current NLP is known as GPT-3 which means that there were two versions that came before. It is considered by some to be the most advanced NLP yet though, so much so that Microsoft will incorporate it into some versions of Teams soon . The people behind ChatGPT ( Open AI ) freely admit it will sometimes provide incorrect answers , and I found this chart produced by HFSResearch really useful in explaining its limitations. What this tells me is that we shouldn’t be relying on ChatGPT to provide exact answers, however it is usefu