15 December 2021

A unique moment in time

A unique moment in time image

Many local authorities have used the pandemic to accelerate digital transformation and delegates at the MJ’s Future Forum heard how to take innovation to the next level to build thriving, resilient and inclusive communities.

Menvier Varn, specialist technology partner for BT, explained how creating a ‘digital fabric’ for public services could reimagine towns and cities and revitalise local communities. This digital foundation supports inclusive growth and is reusable, scalable, future-proofed and flexible, to deliver any outcome.

Ms Varn explained: ‘To deliver the transformation of industries on a massive scale, we have created what BT call a “digital fabric”. In other words, an underlying foundation which will enable the next generation of digital services. The basis of this new digital fabric is converged connectivity – across both fixed and mobile – supporting an overlay of devices, data, skills and applications.

‘This digital fabric will ultimately support local government to deliver better social and economic outcomes, such as inclusive growth, more productivity and drive forward a green recovery, while supporting better access to health and social services and increasing citizens, colleagues and businesses overall wellbeing.

‘A digital fabric for a place provides a platform to innovate and deliver next generation digital services that support better outcomes for the citizens in that place. Bringing together real time data that allows for actionable insights for local authorities, businesses and citizens which helps build a smarter, greener, sustainable region. This joined up approach allows local authorities to deliver public services digitally, empowering citizens to self-serve and making it easier for them to access and use these services, while avoiding potentially potential time-consuming, face to face services.’

Made up of a collection of technology capabilities, digital fabric is an open architecture that enables any future product or services. It has been designed to be scalable and repeatable across a place or a region.

‘It starts to get even more interesting when we add another layer which is our data platform,’ explained Ms Varn.

‘We can inject any type of data from any manufacturer which allows users to create actionable insights across their estate, bringing together multiple data sources, layered with security and applications. We bring this all together to allow a single solution for your local authority and consumers of data.

‘An example of where we have delivered innovation, underpinned by a converged digital fabric is our Forth Era project. This is a world leading environmental –data visualisation platform.

‘This project captures, processes, and shares data from across the Forth Valley region using a 5G Led - digital fabric. Using sensors, satellite data and Artificial Intelligence, this data driven platform provides real time vital information on water, soil, and air to inform decisions that will help support major economic and sustainability efforts.’

Ms Varn said this approach would help councils to better understand the movement of people in and around a place, as well citizens’ needs and requirements. ‘This will help to improve feedback for future public services as well as real time decision making based on technologies such as artificial intelligence to support predictive and preventative decision making,’ she said.

So why is now the right time for local authorities to take advantage of these opportunities for innovation? Ms Varn explained that digital is the only way to deliver faster and more cost effective services. ‘This is a unique moment in time, with the huge changes over the past two years we’re seeing people are more willing to embrace digital and online services. Meaning that adoption of digital is well and truly underway,’ she concluded.

Case studies:

North Lanarkshire Council immersive classroom (pictured above)

Led by North Lanarkshire Council, BT and Interactive Immersive Classroom, the UK’s first 5G-enabled immersive classroom has arrived in Scotland. The new immersive classroom has been developed within the Muirfield Centre in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, where a room has been transformed – using innovative technology - into an engaging and digital learning environment.

The solution is made possible through the EE 5G network which brings ultrafast speeds and enhanced reliability to classrooms now, and into the future. With the greater bandwidth that the solution provides, students and teachers can livestream virtually from any location with minimal disruption and connect many more devices than on previous networks.

Leeds City Council

Our Full Fibre Programme with Leeds City Council aims to reach every school in the district, giving each of the 285 sites access to the best possible connectivity. The technology powering this network will also be installed at 293 council-owned buildings and 156 NHS buildings, as well as council housing across the city. By 2023, the partnership with Leeds will support the roll out of 5G mobile coverage to 70% and approximately 81% of the city’s council houses, making Leeds the largest gigabit and ‘5G capable’ city outside of London. This will help to combat the digital divide experienced in some of the city’s most disadvantaged communities and drive inclusive growth.

To discover more about how we’re using the latest digital innovations to reimagine local communities like yours, visit bt.com/localgov

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