William Eichler 21 April 2017

Councillors not ‘digital dinosaurs’, survey argues

Councillors not ‘digital dinosaurs’, survey argues

The majority of councillors are not ‘digital dinosaurs’, but digital exclusion and fear of the digital divide are still major issues, new research reveals.

A study by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) looked at the attitudes and perceptions of 800 local elected representatives on digital technology, governance and leadership in their authorities.

It found that tackling digital exclusion was still the number one concern for councillors. Connectivity also remains a concern and there was a strong and widespread view that current data-sharing arrangements are not effective.

The survey also revealed there is clear backing for digital to be included in thinking around devolution and a desire for councillors to be better supported to understand more about technology and transformation in all its forms.

However, there was a minority for whom digital exclusion and the fear of the digital divide remains ‘a major issue’. The LGiU report Start of the Possible, authored by Cllr Theo Blackwell, warned that this minority may impede progress or the pace of change.

‘Successful digital transformation requires redesign on every level? - workforce, customer service, process, governance? and technology - ?to make public services faster at doing things, more adaptable, able to share more information and do so securely,’ said Cllr Blackwell.

‘For this to happen we need to support digital leadership right across our cities and counties in order to make public services more effective and make a difference to the people and communities they represent.

‘This research shows that the vast majority of councillors are not 'digital dinosaurs', but hold positive views about the application of technology to public services and how councils should work together and share data.

‘We need to translate that into action. There is a good foundation built by those leading councils who have set out bold digital plans. There is now a need for proper co-ordination between authorities supported by a new deal with Whitehall.’

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