04 May 2020

Keeping local government online in the fight against coronavirus

Local authorities have always been on the frontlines of community care. But responding to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is an unprecedented challenge. We want to reassure you that we’re here to help and are working to support changes in the way councils and their communities stay connected.

Protecting the most vulnerable, assisting the NHS, coordinating volunteer efforts and being the point of contact for all those in need. This is just a snapshot of what’s expected of local authorities right now. Up and down the country you can see ‘leadership of place’ at its very best. Council leaders everywhere are stepping up to deliver for vulnerable people and looking after the places they’re responsible for. All the while, moving staff into new roles to keep critical services running. It requires a lot of communication to organise, especially when you’re under pressure to work remotely and avoiding travel where possible.

As organisations, communities and individuals pull together and make changes to try and stop the spread of COVID-19, local authorities need to know their connectivity is secure and reliable. Our core network is part of the country’s critical infrastructure. It has 10 times the capacity needed for everyday use so it can more than handle the current surge in working from home. But we aren’t being complacent and if more capacity is needed, our engineers are on standby to make that happen.

And we’re doing more for local authorities than simply connecting calls.

Work together from anywhere

Remote working has been propelled into the spotlight in the past two weeks. For councils, it ensures that important decisions can continue to be made and the day-to-day management of vital services carries on.

We’re helping councils to work remotely so they can continue providing for their communities. Cloud-based collaboration tools help entire teams to use the same apps – no matter the device or where they are. And they’re able to securely access intranet systems using a virtual private network. These cloud-based solutions also support teams to use video conferencing technology, enabling them to chat face to face or host group calls on the fly. Nicola Millard, our principal innovation director, has some helpful tips for making working from home, work for you. From building the right workspace, establishing a routine and creating virtual ‘watercooler’ moments to knowing when to switch off and of course, the importance of a good chair. Look out for the full article in the coming weeks.

Get the right tools for the job

We can provide smartphones and tablets for key workers, so they can get the information they need while delivering care on the frontlines. We’re also installing 4G hubs to boost signal and capacity at key sites.

Addressing the digital divide

The changes being made in people’s day-to-day lives have highlighted the issues for those who aren’t connected and for whom this situation may take on a completely different complexion. For those without access to the internet, we’re working with councils to provide mobile 4G, so children can keep on top of schoolwork and those in self-isolation can stay in touch with friends and family. We’ve also removed our broadband data caps, so users don’t have to worry about racking up costs.

Fast-tracking innovation

To adapt to the outbreak, we’re all finding new, flexible ways of working. For instance, remote diagnosis is taking off in the NHS, while virtual reality can make home-schooling more engaging. We’re speeding up the delivery of our solutions to make it easier to access these innovations. This includes appearing on procurement frameworks, so local government can get the services and technology they need sooner.

For more information, go to business.bt.com/coronavirus-support or email michael.white@bt.com

Michael White is partnership director for local government, BT and Simon Haston is principal technology partner, regions and devolved government, BT

Skills for Tomorrow

BT’s Skills for Tomorrow programme offers everyone free online resources, giving people the tech skills and confidence they need to navigate the digital world.

There are tips on working remotely for the first time. Plus, there are tutorials on everything from setting up an email account to accessing local council services online.

To learn more, visit bt.com/skillsfortomorrow

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