William Eichler 02 February 2022

Majority of councils not taking ‘open approach’ to digital services

Majority of councils not taking ‘open approach’ to digital services image
Image: Photon photo/Shutterstock.com.

Over three-quarters of local authorities across the UK do not use standard Government technology components when designing their digital services, an FOI request has revealed.

The Government’s Service Standards advises councils to use open standards and common components and patterns so that web teams do not have to ‘solve problems that have already been solved.’

It also means that it will be easier to make different systems ‘talk’ to one another, which enables local authorities to deliver digital services more efficiently.

However, freedom of information (FOI) requests sent to 430 councils by digital experience company Acquia have revealed that 78% of the local authorities who responded to a question about common components (134 responses) do not use a single one.

Of the 168 councils which responded to the question, just 38% design using open standards, while 25% have in development or do as much as they can. Councils were similarly hesitant to make source code open, with only 11% of respondents opening 100% of their code.

Overall, the FOI responses revealed an increase in the use of digital services at the local level due largely to the pandemic. According to Acquia, usage has increased by 27% on average in the 12 months from summer 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

Many local authorities have adapted to the increased usage. Over 80% of 322 responses stated that they have evaluated their website against Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or plan to do so in the next 12 months.

‘While it’s promising to see digital uptake increasing, given the budget constraints facing local authorities, it is vital that they develop digital channels in the most efficient way possible,’ commented Tom Bianchi, Europe CMO, Acquia.

‘Taking an open approach – whether by leveraging open source components or standards, or making code open – will allow councils to harness expertise from other developers, maximise efficiencies and accelerate digital transformation goals.

‘Yet despite these clear advantages, it’s concerning that so few have embraced open practices. As the pandemic continues and people increasingly demand digital services, councils must urgently rethink their digital strategies to ensure they can continue to support residents in the most effective and efficient way possible.’

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