Laura Sharman 11 December 2013

Prediction 2014 will be year of ‘virtual authority’

Next year will be the time of the ‘virtual authority’ with digital tools becoming the primary method of interacting with councils, new research is predicting.

Zurich Municipal has predicted that 2014 will see a substantial growth in councils using digital channels to communicate with the public and deliver services.

The research shows visits to council websites rose by almost 70% this year, and Zurich believes that in 2014 digital tool will overtake the phone for the primary form of interaction with the public. However, it warns that this increase could increase risk and lead to greater customer expectations.

Andrew Jepp, director of public sector at Zurich Municipal, said: ‘With its promise of lower costs, better and more instant communication, and a growing body of success stories from across the sector, there are plenty of good reasons for local authorities to go ‘virtual’ and we expect to see many shift much of their delivery and communications online next year.

‘However, digital delivery is not without its risks and councils could be particularly vulnerable to the reputational impact of any systems failure. As the Obamacare website crash in the US has recently shown, relying on online channels to engage in public service delivery can be fraught with difficulty. In order to reap the full cost and time savings that a more virtual approach can offer, local authorities must make sure they have the right skills, infrastructure and business continuity plans in place – and we believe 2014 will see many councils across the UK do just that.’

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