Hi, I’m Sam Hall, the recently appointed Chief Digital Officer for local government in Wales.
The purpose of this strategy is to define and communicate our approach to digital for delivering local government services for Wales.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way citizens access services. Attitudes have changed. Many citizens will no longer see it as essential to visit a shop, pay for something with cash or even have face to face meetings within their organisations. Instead, citizens now expect to access services with a tap of the finger at home. So how do local authorities, the organisations that deliver essential services across Wales, keep up with this new citizen demand? That’s where my team comes in.
The Welsh local government digital team will champion local authority services, support and enforce digital delivery of these services, and assist local authorities in meeting their ambitions.
Digital is at the core of delivering all local government services (and no longer adding to service delivery).
Welsh local authorities have a remarkable history of adopting collaborative approaches to problem-solving, which is a real benefit to the people who live, work and visit our country. The Welsh local government digital team will support this collaboration by providing digital professional support with officers and leaders in local authorities to see this through to successful, sustainable delivery.
In my role as Chief Digital Officer for Welsh Local Government, I will work with Chief Executives, senior officers and political leaders to create trust and consistency with service teams, facilitating an environment that gives officers the freedom and safety to innovate. Of course, this alone will not establish digital professionalism across Wales; however, our team working alongside local authorities at the practitioner level is key to developing that trust and sharing learning across Wales. We are there to champion change and innovation at senior levels, which in turn provides those on the ground with a strong vision and comprehensive support.
The high-level plan for the Welsh local government team for the next three years is to create fantastic services for citizens. Every service designed with my team will be diverse and inclusive, ensuring that every citizen feels represented.
I want to support the ambitions of local authorities. The Welsh local government digital team will develop a blueprint for affordable, adaptable and sustainable services, designed directly from the needs of people who access those services. It will be customer-centric and citizen-connected, making the best use of advances in robotics, machine learning and service design.
Local authorities are a great place to work. The work by the Welsh local government digital team will support the ambition of making local authorities in Wales a destination employer for the very best in digital, data, and technology.
The following information will set out the focus for the Welsh local government digital team.
Who is this strategy for?
Improvements to local government digital services benefit everyone. Citizens, businesses, and visitors.
In Wales, we have:
- 22 Local Authorities
- 3.1 million Citizens
- 1 in 5 people living with a disability
- 238,200 active enterprises
- Over one million tourists
- 28% of people that speak write or understand Welsh
This strategy outlines the priorities for the Welsh Local Government digital team for 2021-2023. The priorities will have all people in mind when delivering against them, to ensure our work is always accessible and fully inclusive.
How we operate
Our team is funded by the Welsh Government and is proud to be hosted in the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA).
Welsh Digital Ecosystem
We work closely with Welsh Government, the Centre for Digital Public Services (CDPS), and NHS Wales to deliver digital services to people in Wales.
- The Digital Team for Welsh Local Authorities will prioritise the 22 Local Authorities.
- The Welsh Government Digital team will concentrate on Welsh Government’s Digital Services.
- The Digital Health team will support all digital development in health and social care.
- The Centre for Digital Public Services has a focus across the public sector in Wales, identifying opportunities where we can all work together for the greater good and where skills and capability can be developed for all of us to benefit.
The digital leadership across Wales share a single goal: making digital public services better for people living, working, and visiting Wales.
To create sustainable and robust digital services, they must be flexible and adaptable to future requirements and needs. So everything the Welsh local government digital team will do will be with the mindset of ensuring that services welcome change, improvements and updates. We must ensure that we are able to take advantage of digital innovation that hasn’t yet been developed.
“For everyone” is a big task. To create inclusive digital services, delivery teams must consider every person at every stage of service development, and this consideration must continue when services are live. There will always be new ways to make services a little better for someone, and the Welsh local government digital team will remain open, curious and proactive to support local government services to be accessible to all.
The Welsh local government digital team will act responsibly and remain accountable, ensuring the best interests of the people we serve are met. To ensure our work is of the highest value to people in Wales, we will embed research and evidence in all decision making.
The Welsh local government digital team will work with local government bodies to share responsibility for the environmental footprint our services leave. The Welsh local government digital team will be open about the services we provide and ask to be held to account when assessing our impact on the physical world. We will continue to push towards more sustainable services.
The Welsh local government digital team will always work in the open to share our learning and work. We hold ourselves to the highest standards to ensure we gain and maintain the people we are fortunate to work with and the people we serve.
How we developed our strategy
This strategy has been developed by taking into consideration the Welsh Government Digital Strategy and the local authorities’ digital strategies. The Welsh local government team reviewed these strategies for digital and have focused on the core themes demonstrated.
This strategy addresses the priorities identified by local authorities in Wales and the work that the local government digital team will take to support and help the wider sector to meet these priorities. We do this through support, guidance, training, communication, projects, collaboration and leadership.
Once for Wales
The Welsh local government digital team sees an opportunity to create local government digital services collaboratively, sharing capability, capacity and learning. This strategy sets the ambition to consolidate service delivery to deliver best practice for all and reduce duplication across local authorities in Wales.
Through the collaboration and consolidation of service delivery, ‘Once for Wales’ provides an opportunity to increase the capacity across digital delivery teams to improve overall service quality for people who work, live and visit Wales.
A ‘Once for Wales’ approach sets the ambition to provide consistently high-quality services, regardless of where they are in our country.
Consequently, citizens and visitors will receive the same quality of service, with familiarity and accessible digital interactions aligned to offline channels.
Once for Wales is not stating that all local authorities will have the same approach and the same technology stack. Once for Wales is an ambition to have a single set of standards, data, shared principles and a framework that enables maturity and collaboration. This may include technology platforms when appropriate.
For local authorities, ‘Once for Wales’ means that digital teams can share skills and capabilities within the Digital, Data and Technology professions, to help overcome some of the resourcing and recruitment challenges all the local authorities face. We will share and develop best practice and scaling service delivery so that all authorities work together, supporting and delivering the best services with the most talented officers in the country. This also means working together to overcome barriers and frustrations to do what we do best and deliver excellent services to our communities, and not see digital as a blocker to that. We also use our skills and experience to identify and facilitate the right training, to support capability in the local authorities.
Our suppliers and the organisations we work with means they negotiate once in Wales and get a clear set of requirements and user needs. Consequently, an environment of transparent accountability between ourselves and our suppliers will emerge.
For the third sector and partners across Wales, ‘Once for Wales’ will mean that it will be easier to work with many local authorities in Wales. Additionally, the local authorities will be transparent on the support and systems they need to work with, which will allow partner’s and the third sector’s work to deliver and support our communities.
The Once for Wales strategy outlines our passion for getting the end to end service right for all people living, working, and visiting Wales, including online and offline service design. It highlights how we want to see the whole person who is accessing a local government service, serving them as a person, and not designing services as individual transactions. To do this, everything we do should meet the following three criteria; human-centred design, data and capability.
To drive improvement forward we have identified them as our critical areas of focus:
- Human-centred design and services
- Capability model
Human-centred design and services
Human-Centred Design is a creative approach to problem-solving and how we will design services in Wales. It’s a process that begins with the people we are creating the service for and ends with a solution tailor-made to their needs.
Human-Centred Design is about building empathy with people, defining their pain points, prototyping solutions, and finally, producing a service based directly on their input.
We commit to creating services that prioritise the needs of the people who live, work and visit Wales.
More than the recognised digital practice of user centred design, this strategic priority will use those guiding principles and methodologies but will go further. Human centred design is about recognising a person’s needs, not for an individual service, but as a person, with unique circumstances at a point in time, and how services can support and help that individual.
Impact on Citizens
It is important to us that citizens trust that their voice is heard. To achieve this, we will ensure that people can easily identify actions based on their feelings.
Gaining a range of insights from the people that use our services, enabling us to boast an end-to-end service for everyone, with no citizen excluded.
Finally, we will view citizens as customers, so they feel that their money is spent on receiving the best services possible.
Impact on local authorities
The pursuit of insights will give local authorities a catalogue of research to support their service design. This will help local authorities produce detailed requirements that feed into a service that will be right the first time.
Impact on Suppliers
We will communicate our requirements to suppliers effectively and clearly. To do this, we will use and champion clear use cases and complex needs, which will ensure that the solutions we receive are optimum for the task.
Also, we need to be transparent about what is driving the service. Adopting a human-centred approach means that we want the best customer service; cost and other factors, while important, will not be weighted as highly as the benefit to the user. Getting the user requirements right first time will reduce the need for costly changes later in the process.
Impact on Partners
The Welsh local government digital team will share research and findings with partners and the third sector. We are encouraging everyone to focus on citizen needs during design, which will lead to better-served communities.
Diversity and Inclusion
We will create and develop services that work for everyone. In achieving this, we will look to engage with as many citizens as possible. We recognise that we will not always get this right, but we ask to be challenged and informed if our services are not as inclusive and diverse as we strive to make them.
Historically, the public sector has consisted of valuable organisations trying to keep pace with an ever-changing political and economic climate. However, recent advances in understanding how data can help concentrate decisions and actions in public and private sectors can help change public organisations from being mainly reactive to proactive. Our ambition is to ensure we work alongside other public organisations, like Data Cymru and the NHS, to use data to benefit citizens, local authorities, suppliers, and democracy as a whole.
Impact on Citizens
A democracy needs to provide easy access to data for citizens. This will help people make informed decisions on how various governing bodies are performing.
We will also plough data back into decision making so that citizens can be confident that the data they share with us has a value and is being used to improve the service they receive. As a team, we commit to working in the open and being transparent about what we’re doing. We hope this will create an open and trusting relationship where people can easily challenge and engage with us.
Impact on local authorities
Better data will translate into better decisions. We want local authorities to be able to reference quality data when making important choices that will affect their community. Data will enable local authorities to analyse trends and be proactive when making interventions. This view of the future will help make the local authority more efficient while also allowing more time to create solutions. Together, this will help local authorities to focus their spending on evidence-based information leading to more targeted intervention and less expensive remediation activities.
Impact on Suppliers
Having access to good data will help us define measurable outcomes with suppliers and then objectively monitor performance against these. This will create a relationship based on clear accountability.
Impact on Partners
We will share data gathered with partners and the third sector to learn from our combined data insights. This can help them to focus their efforts and create solutions of maximum value.
Commitment to Citizens
Citizens are rightly apprehensive when allowing permission for organisations to use their data. To instil confidence, we will follow Government Digital Service’s Data Ethics Framework. This entails:
- Transparency – Our intentions and actions can be easily scrutinised.
- Accountability – The public and its representatives will have oversite and control over our actions and decisions.
- Fairness – We will respect the dignity of individuals, be non-discriminatory, and consistent with the public interest.
Great work happens in Welsh local authorities every day. The people that make this happen have diverse skills, capabilities, and characteristics. Our ambition is to champion these people and to support their skills and training in the digital space. As a result, they can continue to do great things, not only in their own area but to support and contribute to local government services across Wales. We also acknowledge that there are gaps and we need to do more to attract the best people to fill these gaps through training, development and targeted recruitment.
We want to bring people together to align service delivery and create a pan-Wales multidisciplinary team of experts. This will make service delivery in Wales more consistent, more collaborative, and more supportive of the people that are delivering.
By sharing people’s skills and passions, we can strive to do it once for Wales and make services more efficient, wider-reaching, and better for the people who live, work, learn, and visit here.
Impact on Citizens
Citizens will be able to trust that they have the best workforce working for them. They will recognise an improvement in services and feel that we are proactively looking for ways to make them even better.
Impact on local authorities
Local authorities will have the best talent working for them. We will help spot potential and present opportunities for growth inside their organisation, supporting an environment focussed on building careers.
Impact on Suppliers
Across Wales, we can be more assured that we are giving suppliers the right direction, as we will have a team who knows what is needed and will speak the same language when communicating those requirements effectively.
Impact on Partners
We will support partners and the third sector by sharing knowledge and expertise. Our people can help them to help communities by engaging with and collaborating on meaningful projects and programmes of work.
Raising our game and raising the profile of Welsh Local Government
The technology and digital landscape is ever-evolving and adapting. To ensure we are always at the forefront of these developments, we will continuously invest in skills and capability with colleagues in local government in Wales.
We will share learning, best practice, and skills to ensure all local government digital services are of the highest quality. We will create accessible, inclusive, and adaptable services in local government in Wales, ensuring we always put the needs of the people using the service first.
We will establish practitioner communities in collaboration with the wider public sector to continuously learn the latest technology and digital skills.
We will support recruitment activities ensuring we bring the best people in to local government in Wales, but also champion the amazing work we do for citizens across Wales.
We will adopt Agile methodologies and mindset. We will continuously learn, adapt and iterate our work to ensure it is always relevant and valuable to the people for whom it is intended. This also means we focus on work that matters and never waste effort on something that isn’t proven to improve local services.
We will always remember that we are delivering services and products for people. Therefore, we will test and build services with real people in mind, not focusing on our products and services’ technical capabilities but focusing on how these make people’s experiences and interactions with local government better.
Wales has a lot of talent, capability, innovation, ideas, and experience. But, to have excellent services across Wales, we have to find ways to work together and share. Share code, share knowledge, share insights, and share solutions. Our citizens, businesses and visitors deserve the best services, and through collaboration, we can achieve it across Wales.
How This Translates into Practice
To conclude this strategy, we are going to give examples of some of the practical activities and work streams we are currently undertaking and are going to start in order to deliver this strategy.
We are already working with local authorities to deliver various projects. We are also developing a backlog of work to ensure a large portion of our time is focussed on delivering solutions to problems. For these projects we will use agile methodologies because we believe that it is the most effective methodology available when designing services for people. Additionally, we will be actively promoting the use of this working method to the officers within the working groups formed so agile practices can be taken back and adopted within their own local authorities.
We want to create a centralised repository where the best designs and services throughout local authorities in Wales are stored. This will give authorities the opportunity to lift these designs and services from the pattern library and implement them in their own authority. This will save authorities time and cost, but also will give local authorities, as a collective, the opportunity to provide residents with consistently great digital services wherever they are in Wales.
Collaborating with Leaders
We have already had a lot of engagement with Chief Executives and senior leadership teams within local authorities. We have also met with political leaders and ministers too, and will continue to do so in future. There are various reasons for doing this. Firstly, we want to understand what their priorities and challenges are, which when added to the priorities and challenges of residents, will fuel our backlog of work. Secondly, to champion concepts like human centred design so it has leadership endorsement in local authorities across Wales. Finally, it gives us the opportunity to further advocate the importance of digital in local authorities and the potential for what can be achieved should it be driven forward by senior leaders in Wales.
Skills and capability
We have already set up multiple training sessions for local authority officers. These sessions have included Content Design, Content Accessibility, User Experience Design, Service Design, and Agile and Lean methodology. These sessions are pilots so we will assess whether officers feel as though it has been beneficial to them. Depending on feedback, we will look to introduce more training sessions going forward. We have also set up events like meetups and show and tells. Meetups are an opportunity for officers to come together to talk about a topic and stay in touch to collaborate in future. Show and Tells give local authorities a platform to present digital services they have implemented so attendees are aware of good work that is happening throughout Wales.
Additionally, we are going to create a pathway for officers within authorities to learn about digital and pursue a digital practitioner discipline. We will do this by offering the chance to join our team for a certain amount of time to work on a project. We will then provide the officer with the knowledge and skills to take back to their authority and hopefully progress in their chosen digital role.
Finally, for Capability, we are looking into how we can create a centralised multi-disciplined team that all local authorities can access. This team will work on projects that impact multiple authorities and will design sustainable services to address the challenges that are being faced.
We have developed this strategy based on extensive research, learning, and understanding across the public sector in Wales.
- It has a clear focus on local authority service improvement which can be sustained for the future.
- It is the conduit between the high level aims of the Digital Strategy for Wales and local authority plans and visions for citizens across our country.
- It is centred on what we have learned are the three main areas of need, which are also important to the foundations of good digital development and service design.
- It purposely covers the only a two-year period, which in the internet age is a long time. We will want to revisit it regularly, reviewing and revaluating, so that the next strategy clearly takes us further on the journey.
- It will not be shelfware. We will refer to it and test our projects against the strategy to ensure we push forward on these clear priority areas.