Digital change is already happening and it is important that Coventry understands how we can harness these changes to best effect – for the Council, for customers, residents and for Coventry as a 21st century city. It is also important that despite the widespread nature and uptake of digital technology, we don’t leave residents behind who don’t have the skills or access to take advantage of the opportunity.
Coventry is a city that is used to reinventing itself; it’s done so successfully for centuries. Digital is a fundamental part of the change we will make as we develop the physical environment of the city and deliver on the ambition of becoming an even greater place to do business.
The Council is facing significant challenges – since 2010 funding from central government has been cut by 50% this equates to grant cuts of £655m since 2011/12. This means we have £200 less per resident in Coventry to spend on services. We do not have the funding, capacity and all of the expertise to deliver the digital innovation that we know would benefit the city. We have strong partners, including two world class universities, communities and businesses in the city who are already engaged in digital innovation – relationships that we can develop to make Coventry digital. We have work to do to ensure that our workforce has the skills to deal with the digital age and we are facing unprecedented reductions in funding that will continue to change the services that we provide.
We know that digital can help us to achieve reductions in the cost of public services through increased efficiency, automation and effectiveness. We can use digital to increase the productivity of the public sector workforce - through flexible and agile working. We can also use the opportunity of digital to completely rethink the way that we deliver services rather than just computerising them. We need to focus on designing digital processes and solutions with a strong emphasis on user experience and ease of use – in the same way the Government Digital Service (GDS) has done for some central government processes, including renewing a passport or taxing a car.
The ability to operate effectively in a digital age is a key skill for all of our residents, and in particular young people leaving school. This will help to increase their job readiness and ability to thrive in work, maximising the use of technology to support health, wellbeing, community networks and democracy throughout a person’s life. The whole population must have access to technology, infrastructure and skills to ensure they will get the most from the digital age and we want everyone to have an equal opportunity to do this.
Digitalisation provides the opportunity to deliver vastly improved and accessible data that can be used to predict and plan both tactically and strategically – not only how public money can be spent to better effect, but also to influence the priorities for private investment that will underpin economic growth and enable a proactive and personalised service to users. Data is an asset which can be shared in a controlled way with citizens and local enterprises. Data can be used in new and innovative ways to support the ambition of the city.
The digital revolution also presents challenges that we must understand and prepare for, including cyber-resilience and cyber-bullying. We also don’t underestimate the importance of maintaining human interaction in our lives and the services the Council delivers – digital provides the opportunities to enhance the way things are done.
Technology is increasingly present across all sectors and is becoming integrated in many aspects of our lives. Coventry needs a digital strategy because digital technology has the potential to transform the city and the lives of residents while generating long-term savings and income. Coventry City Council is already responding to this challenge through its transformation work, including Customer Journey and Kickstart programmes, alongside digital innovations within individual services. However, to fully realise the benefits that digital technology can bring, we need to pull together our digital work into one place, increase its scope beyond the work that the Council is doing as an organisation and align this work to other partners so that we are co-ordinating this work across Coventry.
We are establishing this Digital Coventry Strategy because it will benefit the people of Coventry, develop Coventry as a place and improve the outcomes that the Council can deliver. It will support the delivery of the Council Plan, including promoting the growth of Coventry’s economy, improving the quality of life of Coventry people and delivering our priorities with fewer resources.Cllr John Mutton, Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance and Resources