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Adventures in New Zealand

By Nadira Hussain

A world of change

Three people standing on a conference stage celebrating winning an award. The man is holding up a framed certificate in the air, and smiling. The woman in the middle is also smiling and holding a framed certificate. The final woman is smiling and holding a perspex award.
The South London Partnership (SLP) wins the International Project of the Year Award 2022 in New Zealand at the Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM) conference!

This was just the best news ever from Socitm’s perspective. And of course the icing on the cake from our visit as the international delegation. Other countries represented in the LOLA consortium include the US, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Sweden and New Zealand.

We’d spent some time considering which project we would put forward for the international award. It was fairly easy to pull together a shortlist of initiatives we wanted to consider. But even easier to single out the SLP. It is so diverse and wide-reaching in its aspirations to make a difference across the places of the participating councils.

The project has delivered positive outputs and demonstrated the impact that using technologies and data creatively and effectively can deliver; some 40 plus use cases have already been tested and established.

Having the formal recognition at this international community was simply fantastic.

Meeting in Christchurch

The ALGIM conference was the first opportunity where all of the colleagues from the countries represented reunited physically post-Covid in New Zealand. This presented a chance for healthy discussion and debate regarding common issues and challenges. It’s fascinating to hear how the same topics and areas of interest are key and are priorities for our global business and digital leaders.  

Members of our Presidential Team were invited to participate in a number of panel sessions, where their contributions focussed on:

  • Cyber security and resilience (the number one priority identified by CIOs),
  • data management and the use of insight to make better informed decisions,
  • the ethical use of technologies and data,
  • digital inclusion, and
  • how we design and deliver customer-centric public services.

Brilliant insights and a great opportunity to compare the international flavours!

Women in DDaT

I had been asked to talk about the work we have been doing at Socitm to help address the lack of gender parity in the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) profession and within the sector. A subject that I feel very passionate about.

I took the opportunity to present an update on ‘Women in Technology; Gaining Ground, or Not?’

Signposting some of the proactive work that we have put in place to start to see some small-scale break throughs, demonstrating the number of women that we have supported to build their confidence, seek personal and professional development, help with the creation of a talent pipeline and to develop visible role models. And we’re immensely proud of these achievements.

Our Director of Policy and Research, Martin Ferguson took to the stage to talk about digital ethics; with a sharp focus on ethical digital placemaking and policy into practice.

Again, our ambition over the last two years to facilitate the establishment of resilient and thriving communities where public services can enable people and places to flourish.

So, why am I sharing this feedback?

It’s very evident to me that we’re all having the same conversations and overcoming similar challenges on the global stage. We are however, experiencing greater budgetary constraints here in the UK as opposed to what other colleagues are facing elsewhere. Given this scenario and the fact that we can align on common topics of interest, I found it helpful to understand the response from other countries and nations.

It strikes me that we are rather repeatedly re-inventing the wheel. Creating the same assets and documentation and implementing the same initiatives and projects in response to the requirements and challenges.

Why are we not sharing more?

Surely there is merit in show casing best practice, as in the case of the SLP project? Sharing the use cases, associated documents and templates to make it easier for local authorities to adapt and adopt the good practice. It’s more important than ever before.

We have to get smarter at defining what good looks like and sign posting the collateral that articulates exemplary outcomes. It’s the only way in which we can overcome the repeated issue of not being able to adopt initiatives across the sector at scale. It is no longer feasible to only consider and reference the practice that we undertake in the UK. We can and must look far further afield.

Socitm is advocating this proactive approach

We’re in a unique position through the extensive relationships that we have with our members in the UK, the Major Cities of Europe (MCE), LOLA communities and other strategic partners. But we’re also intending to facilitate greater information exchange and access to shared assets and resources through the establishment of the Socitm Institute. A single ‘go-to’ place for the public sector – in particular local government – which we’re formally launching in the summer of 2023.

I’ve always been an advocate of sharing to facilitate a scalable response to improving public services. But our thought leadership, work and experiences over this last year has provided a revised endorsement of this approach.

Sharing and collaborating better is the only way in which we can achieve the ambitious outcomes for our places and communities.