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Covid-19 tech heroes: stories from the technical front line

desk full of laptop, phone, monitor , PC and kindle

The past weeks have seen local government organisations respond to the Covid-19 crisis with an unprecedented rapidity and agility.

Guest blog post from Microsoft.

Up and down the country IT teams have burned candles at both ends to play their role in ensuring that citizens are safe, that the wheels of local democracy are kept turning (virtually) and that PPE supplies find their way to care workers who need them most.

This work has been in many ways the epitome of agile development with a spirit of ‘good enough for now and we’ll improve as we go’ being the dominant ethos behind the work. It’s also shown what public sector and commercial partnerships, forged in the heat of crisis, can deliver.

Remote working

The earliest weeks of the crisis saw a gargantuan effort to deliver remote working to huge swathes of local authority staff, almost overnight. Some had this well in their sights already [as described by Geoff Connell of Norfolk County Council in Issue 19 of In our View]. Durham Council’s adoption of Teams for 6,000 users prior to the pandemic left them well positioned to manage its challenges. Others we would like to highlight are the Welsh Government which rolled out Teams to 6,000 council staff within a week, and Wiltshire Council which did 4,000, in the same time frame. In the past, this sort of change would have taken months of painstaking planning and delivery.

Organisations are now moving to deliver critical public services digitally.

More examples can be found in ‘Covid-19 response: Microsoft Teams scenario collection for local government’.

For some this has involved accelerating, for others the change has been more abrupt, but no less successful.

Many authorities have made another rapid digital journey to deliver support to those who need it most.

Almost as quickly as Community Response Hubs have popped up round the country, so have apps to support the process of ensuring that vulnerable people get what they need.

  • Bury and other Manchester councils are partnering with ANS to address this issue.
    As Nicky Parker of Bury Council comments: “We can’t afford to miss any of these requests – they are critical to making sure that some of our most vulnerable residents and their families are kept safe at this time. We felt that paper-based approaches and spreadsheets were simply not going to be up to the job.”
  • Other applications to deal with this requirement have sprung up elsewhere in the country, for example in Scotland under the guidance of the Digital Office for Scottish Local Government, in partnership with Agilisys, where a regional approach will allow for more swift changes to be made for the benefit of all those using the system and those they serve.
  • Hammersmith & Fulham and other London boroughs have partnered with Hitachi Solutions in a similar vein. Founded on public and private sector collaborations, built and deployed within a few days, they also make the most of low code platforms such as the Microsoft Power Platform.

We’ve also made these tools free for six months to public sector organisations using them for Covid related activity.

Other organisations are using this platform to manage issues arising in other highly sensitive areas which Covid-19 has brought to the fore; inescapable realities of the current situation. Together with Hitachi Solutions, all mortuaries across London are using this same lightweight technology to assist them with mortuary storage and fleet logistics. A team from Microsoft has built an application to help make it easier for victims of domestic abuse to find help during lockdown.


As we all reflect on the ‘new normal’, and the financial realities within which the sector will need to operate, there will be important decisions to make about the future shape of local government and the role which recent digital advances will play. Local authorities and their technical teams have demonstrated their ability to innovate and deliver under unprecedented stress. We can be confident that more great things can be achieved when Covid-19 is behind us.

This is an advertorial in issue 19 of In our View. Read the whole issue here:

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