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Responsible and secure use of technologies, artificial intelligence and data: a policy focus

Illustration of a woman reading an oversized book, entitled, 'Local gov's big book of ideas'.

Supporting the responsible and secure use of digital – cultures, technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and data – to support the common good, fairness, transparency and societal well-being.

Resources and reading

This policy blog showcases some of our top resources, practical frameworks and tools, and examples of What Works – highlighting impact cases from your peers, our executive partners, webinars, and events.

Mark Lumley is the policy theme lead and the outgoing President of Socitm. He is also the Director of Digital, IT and Resilience for the London Borough of Hounslow and the SIRO (Senior Information Risk Officer). In this role he is responsible for making sure Hounslow take the right approach to information and that they are compliant with the law.

A summary of what’s on President Mark Lumley’s desk

Over the past few years my policy theme has evolved into embracing ever more new technology, such as the great use of data and now AI. It has further aligned to other policies to make sure we embed ethics at the start of any work or project being done. 

I have to start with AI. AI has the potential to play a significant role. Becoming a partner rather than a de facto replacement.

At Hounslow we have adapted Socitm’s AI policy template to fit into work aligning our AI, business intelligence and Smart Place programme. We’ve added in a top to tail review of information governance (IG) at the Council. This is our Hounslow Spark Programme:

Image taken from a PowerPoint presentation, that is titled Artificial Intelligence (AI) Mandate - Hounslow Spark.

Brining out IG in the right way is key as part of this work. ‘Traditional IG’ isn’t going to work for some of this in the future. We’re doing things in Hounslow (AI, smart places, data with information governance at its heart) to drive transformation in the council and make sure the borough is fit for the future.

Collaboration at work in Hounslow

For me it’s important to work with others within and outside the Council. Bringing Hounslow Spark alive by focusing on outcomes and the communities we serve. 

We worked with Petras and the University of Lancashire on a ‘walkshop’ with councillors and residents to see how they view the Internet of Things (IoT). A number of real and made-up IoT use cases were part of the walk and it made for some really interesting discussions along the way.

As part of the West London Alliance my team is helping to transform West London boroughs and businesses into global leaders in deploying technology to solve people and place-based challenges.

On governance, as well as standards that reflect our ethical values, we need to be ambitious but flexible. LOTI’s Sam Nutt summarised some of our thoughts in his 10 ideas for a roadmap of responsible AI in local government.

Ultimately all of this work will be instrumental in engaging with political leadership. Namely, how we can support our politicians to understand technology and embrace it?

What else is influencing Mark’s thinking and working?

  • The UK is lagging behind other cities in Europe on algorithmic transparency mechanisms, so we need to catch up here. I suggest councils should be exploring initial pilots of the national UK Algorithmic Transparency Standard
  • Chapter 6 in particular of The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change paper Governing in the Age of AI:
    New tools of government: An operational model for the age of AI
  • Being cautious of AI use and centering equality, diversity and inclusivity to reduce bias in modelling
  • Continuing to embed ethics in our work, being transparent, and involving our community in how their data is being used sets us up well for the future

It is good to have AI policies. However, councils need to be aware that they should be flexible, and as much as possible adapt these policies as we learn more about AI and as the technology evolves. For now, let’s prioritise the testing and learning approach, and let the policies emerge from that. 

Key challenges and resources

  1. Understanding and promoting the ethical, responsible and secure use of AI and wider technologies.
  2. Ensuring the opportunities AI and wider technologies provide for places and communities to transform, whilst sustaining robust and resilient cyber security.
  3. Ensuring that the data generated and stored, and the public service designs, processes and interactions proactively support wider social value and social progress.
  4. Ensuring public benefit and minimising unintended consequences.

Understanding the ethical, responsible and secure use of technologies.

Socitm ResourcesFind something useful here
Digital Trends 2024Artificial intelligence
From the Resource HubResponsible and secure use
Sample corporate policy for use of Generative Artificial Intelligence
Call for evidence: Large Language Models inquiry
Impact casesEast Riding Council adopts generative AI policy
Strategic partnersDCMS/DSIT Guidance: National AI Strategy
LGA: National AI Strategy – Policy brief
Large Language Models (LGA, Socitm and Solace joint response to the Communication and Digital Committee inquiry from September 2023)
What worksAI Standards Hub
LOTI: Responsible AI
The Open Data Institute’s Data-centric AI Programme 
EventsSt George’s House Consultations
Towards Connected Places: Insights into Actions (March 2024)
AI – Threats and Opportunities (October 2023)
Socitm AdvisoryAchieving it with good governance

Ensuring the opportunities AI and wider technologies provide for places and communities to transform, whilst sustaining robust and resilient cyber security.

Socitm ResourcesFind something useful here
Digital Trends 2024Artificial intelligence
Cyber protection
Geospatial technologies
From the Resource HubThreats and opportunities
Consultation on a pro-innovation approach to AI regulation
Enabling local digital outcomes
Applied artificial intelligence and automation
Impact casesHounslow collaborates with Cisco to enhance their network security
How Barnsley is transforming social care with AI
Strategic partnersLGA Cyber 360 Framework
DSIT Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation: The roadmap to an effective AI assurance ecosystem
Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland: Prevent Cyber Essentials Scheme
What worksDCMS/DSIT Guidance: Portfolio of AI assurance techniques
National Cyber Security Centre:
Guidelines for secure AI system development
Training for small organisations and charities to get to grips with cyber security
TrainingPlace-based Leadership
AdvisoryCentral government and Arms Length Bodies: How to ensure you are ready for your move to the cloud

Ensuring that the data generated and stored, and the public service designs, processes and interactions proactively support wider social value and social progress.

Socitm ResourcesFind something useful here
Digital Trends 2024Artificial intelligence
Harnessing data
Infrastructure and cloud
From the Resource HubLeadership and governance
AI: what senior leaders in local government should know
Impact casesDorset Council Data and Business Intelligence Strategy 2023-2028
ai@cam: Developing an ethical and responsible innovation rooted approach for public value creation
Strategic partnersMajor Cities of Europe: How cities can utilise their citizen’s personal data to help them become climate neutral
Open Data Institute: Enabling responsible access to demographic data to make AI systems fairer
What worksLead Scotland: Linking Cyber and Accessibility Project:
European Commission: Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI
Socitm AdvisoryImplementing a cloud software for Lewisham

Ensuring public benefit and minimising unintended consequences.

Socitm ResourcesFind something useful here
Digital Trends 2024Artificial intelligence
Cyber protection
From the Resource HubLeadership and governance
Skills and competencies
Using Gen AI Large Language Models – Do’s and don’ts
Impact casesThe impact M365 Copilot could have on daily duties of social services in Wales
Partner focusNCSC: The near-term impact of AI on the cyber threat:
Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland
Global Peter Drucker Forum: Navigating the Digital Future: Cyber Resilience in the Age of Information Overload
What worksODI: A new framework of data practices and private beta of two new tools
Alan Turing Institute: Professor Luciano Floridi
Socitm AdvisoryThe role of AI in ERP

In summary

The responsible and secure use of digital – cultures, technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and data can be instrumental in supporting wider social value and social progress. But consideration must be taken when utilising innovative technologies to ensure that robust and resilient cyber security is in place to mitigate for unintended consequences. We recommend:

  • Looking at how AI and new technologies fit into an organisation’s strategy
  • On any use of AI and new technologies, being problem-led and human-focused rather than technologically or solution determined
  • Understanding the different types of AI and technologies on offer
  • Prioritising data privacy
  • Ensuring any data generated is stored and handled correctly
  • Applying the correct document classifications and permissions
  • Planning and mitigating for threats that come with becoming more digital such as data breaches and misuse of information

We hope that by sharing this it will help you and other practitioners with similar challenges across local government.  Let us know what else you need.

The team 

If you want to discuss more about this theme, please contact the policy team below or Socitm in general.

  • William Barker, Chief Strategy Officer
  • Martin Ferguson, Policy and Research Director
  • Mark Lumley (policy lead), Director of Digital, IT & Resilience for London Borough of Hounslow

Strategic partners