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Welcome to Smartershire

Transforming rural public services through technology

With rural areas of the country having fewer people per square mile, this means increased costs for the delivery of public services. This offers rural authorities some particularly good reasons to use technology; whether by making better or different use of something already available, or trialling and installing new technology.

It puts more of an emphasis on the use of technology to make the working lives of those in rural areas more effective.

Tony Summers, CEO, Socitm Advisory

Longer travel distances mean rural authorities can benefit more than urban ones by allowing mobile staff to work remotely. Tony recalls work at East Sussex County Council, where social workers were sometimes faced with two-hour round trips from clients’ home to enter data at the office in Lewes: “Removing the need for an individual to have to travel backwards and forwards to record the output from a case hearing was a phenomenal saving.”

Who is making it work?

Mapping Shropshire’s social care

  • Shropshire Council is making better use of existing data to transform how it supports adult social care with technology – analysing skill shortages by geography, comparing high densities of need with capacity (or lack) to meet it
  • How to provide care closer to home – using anonymised GP data to help predict how many people are likely to need health or social care in the next few months
  • IoT trials with Hitachi Solutions to support assisted living

Networking Norfolk

  • Norfolk is establishing LoRaWAN and is already using connected sensors on the Broads to provide pertinent information to boat users
  • Centralising internal processes managing printing and sending of letters

Overall a key transformation lesson lies in helping people realise what technology can and cannot do. Managers often latch onto buzzwords such as AI or a piece of software.

Managers should explain what outcomes they are seeking, such as saving staff time. I need to know what they are trying to achieve but often people don’t say what they are trying to achieve because they don’t think we can actually achieve it.

Andrew Boxall, Head of Technology, Shropshire Council

It’s often possible to get significant results by making use of software councils already have; for example, Microsoft Office 365 includes lots of little-known functionality. As well as investigating new technologies and gadgets, people should also get to grips with what they can already do.

Read through the whole article in the most recent issue of In Our View. And please do let us know about any projects you’re involved in. We’d love to hear about them and share them with members.