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Socitm Annual Conference 2017 round-up

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What happens when you mix Socitm with a big football stadium? You get a bloody good conference of course!

This week, the cream of the public sector’s ICT and digital experts, CIOs and CTOs, partners, suppliers and analysts swarmed to Leicester City FC’s King Power Stadium, to listen, learn, question, educate, network, socialise and generally make merry.

An awful lot happened over the two days but here is a decent stab at summarising some of the key elements.

Local cyber security: Democracy in peril?

William Barker, the DCLG’s Head of National Cyber Security Programme Local, took to the stage on day two to highlight some worrying local cyber security issues.

Barker said that the department has been working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to examine the nature of the cyber risk posed to elections and referenda, and how it can be mitigated.

He warned that referendums and elections are a tempting target and that it’s only a matter of time before there is an attempt to interfere with the process (at this point, a representative of Moscow County Council, a Cllr Putin, got up and left the room).

Barker urged councils to put their electoral services team through a day of cyber security training to give them a basic understanding of the possible threats and the basic steps to resist them, adding that local government devolution represents a chance to create new opportunities to improve cyber resilience.

Barker suggested that some of the devolved regional authorities are taking cyber security seriously and making progress in their planning, but also warned that devolution will create new targets for cyber attacks. As a response, he said organisations should make use of Active Cyber Defence, the programme launched by the NCSC to tackle a high proportion of attacks.

Another issue Barker discussed was resilience: the DCLG is looking at how it can work with communities such as local resilience forums and warning advice and reporting points (WARPs) to provide a more nationally joined up network.

Local government’s digital transformation challenges

While we’re on the DCLG, the department’s newly appointed chief digital officer, Paul Maltby, delivered a keynote address focusing on the main challenges local government faces in achieving digital transformation.

Maltby identified user centred design, commodity components, using data and the best approach to connect to local communities as the four challenges which need to be tackled for digital transformation to succeed.

Making better use of data

Pye Nyunt, Corporate Insight Hub Manager at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and an Agilisys transformation consultant, discussed his experience of data insight in local government.

In October 2016, the council set up an Insight Hub with the aim of making better use of the council’s data to understand customer needs, forecast future demand and design behavioural interventions.

There is a general acknowledgement across local government that there is value to be gained from better use of data. In just 12 months, the Insight Hub is driving behavioural change and reducing pressure on council services.

Nyunt informed delegates that Barking and Dagenham is currently working on a predictive data model aimed at helping people before they reach crisis point – which could also help to ensure the council does not have to spend as much money in supporting some at risk people.

He also described a test for an organisation to find out if it has a data-driven culture. If people are using data they will begin a sentence with “I know”, whereas if not they will say “I think”. He said there are likely to be a lot more of the latter than the former.

Rise of the machines: a future the public sector can’t ignore

Socitm 2017 concluded with a very interesting panel discussion on the increasing application of artificial intelligence (AI) in local government services. Public readiness and trust were some of the key issues debated. You can read more about the session here.

Socitm 2018: Fit for the future

We have a really exciting year ahead of us with lots of things to look forward to. As Martin Ferguson, our policy and research director, mentioned in his presentation at the conference, we are reshaping our research programme, training offerings and corporate membership packages to provide even more benefits for our members.

We look forward to a 2018 filled with more discussion and innovation, and thank all those that joined us in Leicester. Don’t forget, you can still register to attend our conferences in Scotland and Leeds on 9 November.

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