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Pictured: Project Manager, Murat Dilek, installing IT equipment at The Foundry.

A Council of the Future (COTF) project is not only helping to transform how communities interact with our services, but also how council employees do their work.

Over the past two years, Digital Communities has been instrumental in making our organisation more responsive, innovative, trusted, and ambitious (RITA).

By bringing to life our RITA values, the project has, amongst a raft of other achievements, ensured:

  • almost 1500 device and connectivity packages were provided to digitally excluded individuals and households during the pandemic
  • nearly 1400 laptops and almost 2000 monitors have been distributed to employees to enable working from home
  • the Foundry is kitted out with the latest technology
  • processes for applying for free school meals, clothing grants, benefits processing and reporting anti-social behaviour are now automated, making it easier to apply while also freeing up employee time

Building blocks

Four projects feed into Digital Communities, which aims to help us deliver on our Innovation priority and our digital strategy - Digital Falkirk:

  • Connected Individuals, Households & Communities: helping to combat digital exclusion by providing devices and connectivity to people who would otherwise by excluded
  • Connectivity: aims to ensure all residents and businesses can get online while also improving our corporate network
  • Hybrid Cloud & Modern Workplace: ensuring our IT systems are quicker and more secure
  • Unified Customer Journey: providing a consistent customer experience while also moving priority services online to free up capacity to help those most in need

The projects work side-by-side to ensure communities can easily access services online and employees do their work digitally.

Now, thanks to funding through the Change Fund, a Digital Communities Coordinator has come on board. The coordinator will work closely with sub-project teams and services to put in place digital solutions that will benefit individuals and communities across the Falkirk area.

Supporting people

At November's COTF Board meeting, Elected Members were given assurances that those who cannot or do not want to engage with the Council digitally are still able to access the support they need.

With Digital Communities Project Sponsor, Annemarie Neilson stressing the aim of the overarching project is "not to make services digital for the sake of it". She said:

“It is about education and taking people on the digital journey with us. To do that we need to keep promoting how easy it is to access services online, while also being clear staff are on hand to help those who cannot or do not want to interact digitally. We know we cannot work faster than people want us to and have the contact centre and Hubs providing support over the phone and face-to-face when needed.”

Karen Algie, Innovation Workstream Board Senior Responsible Owner, added:

“From consultation we know that residents who can use digital services want more of them, and they want them to be slicker. We also recognise the diversity of our communities and that people want to access services in different ways. No matter which way they receive our services, it should be the same high quality of service they get.”

Plugging into the future

As well as helping the Council make savings – Digital Communities is projected to save £145k in 2022/23 - the project aims to ensure 2000 digitally excluded households are provided with devices, connectivity, and support by end March 2022.

Some council owned properties will be provided with connectivity as part of a pilot project to assess benefits, and our analogue to digital journey will continue safeguarding a range of vital services and functions.

A review of customer management systems will also be undertaken to ensure they are fit for purpose and provide data that will help inform future service design.

You can read the future benefits the Digital Communities Project aims to achieve in the Council of the Future - Digital Communities Project report to Executive.