Executive Board members are set to approve a new digital strategy for Wrexham Council that will start this year and run through to 2020, including a move toward open data.
The local authority’s previous ICT Strategy covered the period 2012 to 2016 and covered six themes of change, customers, collaboration, consolidation, capacity and coherence.
However in a report due before Executive Board members next week, it is noted that ‘whilst many of these themes remain relevant the technology with which to progress them and the landscape in which the public sector now operates has fundamentally changed over this period’.
The revised Strategy includes a digital focus, with the report continuing onto state that the fundamental objective is ‘to use the power of digital technology to transform the way the Council works and how we engage and support our communities’.
The plan also includes a move towards Open Data, a principle where the likes of Wrexham Council hold large amounts of information that could be used in useful ways by third parties – perhaps best demonstrated by the famous Leeds Data Mill dashboard – here, where for example you can see live realtime information on how full car park spaces are.
We first asked Wrexham Council about Open Data back in 2012, when Chester and Cheshire West launched their dataset pages, with it now appearing that Wrexham will be onboard by 2020.
The report, which will go before councillors next Tuesday, states: “Wrexham Council, like many organisations within the public sector, holds a vast array of data but does not always make best use of that data.
“We will follow the principles of “open data” and “data transparency” making more public data available on-line, enabling others to share and use that data and increasing the transparency of the Council by allowing stakeholders to understand the reasons for the decisions we make.”
FOI output is set to change, with the current system not having a public logfile such as North Wales Police, “We will also reduce the administrative burden of responding to multiple, similar FOI requests by pro-actively publishing information wherever possible and publishing our responses to all FOI requests.”
As we pointed out in April the draft, then with Bob Dutton’s name on it rather than David Kelly, also includes a diagram with “Digital Democracy – Citizens actively engaged in the democratic process”, and ‘Digital Elected Members’ perhaps pointing to more engagement via ICT to the public.
The full document can be viewed here, with some on-the-ground examples of how people could see changes, including:
- Expansion of the inbound mail-room – enabling documents received to be scanned and forwarded electronically
- Improved methods of contact such as “Skype” and in-cab technology to allow direct contact with employees in the field and to reduce the reliance on email.
- Continuing the transition from fixed workstations towards more laptop or tablet devices breaking the link between employee and workspace.
Council Leader Mark Pritchard commented on the report yesterday, although Cllr David Kelly is due to present the report next week. Cllr Pritchard was keen to point that out that despite cuts to finances the money had been found by Wrexham Council to invest in new hardware and software upgrades.
Cllr Pritchard added: “Technology moves on every day, if we do not invest we will stand still. We are investing in the customer service side, so there will be better communication links with us.”
We enquired if there could be money saved via efficiencies, with the reply being it was an example of ‘invest to save’.