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What we learned from the Local Digital Roadshow 2022

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The Local Digital team holding a workshop with attendees during the Yorkshire Roadshow.

This year has seen the Local Digital team travelling around the country for the first time in two years as part of the Local Digital Roadshow series.

We’ve been joined by 119 people from 64 councils at five in-person events encompassing the North East, Midlands, North West, Yorkshire and the South West, plus a virtual event for attendees in the South East and East of England. It’s been fantastic to see so many of you in-person, so thank you to everyone that travelled to take part or tuned into the virtual event.

What is the purpose of the Local Digital Roadshow?

We held our very first roadshow in 2018 with the theme of ‘transforming local services for the internet age’. As well as understanding local authority needs, we wanted to share our vision for the future of public services and set out our plans to work collaboratively with councils.

The overarching aim of the roadshow has not changed since 2018, however this year it provided the ideal opportunity for us to introduce councils to our exciting three-year plans for Local Digital, gather your feedback, and gain a better understanding of the cyber and digital challenges that the sector is facing. What we hear at events such as this is vital in helping us to shape our work and the support we provide to councils.

The events were open to any council officer interested in learning more about delivering better digital public services, or anyone in local government who has signed the Local Digital Declaration and wants to improve on their commitments.

DLUHC Deputy Director of Digital, Lawrence Hopper, giving a presentation on the future of Local Digital at the North West Roadshow.

What we heard from you

After a welcome and introduction from the Local Digital team, we split into small groups for the first workshop to explore the common cyber and digital challenges that councils are facing.

At each event, we heard that councils across the country face many similar challenges and barriers to digital transformation—emphasising the importance of collaboration when it comes to creating solutions.

It was useful to see that many of us had the same challenges and that those had already been identified as areas that needed help e.g. cyber incident response, legacy applications, supplier comms and application lifecycle management

- Feedback from Local Digital Roadshow participant

We learned that the most common challenges and barriers that councils are experiencing include:

  • lack of budget or funding to afford solutions
  • lack of access to training, or the time to do it
  • recruiting and retaining staff, and the difficulty of making the sector appealing to the right people with the right skills
  • difficulty gaining senior management buy-in to resolve digital or cyber challenges, including lack of understanding from political figures
  • domination of legacy systems which prevents improvements in digital and cyber

After lunch, we got back into groups for a follow-on workshop to discuss how we can meet the challenges together. During these sessions, we heard that:

  • connection and sharing best practice, patterns and lessons learnt are the keys to success
  • many councils use common systems, and have similar needs, so it makes sense to create solutions together
  • clear vision and leadership is needed to help drive forward change
  • embedding user-centred design approaches is important
  • creating services in-house that are open source will help councils move away from their reliance on large suppliers and legacy technology - but knowledge and capability are key to them being able to do this
  • councils would find an accredited library of systems that pass the Technology Code of Practice (TCOP) useful
  • councils want to see what works and don’t have the resources or risk appetite to experiment themselves

Great atmosphere - it appeared that DLUHC was genuinely interested in our contribution and wasn't just there delivering a fait accompli awaiting our nodding approval.

- Feedback from Local Digital Roadshow participant

A workshop to identify and discuss common technology challenges during the virtual South East Roadshow.

Continuously learning, iterating and improving

After every event, we held a team retrospective to discuss what went well and what we could improve ahead of the next event.

We also invited attendees to complete a feedback form to let us know what they thought of the event they attended.

By regularly inviting and discussing feedback, we were able to continually make improvements to the events. This included:

  • sharing discussion points and a more detailed agenda on the registration page, to enable attendees to better prepare for the interactive parts of the event
  • providing more time for the workshops, to allow room for conversations to develop

After the first event, members of the Local Digital team also undertook a two-day facilitation course to enable them to better support attendees during the workshops.

Overall, feedback on the events has been really positive with 97% rating the roadshow they attended as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. We were also pleased to hear that 100% of attendees would consider attending future events run by the Local Digital team.

Attendees told us that they found the workshops and networking opportunities the most useful, including meeting local colleagues, hearing from like-minded people and having lively discussions where issues could be shared and solutions brain-stormed.

Members of the Local Digital team facilitating a workshop with attendees from councils in the Midlands at the Local Digital Roadshow in Birmingham.

What we plan to do next

We are currently in the process of defining a multi-year programme of work. We will continue to co-create our plans with councils and iterate as we go, and we are planning to do a lot more engagement with the sector.

Our proposed next steps are to:

  • continue to push forward our work to help the sector improve cyber health, including the development of a cyber health framework and better access to cyber products and services
  • help councils to recruit and retain the cyber and digital staff they need to deliver digital reform—this includes ensuring councils have the skills, knowledge and tools they need to design and deliver modern digital public services
  • deliver initiatives to improve the local government technology market, making it easier for councils to build and buy the products they need to deliver better outcomes for citizens—this includes our work on the Local Digital Fund
  • work closely with some councils to establish the practical pathways for moving off legacy technology, and to ensure all councils have the insights and shared assets (such as code, patterns and tools) to do the same

You can follow our progress and stay in touch with our plans via the DLUHC Digital Blog, well as our usual channels:

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