Digital by default
‘Digital’ is of course not new. The first personal computer was mass-marketed in 1981 and the internet was launched in 1991 and this quiet revolution continues to this day. Take our family homes that are increasingly packed with tech – smart TVs, laptops, tablets, smart phones and smart speakers. Smart speakers only came on the market in 2014 and now one in five homes will hear something like this on a daily basis: “Alexa, play The Greatest Showman.” (My four-year-old Maxwell thinks he is Hugh Jackman).
Whilst ‘digital’ isn’t a specific workstream in our approach to the pandemic, it has played a central role in every aspect of our personal and organisational responses. Connecting with family and friends online; shopping, learning, fitness and leisure; and working from home as many of us continue to do. Without ‘digital’, none of this would have been possible.
But what does all of this mean for Staffordshire County Council? Whilst we can’t predict the future, digital is not going away, and the pace of change and new technologies is only going in one direction.
So we’ve been working with the council’s new Cabinet to look again at our digital strategy and projects and ask whether they still make sense. The emerging answer is, for the most part, yes. We think there are four key elements that we need to focus on:
- Digital council – the next phase of smart working and full roll-out of Microsoft Teams.
- Digital citizen – bringing more services online, investing in Staffordshire Connects and supporting those who find it harder to do things online.
- Digital care – big push on assistive technology and supporting virtual working in adult and children’s social care.
- Digital economy – supporting people to have good digital skills and more access to superfast broadband and 5G in the future.
We’ll bring the refreshed plan to Cabinet in November and call it something simple like Digital First or Digital by Default, which captures the essence of what we think digital is – “services that are so straightforward and convenient, that all those who can use them will choose to do so, whilst those who can’t are not excluded.”
Whilst we focus on delivery in the coming months, we’ll also have an eye to the future. 2020 will undoubtedly be a memorable year but when we get to 2030 and look back, things could be almost recognisable… take two examples:
Government are thinking about bringing forward the ban on petrol, diesel and hybrid cars to 2030. This has profound implications for our role in infrastructure and public transport. Will it be electric, hydrogen or something else? We don’t know yet but its coming, and fast.
The global health care robotics market will grow by 13% from 2018 to 2023 and probably continue at this rate. This means that things like Pepper the Robot and Robear, that are slowly transforming health and social care, will be common-place in the next decade, with the obvious impact on how we provide care.
We need to embrace these new opportunities and ensure Staffordshire and its residents and businesses flourish. We all need to approach it like my son, Maxwell, with playful curiosity. In 2030, he won’t be asking Alexa to play his favourite song, he’ll just think it and then P.T. Barnum will appear as a hologram blasting out Come Alive in the corner.
Assistant Director – Strategy, Public Health and Prevention