Councils appoint chief digital and technology officers

Scottish councils have appointed a chief digital officer and a chief technology officer at the newly created local government digital office, to help them drive change across local services.

Martyn Wallace, who has worked for Capita and O2, and Dr Colin Birchenall, digital transformation manager at Glasgow City Council, will take up their new posts of CDO and CTO later this month.

Centre of digital excellence

It is envisaged that the office will be a centre of excellence in data, technology and digital; collaborating with councils to help them transform and create top class digital services for citizens.

Lorraine McMillian, chief executive of East Renfrewshire Council and chair of the Scottish Local Government Digital Transformation Board, said: “There is a huge amount of positive work being carried out by Scottish councils to use digital technologies to better meet the needs of our customers.

Help councils be ‘ahead of the game’

“However, we must ensure that we continue to innovate to be at the cutting edge of technologies which make it easier to serve our communities.

“We are looking forward to having this new digital office which will help Scottish councils be ahead of the game, to be as agile and effective as possible in this ever changing digital world and we hope ultimately that we will ensure that we continue to meet the needs of our increasingly technologically and digitally savvy citizens.

“Martyn and Colin both bring with them extensive and invaluable experience which I have no doubt will enable us to further drive forward our ambitious digital vision for local government.”

Digitally disruptive

The office emerged from the development of a digital transformation strategy for local government earlier this year, which was approved by the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) and the Local Government Digital Transformation Board. Twenty-seven councils joined forces and will fund the office for the next three years.

Wallace commented: “I believe we can we can do more by being digitally disruptive in Scottish local authorities.

Driving efficiencies 

“My team and I believe that digital is an enabler for better health, better education, better assisted living, better communication, better interactions, creates potential for predicative service interventions, engaged communities and is a catalyst for new economic opportunities whilst also helping drive more efficient and user friendly services to our citizens.

“There is a whole world of untapped data in our local authorities that can be unlocked and used to start small, think big and move fast in driving a significant culture shift in how we can facilitate and deliver services whilst driving better outcomes for end users.

“’Digital first’ methodology is not just about online transactions. It’s also about supporting the people who work in our local authorities, especially our front line staff, for example teachers and social workers, with the right digital tools and equipment to improve their interactions with end users whilst creating a new culture of using data to drive efficiencies and better outcomes in services.”

Re-imagining service provisions

Birchenall added: “Digital is no longer just about online services. Digital technology is available to us wherever we are, at any time and is becoming increasingly intelligent and embedded within everyday objects such as smart watches, smart thermostats, smart light bulbs.

“This provides local government with an unprecedented opportunity to re-image and redesign how services are provided.

“Around the world, and here in Scotland we are already seeing more and more examples of the increasing role that digital can play to improve attainment, help people to live more independently, increase physical activity, empower communities, create new economic opportunities, and help local government to deliver better, more accessible and more efficient services.

An environment for ‘open innovation’

“We cannot keep up with the rate of change of technology alone; we need to create an environment for ‘open innovation’ where we all have a stake in our digital future; where we empower people to innovate collaboratively to delivers better outcomes for our residents and provide new economic opportunities for businesses.”

The new CDO and CTO have been tasked with turning the digital transformation strategy into actions that will set the long-term digital direction for local government in Scotland. They will work with all councils to help build a portfolio of collaborative initiatives and projects that exploit digital technologies to reduce the cost of services and improve the customer experience for citizens.

As well as working with the participating councils, the office will collaborate with public sector partners including Scottish Government, Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM), SEEMiS Group, NHS National Shared Services, and the Improvement Service (IS) to exchange best practice, develop wider public sector strategic direction and develop new shared services and capacities.