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Glasgow City Council publishes review of five-year digital strategy
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Glasgow City Council publishes review of five-year digital strategy 

Glasgow City Council has published a review of its five-year digital strategy, which outlines a number of key milestones that have already been achieved – as well as a ‘ten-point plan’ to both overcome the challenges of the coronavirus and ensure the remainder of the strategy is fully implemented.

Two years since the launch of the Digital Glasgow Strategy, the local authority has outlined that of the 73 actions contained in its vision, 12 are complete, 43 are in development, seven are currently being planned and 11 actions are yet to commence.

In the first full progress report since the strategy was launched in November 2018, an 88-page document sets out some major achievements which includes delivering massive connectivity enhancements to schools across the city, supporting businesses through the pandemic and transforming its customer experience.

One of the initiatives highlighted in the review was the support the council offered to 67 businesses – reflecting one of the overarching aims of the strategy which is to better support the digital economy – through its promotion of the Digital Boost programme. That was carried out in response to Covid-19, as well as a review of business support offered by the council and agencies such as Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise, leading to a new focus on digital technology.

Another business milestone achieved was the work by Invest Glasgow to produce a new Digital Technology inward investment prospectus to showcase the city as a leading destination for digital tech inward investment, which builds on the success of the Barclays announcement last year to house the banking giant’s new Northern European hub.

In terms of connectivity, the report highlights major announcements made by BT Openreach in October last year and CityFibre this March to invest in bringing fibre broadband direct to peoples’ homes. All of the current Mobile Network Operators in the UK are planning 5G roll out in Glasgow with BT/EE and Vodafone already covering parts of the city. In addition, the project to streamline processes and establish a telecoms unit is now complete, supported by an online asset catalogue.

A major upgrade of connectivity to all primary and secondary schools’ telecommunications infrastructure has also taken place, with primary schools now connected with 1 gigabit/s connections, and secondary schools upgraded to 5 gigabit/s connections. That has been complemented by the installation of over 3,600 Wi-Fi hotspots in all learning spaces within almost every school in in the city, together with Apple TV fitted within classrooms to provide teachers and pupils with the ability to project to digital screens wirelessly.

Furthermore, over 25,000 iPads have been delivered to Glasgow schoolchildren through the Connected Learning programme, with plans for the delivery of the remaining 25,000 being accelerated in response to the challenges of lockdown.

The city is working with its major ICT provider, CGI, to improve the digital customer experience and the delivery of public service improvement and a number of actions were highlighted in the report, among them a programme called “digital citizen”, which aims to make more transactions available online, and to integrate the online experience with the fulfilment of services to ensure that customers “receive a simple and joined up experience”. Key highlights of that work include integration with the MyGovScot identity service that provides citizens with a single login across different services. The MyGlasgow customer portal has also been launched, supported by an app, which enables residents to report issues with stray dogs, bus shelters, noise, antisocial behaviour and food safety.

On the innovation front, there has been a scaling up of the city’s Internet of Things (IoT)-based intelligent lighting network to a total of 3,500 across the whole of the city centre; a trial of an open source digital participation tool called “Consul” – first developed in Madrid for participatory budgeting – has also been carried in Calton and Pollok, in collaboration with COSLA, the umbrella group for Scottish local authorities.

The open data approach has been exemplified with the development of ward dashboards for elected members, providing them with real-time access to data about their respective areas, including demographics, statistics, service performance trends and community assets. Initial trials of a new open data catalogue will help to accelerate the publication of open data, the report adds.

Digital participation and exclusion were already major considerations of the city’s digital strategy, which the pandemic has brought to the forefront, with a “greater need” to support those who do not have access to devices, data or the skills to benefit from digital technology adoption; the report states that small businesses, too, need to be supported by advice and skills.

According to the review, the actions that have not yet been completed will be reprioritised to align with the needs of the city as it seeks to recover and renew itself from the effects of the pandemic. And the strategy will also put a fresh emphasis on partnership working in areas such as Digital Inclusion and Participation, Open Data and Open Innovation and Smart Cities. The recently published Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review by former Skyscanner Chief Operating Officer Mark Logan will also figure in the city’s approach to developing its tech cluster.

The report says: “To manage the consequences of the pandemic, Glasgow City Council has had to prioritise service delivery to those who needed it most, whilst at the same time initiating its own business continuity plan. Digital, ICT and data staff have been at the centre of support the initial response to, and recovery from the pandemic.”

Examples of some of the digital solutions that have been deployed at scale in short-timescales include:

  • Use of data analytics to identify shielded people and people at particular risk from COVID-19 in the city in order to offer support
  • A solution to enable the council, partners, and volunteers to support shielded and people at particular risk from COVID-19 during lockdown
  • Migration of the Council’s contact centre to a home-based “virtual contact centre”
  •  Rapid and large-scale enablement of homeworking for council staff
  • 3D printing of face-visors for care staff
  • Re-instatement of committees using video collaboration and live streaming
  • Rapid deployment of video collaboration for staff
  • Automating pedestrian crossing within the city centre to remove the need for people to push the button.

The council has been asked to approve the report, including the Digital Glasgow Ten Point Plan, which can be read in full here with a summary document here.

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