Midlothian council has approved a new three-year digital strategy based on ’empowering people and enabling growth’.

The ICT plan will set out to refresh customer services, ensure greater focus on ‘digital first’ and deliver a council website which is ‘as good as any bank or supermarket’.

That means citizens will have greater visibility of their account interactions with the council, providing them with a text and email update service.

It will also aim to harness automation to support the reduction of labour-intensive manual processing tasks for staff, freeing them up to work on ‘the things that matter’.

The plan will also allow for more online bookable appointments with council staff so that residents can cut unnecessary travel and queuing at venues. And the proposals seek to maximise the use of data in a health and social care setting.

“Digital technology has transformed the way we all live – at work, at home and at school,” said Midlothian Council Leader, Derek Milligan.

“This means we now have greater opportunities than ever to connect with others and to learn and work together to improve people’s lives.”

“Responding to the pandemic has also transformed the way the council works, and we are already using technology to allow our services to be more flexible and responsive. However, we need to do much more to harness the opportunities that a digital approach can bring. 

“This includes supporting our communities and local businesses to thrive in a digital world and making sure that our children are prepared for the workplaces of the future.”

According to a report by council chief executive Dr Grace Vickers, a member from each political group will be invited to sit on a cross-party working group focusing on digital to ensure they have regular and ongoing updates and are able to collaborate and inform the wider digital programme.

A section of the report reads: “The rapid response to the pandemic has resulted in a complete transformation of how the council works, including remote working, local by default, digital transformation and services reviewing how they operate.”

The strategy reveals: “This strategy is not about ‘IT’. It is about integrating digital ways of working into all areas of the council, resulting in fundamental changes to how we do things. If we do everything in this strategy, we will become more efficient, more effective and will be able to maximise the positive impact that the council and its partners have on people’s lives, ensuring that Midlothian remains a ‘Great Place to Grow’.”

A snapshot of the council’s current IT operations: