Councillor Camp: 10 questions to see if your council gets digital

A quick reboot for my piece from two years ago which is still very relevant for local councils and all of us interesting in better local government.

Councillor camp photo
My session at Councillor Camp 2013 (well done to the team organising it – excellent job!) was about how councillors can prod their councils into getting digital.

It was in the form of 10 questions to ask and as I’ve now had several requests for the slides, here they are for your delectation, followed below by a video of the talk kindly shared by Tom Phillips. I think they should be fairly self-explanatory, especially if you were there this morning.

The comment thread is there for you however if I am wrong on that…

6 responses to “Councillor Camp: 10 questions to see if your council gets digital”

  1. Great to see you challenging councillors with ‘Does your council get digital?’, and your points that highlight lack of understanding of openness and transparency and the need to use Twitter, Linked in, SEO, and social media monitoring, are useful.

    But I wonder if you are confusing ‘digital’ with ‘social media’?

    You more or less ignore the council website, and yet this remains by far the most important digital tool available to councils, one that could save dramatic amounts of money and deliver a better service to the customer.

    And the web remains a tool that, regrettably, lots of councillors (and senior council managers too) simply do not get.

    Councils need to channel shift people to digital channels, and yes, social media has a key role in the channel mix. But the council website will remain the hub of digital activity for a while yet, enabling customers to book, pay, apply, report, and interact in all sorts of other ways with their council.

    Customer accounts, enabling access to secure online services, and signups for email alerts for information, are key to delivering low cost services to customer. Customers should be encouraged (because it works for them) to use these tools.

    You might want to look at the research that the Society of IT Management (Socitm) has generated through its Better connected and Website takeup service activities. Better connected is the annual survey of all council websites that comes out each March. You can read about last year’s survey findings here: http://www.socitm.net/press/article/198/.

    The website takeup service monitors usage and satisfaction with councils sites. We know that on average 20% of visits to council websites fail, and another 20% fail partially, so there is a huge amount of work still to do on this vital digital channel. See here for more: http://www.socitm.net/press/article/203/.

    If you would like more information, please get in touch – these messages really do need to be brought to councillors.

    • Websites certainly are important, though the point I made in my comments was that they are often given too much importance.

      A good example is how some councils want residents to report graffiti etc online via a website, with services to create an account, login, report, track etc. All of which then is very slow and cumbersome to use (at best) from a mobile phone or a tablet. A council that really gets digital gets that increasing numbers of its residents have a smartphone in their pocket as they walk past a piece of graffiti, and the (excuse the pun!) smart digital solution is to make it really easy for them to be able to report it in just a few seconds then and there – e.g. by having systems that can properly cope with an emailed in photo (and don't result in call centre staff copying and pasting between different systems, adding errors in the process!).

      Likewise, when it comes to letting residents know about sudden events, such as snow and gritting, school closures etc, systems that push information out to residents (e.g. email, twitter) often work better than those that passively wait for residents to come to the council. How do you get those email address? Of course websites play a big role in that, so it's not a case of either/or.

      The Socitm research is interesting, though the stuff I've read in the past risks a little I think in taking 'the website' as the tool to asses rather than the overall online presence. That's a risk because it's the overall online presence that matters; the channels are tactical choices within that and if you look at just the one you risk over-emphasising it.

      (I've not read all their research by any means, so that may only apply to the bits I've read.)

    • Socitm would agree with all this, and has been pushing vigorously the message that stuff needs to work for customers on mobile, and that social media is hugely important too (see the 'Twitter Gritters' report). And yes, it is the overall online presence that matters.
      Its just that if you don't mention the website, some of your audience may take away the idea the everything can be fixed with a few apps and a social media presence, ignoring the huge challenges of web publishing and integration with back office systems.

  2. Thanks Mark! Have shared this on the Councillor Camp page and the Councillor Campers group. Thanks again for speaking yesterday – it was great to have you along!

  3. Here we go again. Any bash at IT who apparently block people from Social Media. Whilst I can only speak for people in my organisation, we don't sit there thinking up this to block. If Social Media is blocked at your organisation then that is a problem caused by the culture and rules and regs of that organisation.. Not because us IT people are wicked.

    • Peter – by IT I meant "senior managers who set the IT policy" as you're quite right, it's those who make the rules and regulations (or are failing to change the culture) who are responsible, not those at the sharp end setting the configuration options.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.