Service deliveryDigital Customer ServiceSalford’s Digital You: ‘People don’t care about technology’

Salford's Digital You: 'People don't care about technology'

At last week’s Public Sector Solutions Expo in Manchester, Steven Fry, Head of Customer Service at Salford City Council provided insight into the organisation’s digital inclusion project.

At last week’s Public Sector Solutions Expo in Manchester, Steven Fry, Head of Customer Service at Salford City Council provided insight into the organisation’s digital inclusion project, starting with the fact that it’s not about technology.

“We hear a lot about AI, machine learning, robotic process automation and so on, but to our customers this is not important. In most cases they don’t care about the technology. People care about service delivery and they care about what it looks and feels like. At the heart of everything we do at Salford is, therefore, the customer.

“That same ethos applies to our work in the digital space. We have a very strong focus on digital – but it’s not about technology – it’s about customers and a clear digital first approach that ensures digital is everything for everyone and nobody is left behind.

“Our research found that 85% of Salford’s population will use digital – but only if it’s the right user experience and it looks and feels good.”

Digital You

While that figure was positive, it still left a large proportion of the population who wouldn’t or couldn’t use technology. With a focus on a better, fairer Salford and a digital and customer first approach to work to, Steven and his team set about developing a digital inclusion programme.

“The people who would really benefit from digital lack the skills,” explains Steven, “so we started mapping a number of factors to identify who we needed to help to stop them being left behind. We then put together a business case that would give allow us to take meaningful action.

“Digital and social inclusion are intrinsically linked so the benefits to the citizen and council were clear to see. People without digital skills can’t take advantage of online deals, there’s the greater risk of loneliness if older people can’t get in touch with family…the value of digital is great, which is where Salford’s Digital You initiative was built around. Research reckons that for every 10 pence invested in digital inclusion, the return on investment is £15. That’s how we built the business case.”

Digital You aims to get almost 8,000 people online by 2020 and works with the Good Things Foundation – the UK’s leading digital and social inclusion charity – and local Salford-based organisations to get there. The council is expecting to achieve £2.1m of annual direct benefit from people using online services, people better managing health and looking after their own social care etc. A further £4.4m is expected to be achieved through indirect benefits.

Creative thinking

Crucially, the Digital You project is thinking outside of the box when it comes to funding and delivery. “We’ve been creating a social movement for change by involving stakeholders from public, voluntary and private sector, to pledge their support,” explains Steven. “We have been able to highlight where organisations, across sectors, can demonstrate their corporate social responsibility by supporting the movement to increase digital inclusion.

“What we never want to do is come across as a typical training provider. We wanted to create a social movement for change. We really wanted to disrupt how you would normally deliver digital skills so that we could penetrate real influencers. For example, we asked how we could work with voluntary community services to leverage those trusted faces in local places. How could we convince them that digital needs to be at the heart of developing communities? We have people on the ground engaging with the voluntary sector, we have start-up grants and we’re putting weight behind more usual methods such as digital champions.”

The city Council has also leveraged the presence of locally-based organisations – some in the tech sector, some from other sectors.

“We’re lucky in Salford to have Media City, which has attracted some large corporates with hefty CSR pots. For example, we invited some tech providers to find a way to light up areas that struggle to pay for wifi by providing free internet access, which allow people to take advantage of online access. Another example is Talk Talk providing free kit, as well as employees to volunteer as digital champions at online centres.”

Service delivery

The Digital You project, and the desire to think digital first and deliver great service delivery to customers has had another positive effect on the council.

“By redesigning services to make them more attractive, automating processes through RPA and so on – and by ensuring more people have the skills to get online – we’ve been able to get more staff out into the face-to-face environment. That’s a great outcome for all – and will help us to become the first digitally inclusive city.”

Related Articles

Using data to create a citizen centric council

Data and security Using data to create a citizen centric council

2d Austin Clark
Councils receive £1.3m to fund innovative service delivery projects

Digital Customer Service Councils receive £1.3m to fund innovative service delivery projects

6d Austin Clark
Cambridgeshire County Council powers Adult Services with new case management system

Adult Social Care Cambridgeshire County Council powers Adult Services with new case management system

1w Austin Clark
How to improve public services and how govtech can enable this

Digital Customer Service How to improve public services and how govtech can enable this

1w Cath Everett
Digital Glasgow Strategy to bring city social and economic benefits

Digital Customer Service Digital Glasgow Strategy to bring city social and economic benefits

2w Austin Clark
Creating space for meaningful action

Digital Customer Service Creating space for meaningful action

2w Austin Clark
GovTech Fund challenges tech to solve problems

Adult Social Care GovTech Fund challenges tech to solve problems

2w Chrissy Chiu
Digital 3.0 for the citizen

Digital Customer Service Digital 3.0 for the citizen

3w Guest Writer