techUK roundtable recap: bringing the govtech community together to improve digital inclusion

At last month's techUK roundtable, the Croydon Digital community came together to share ideas for digital inclusion under lockdown.

Last month, techUK was delighted to host a virtual roundtable with the Croydon Digital community, local authorities and the tech industry to examine how technology can keep the most vulnerable in our communities connected with each other and services. The crisis has seen a shift in place-based working, creating challenges cannot be faced alone. We convened this roundtable to bring together players across the ecosystem to come up with potential solutions to this challenge.

We have already seen some great initiatives of industry and public sector coming together to connect our communities. This roundtable provided the opportunity for local authorities to connect with each other and the tech industry on how we can go one step further in exploring potential solutions to digital inclusion.

The challenges

We heard about the amazing work of digital colleagues and service leads in Croydon council, work together to support shielded residents. The questions poised to the group was:

How we continue and go beyond the current offer?

How do we increase the ability of shielded people to connect with the community?

What is the role of the local authority and charity sector, and how do we work with tech companies on this?

How do we make this sustainable and ensure the assisted technology is fit for purpose in the future too?

How do we make technology accessible and secure for all residents?

How do we ensure GP surgeries and care homes have connectivity and the digital skills required to meet the needs of their residents?

How can we digitally upskill residents and identify those that may not be known to the council at this stage, but may need their assistance in future? This particular challenge highlighted the importance of getting the data piece right to enable effective prevention, as well as partnership working across local authorities and the voluntary sector.

The response

Over the hour, together as a group, we shared what we saw as the challenges and opportunities to do this differently as an ecosystem. The emerging themes were:

  • communication and engagement
  • mapping skills and identifying where we can digitally upskill residents
  • making tech accessible for all
  • interoperability of platforms and technology
  • multi-agency working and making data shareable securely and effectively

Data and prevention

Making sure data is clear and can be shared securely to actively drive service delivery and improve outcomes was a recurring theme. It was noted that we should look to other sectors and organisations for best practice. For example, local councils in the north of England are building fully integrated platforms through partners, taking data across social care, central and local to build a profile and predict interventions.

It was also suggested looking at alternative data sources, such as from energy in the private sector to spot patterns or levels of vulnerability. This made us reflect whether it is easier to share data across private sector to local authorities than between public sector.

Digital skills and capability

In looking at the digitally excluded, it was suggested how those in contact with them could play a role in helping facilitate digital skills and empowering individuals. For example, carers could help care and home care residents access solutions and facilitate digital interactions such as remote monitoring or online shopping. However, we need to balance this against their time and budget constraints. Done in a cyber-secure manner, this could be a cost-effective long term solution.

The hour flew by but in that short space of time attendees were able to share ideas and best practice, and with a number volunteering to follow-up to share resources and learning.

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