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How can we drive change in the local government space and better understand how new operating models and innovations can deliver better outcomes? This discussion follows an interview with Tech UK where I share my expertise and history behind my involvement in local government, and how we can improve this space using new innovative technology.

My career and how I got to this position today?

I started my career with the Australian Government in their graduate programme and spent the following 5 years working in international trade and diplomacy. But I had very itchy feet and desperately needed to travel. I came to the UK in my 20’s and took a role in the human rights division in UK government to help improve service delivery through defining policies and solutions on data sharing, digital inclusion and the use of technology; with a focus on the role governments play, and the human rights of citizens.

After seeing the power of having great digital outcomes that enable access for people and improve lives, this set me on my path. I have since spent over 15 years in the consultancy sector, designing digital solutions to address complex public needs working with Canada, US, Australia, Hong Kong, EU and World Bank, and of course many Local Authorities in the UK.

I now work with Hitachi Solutions Europe, as their Strategic Director for Local Government and Health, which is an amazing privilege.

How can LPSC support both wider tech industry and local government market?

This is a very interesting time for Local Public Service, in recent years technology has shifted dramatically, the things services can do today, were just mere ideas and dreams 5 years ago. Combine this with recent events, coping with the pandemic, cost of living crises, and political disruption, I feel the role of the LPSC could be unifying in what has become a fragmented environment. It can also be a voice of influence, to support the often-overlooked work of local services.

What has really struck me with this amazing group of members, is their drive to give and make a difference, to speak about challenges from their perspective, but most noticeably, to want to hear the voice of local government. The drive for making a real difference should not be underestimated and I’m seeing it when the committee meets.

I look forward to working with local authorities so we can shape and articulate the digital ambition of the sector and the country.

Sharna Quirke
Strategic Director for Local Government and Health

What is the greatest opportunity for local government when it comes to digital?

Local Government is at a precipice of under-funding, surging demand, increasing consumer expectations with the service they experience, increasing complexity of social issues against rising costs. Add to the mix, skills shortages in the sector and it all makes for a depressing read. Digital is a significant part of the solution, but not in isolation.

Digital ambition needs to be combined with long term vision and bold leadership to support investment, to make a difference today and in years to come. It also needs to be combined with new operating models and changing the way local authorities do business. I think the greatest opportunity today is to invest in modern infrastructure and platforms, to enable the business and operational changes which Local Authorities must contend with in coming months and years. But it does not need to be ‘big bang’ change. With a clear vision and timetable to deliver, tactical and incremental changes can make significant differences and the way technology is evolving, this approach is arguably more sustainable as well.

Local governments are in a unique position as they don’t compete against others in their industry. This opens opportunities to collaborate and learn from one another in a shared environment and supplier committed to the sector also support this. By working together on a common challenge, it eases the burden on resources, time, and, most importantly, finances.

What is my vision for the future of local public services and places?

My vision is for local public services to be able to provide state of the art services, with modern technology and to function at a pace which enables continuous improvement. The future organisation will be cloud native, performing on a single, integrated platform, and using quality data to make evidenced based delivery and commissioning decisions to serve the public in the most efficient and effective way possible. It will also be leveraging automation and AI to reduce administration and bureaucracy and be able to optimise the connection of ‘people’ and ‘place’ to enable economic growth and sustainability for regions.

To help local services on this journey, I see my role as helping CEOs, CIOs and Service Directors to navigate the tension between the tactical short-term improvements (and savings) and the strategic long-term gains (and growth) to define their digital ambition as individual services and as sector.  My goal is for LPSC to help shape and define the ambition through the sharing of ideas, innovation, discussion and collaboration.

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