Connecting with citizens and communities: could data be the missing piece?

26th October 2023

The ‘uberisation’ of society is fundamentally changing what citizens expect from their public services. However, in the face of tighter budgets and ever greater demands on their resources, how can councils keep pace with citizens’ expectations? Let’s explore...

Greater(er) expectations

From JustEat to Netflix, the rapid rise of digitised services has fuelled a demand from citizens for convenient and instant interactions with their local authorities. People increasingly expect a faster, more personalised service, when and where they want it. For councils, meeting these expectations is a hurdle – but one which is surmountable. The key lies in data. What can we learn from the private sector? What can we make use of - and quickly?

De-mystify your data

Data-driven insights can help councils understand and engage with citizens and communities in a way which is easier, more impactful and cost-effective. They can be used to help understand and predict citizen behaviour and preferences, enabling councils to tailor services to meet specific needs. Through automation and improved data capture and analysis, councils can build a clearer picture of where services need to be targeted – more quickly and efficiently. In addition, this will free council employees up to focus on adding value where it’s really needed.

We’re already seeing good examples of local authorities taking this insight-driven approach. Firstly, via increased personalisation and customisation. Data-driven insights enable councils to offer personalised experiences, allowing citizens to access services and information in a way that suits their individual preferences. Secondly, by adopting more user-focused design. Just like Amazon or Uber, local authorities are prioritising user experience and designing services with citizens in mind. This includes intuitive digital interfaces and accessible mobile applications to encourage citizens to interact online.

Empower citizens and communities

The proliferation of technology across local government has led to increased automation, data-driven decision-making and, in turn, the rise of smart cities. However, financial challenges and increases in service demand means local authorities are considering how to drive communities to take control of their own needs and let the council become the enabler. Digital transformation will be the cornerstone of this shift. How can transformation happen whilst efficiently overcoming challenges around digital literacy, access and data security?

We know we get the best policy and service design when we consider the citizen’s lived experience. By making smarter use of data, we can understand community priorities and act on them, and move towards communities taking ownership of outputs, feeling empowered to participate and even the lead on initiatives.

We will see increased digitalisation of services in the future, to meet both growing demand and populations Further to that, there will be a shift in services to provide the digital framework for communities to deliver their own initiative. Technology and data will help us achieve the ultimate goal of working with the community, not for them – providing what’s really needed, adding social value and improving local lives.

Join us for a discussion

Would you like to learn more about how to improve data-driven insights to support your local citizens and communities? We’re bringing together senior leaders across the public sector at our Civica Leadership Forum in January 2024 * , where we’ll debate this and other issues facing the sector.

Find out more

This is a free-to-attend event for senior leaders across the public sector, including central and local government, housing and health care.