Local Digital Coalition Steering Group meeting minutes | July 2017

31 Oct 2017

Attendees: John Curtis (JC), Dave Maidment (DM), Claire Grundy (CG), Shelly Heckman (SH), Omid Shiraji (OS), Helen Reeves (HR), Phil Rumens (PR), Natalie Taylor (NT), Theo Blackwell (TB), Andrew Campbell (AC), Ben Cheetham (BC), Tim Adams (TA), Graham Smith (GS)

Guests: Paul Maltby - DCLG (PM), Dr Tony Shannon - Ripple foundation (TS)

Central/local digital leadership discussion - PM

  • Question being asked in Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) at the moment: Where are we on the Local Government digital journey and what is the role of a central body like DCLG within that?
    • Conversation happening against a backdrop of scepticism, with DCLG getting rid of digital team a year and a bit ago.
    • New secretary of state sees digital as a normal thing that the world has, and wants to know why we're not just getting on with it.
    • What does Local Government digital need that DCLG can help provide?
  • What is the Coalition sense of what "good" looks like in digital?
    • There are a number of things that could be useful if we try and pick this up again.
      • A clearer central mandate and direction for what Local Government digital is/can be/can achieve. Also of what digital is not.
        • Some people think of digital as a binary distinction - 'you are either a digital organisation, or you are not'.
        • Some talk about 'big old fashioned IT' vs 'smaller, design-led and user-focused'.
      • What is our roadmap for this? Are there blueprints, user research, patterns or design we could all be using/sharing that a central body can help with?
        • Taking inspiration from GDS, are there any particular digital components that could be centrally developed, managed and reused across Local Government? Digital marketplace? Registers?
      • What is the role in the centre for helping to encourage the development community around digital in Local Government? Are there steps that can help boost energy, capacity and and drive in the community?
      • What is the role of resourcing in this? There is a team/digital capacity in DCLG, but it will not be enough on its own.
      • There is appetite for a shift. PM's role is changing and there is an opportunity to bring more capacity/attention in this space.
  • Summary of points for conversation:
    • What is the offer to local government from DCLG?
    • What are the practical components we would be looking to leverage from that central team?
    • How can we leverage the sense/energy of community, and what is the role of DCLG and the Local Digital Coalition in harnessing/encouraging that.
  • Question about whether everyone is aware of the Health and Social Care digital maturity assessment (https://www.england.nhs.uk/digitaltechnology/info-revolution/maturity-index/) which completed recently? It includes an overview and position statement that talks about these same things. Should help get an understanding of how things are, and whether there's anything to build upon. Ties into the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP).
  • The Local Digital Programme showed you can do a lot with not very much, but had dedicated resource to help pull people together.
    • In a digital network, people are limited by capacity. It needs some admin to tie things together.
      • At the moment Coalition work is something members do outside or around their day jobs. We could potentially do a lot more if we could dedicate more time to it.
      • LocalGov Digital is a bottom-up network, and can do things like LocalGov Camps and tea-camps, but they are all one-off events.
      • Councils do use longer-term services like Pipeline (http://pipeline.localgovdigital.info/), and are very keen to collaborate at sign-up but soon go quiet because there's no response.
    • Role of DCLG assists because it helps fit this all together. DCLG are keen not to be seen as a distributor of money to Local Government, but as enabling the Local Government market. Showing the wider relevance of our endeavours i.e. not just about 'becoming paperless', but about reform, and opening Local Gov to innovation and the kind of transformation that we might be doing if we were in the private sector.
      • Potentially represents a big shift away from the current mode of operation which is 'outsource it and don't worry about it', but DCLG don't want to break everyone's systems by riding in and making declarations and removing the small margins people already make supplying these services.
  • Linking people up is a key thing that we could use help with. Even when you can get councils to work together, it can be very difficult to get people to deliver at the same time.
    • Coalition examples would be the Waste Service standard, or Gov.Verify. The work done on these is still good work and will be helpful, but can be difficult to fund and coordinate.
    • There is a policy framework that applies to all of Local Government which gives us a big shared context to operate in.
    • DCLG sense is that the collaboratively herding people into the same thing at the same time is very tricky, but represents an opportunity. Central Government needs to be confident that Local Government is on that digital journey. Limited research capacity at present to look through Local Government for examples of digital practice. There are current bits of work being done by e.g. the Catapults, but not as rigorous/on the same scale as government investigation would tend to be.
      • Early-adopters will have the hardest time, but people following can do things quicker than those pioneering a new process.
      • Basic building blocks of a service will be very similar in terms of design patterns etc. If you start to pick off a few domains e.g. platform tools for housing services, parking, school admissions; what does that look like?
      • What will councils need coming out of proprietary contracts and looking to enter the 'new world'?
      • Need to allow room to tweak whatever is delivered, since requirements will be different in different locations.
    • There is a role for DCLG to be a convener and facilitator, but the momentum needs to come from Local Gov.
      • Key area that could use a boost is getting everyone to a 'base level': sharing best practice, using data effectively etc.
      • DCLG support (financial and resource) could also be useful for giving Local Authorities space to start afresh rather than having to build on the processes and systems already in place, supporting innovation.
  • A lot of the challenge and opportunity comes down to digital leadership and putting digital IT on the organisation's radar.
    • At digital conferences we're preaching to the converted. Need to get through to people who aren’t in that environment. Until can raise digital with those chief execs and non-IT leaders, we're not going to get the coverage we need
    • A CEO trying to keep lights on in all services can be forgiven for seeing digital as a 'nice to have'. A Central Government authority like DCLG saying 'digital is core business' would help a lot when CIOs try to drum up support for a 'digital' agenda.
    • This also applies to common standards. A central digital leadership could agree and mandate standards to be used. This would benefit Local Authorities and suppliers, who currently operate across a fragmented Local Gov landscape and are very keen to see it simplified.
    • There is a shift in how we're talking about digital, in terms of who is owning what piece across the public and private sectors in order to work together effectively.
      • Sadiq Khan is advertising digital leader role for £100k, there is a massive buzz in this area but most Local Authorities can't invest that kind of money at the moment. Not sure how we fit into the conversations happening at that level.
    • Often services are very attached to the systems they use, and it is difficult to get traction when you start talking about changing them. There may be a role for DCLG in getting involved with the professional groups that represent the workers in a service, finding out who is leading around digital and getting them on board.
  • Biggest opportunity for transformation is when there is a new bit of legislation coming through, so authorities are starting from scratch and are greenfield for new systems and processes.
  • What does success look like in another 6-12 months?
    • Would help to set a baseline on 'what is the current state of play?'. If we got a really good research piece showing where the good work is, and a very clear picture of what needs to change, it would provide a much better case for having more resource at DCLG.
      • Would like to see that kind of report shared. Would not have been able to make changes in Central Government without the Martha Lane Fox report. Hard, but delivered in a 'velvet glove'. Ambitious, but brought people along on a mission. Caused a lot of organisational pain, but can see that success in Local Government would be that kind of transformative agenda.
    • Support for existing communities, so makers and doers can be involved and don't feel they are being shut out. Giving a space at the 'high table' to community organisations gave them legitimacy and helped them bring change from outside.
    • Doing digital leadership stuff for non-digital folks, giving them a safe space to ask questions and learn, may be a good use of time/resource. This is something that could benefit from a bit of central organisation and could be a role for the existing DCLG team.
    • There is a question of scale. When you talk about Local Government, people get obsessed by size. Concentrating on a bite-size chunk of 30/40 councils would be the right route.
      • Stop talking about 'digital' and start talking about 'end to end service design'. If you can tackle one of those difficult services that chief execs are concerned with (e.g. Adult Social Care) in one council, using digital methodologies, and demonstrate the efficiencies CEOs might be more willing to get involved.
        • It's about trying to pick off something large/complex enough that it matters, and small enough that it's not 'undoable'.
        • Also need to consider two tier authorities, and pick something that both levels are engaged with. e.g. a district council does not necessarily do social care at all. Something like Land Management or Planning might be a good start.
      • Look at what GDS did with councils/suppliers around registering to vote. Once they see it in action people start asking 'why do we need 400 of this webpage?'.

Leeds CRM/Case Management development - DM/CG/GS

  • Slide deck
    • <<Alternatives to Monolithic CRM.pptx>>
  • GLA very interested in a CRM system at the moment. Ran a discovery on customer services operating model and recommended they replace their 'correspondence management' system. Have been talking to MoJ, but their system is not far enough developed.
    • Market research has shown lots of smaller companies delivering smaller, agile, user-focused products, but how do you compare them? Licensing agreements and configuration are very different depending on product.
  • In principle the idea of loosely-coupled products seems to be viable. Using a blend of products on this, but the point is that it shouldn't matter what the e.g. the eforms engine is, should be able to slot components in and out. Case Management/CRM repository is something Leeds are happy to share with others. Whether leeds do it, or whether Leeds look for further funding, it should be possible to further test APIs and prove the robustness.
  • Would be good to share the approach to standards around how components interact with APIs - could be a project around writing up those standards and discussing how Leeds found them to work with. Wider piece of work won't be so valuable until standards are more widely adopted.
    • This can also be discussed at the next iStandUK meeting.

Workstream updates

  • DVLA
    • The API for checking tax and MOT status went live with the first private beta customer on the 6th March, so just missed the planned date. There are 8 customers using the private beta service and have been getting positive feedback from them and a lot of interest in rolling out wider.
    • The main use from our customers seems to be to take the data and pass on to customers via their own apps or website. More often than not with other data also being passed. There is also a use within motor trade etc. to give alerts when vehicles are due /out of tax or MOT.
    • There is a team looking at wider vehicle enquiries now but until recently their focus has been meeting a European wider data sharing/enquiry requirement that the UK had signed up to. Current estimate would be the end of next year before the keeper yes/no response is available via an API as some back end work is required on legacy systems to make this happen.
  • Blue Badge project
    • The Warwickshire Blue Badge private beta finished on June 30th. They are happy to share the results as soon as the final report is signed off.
    • Blue Badge applicants successfully renewed through the trial system, with eligibility being checked in real time against data provided by the DWP. This is the first example of an organisation outside central government delivering a service with GOV.UK Verify
    • Discussions are taking place with the DWP about taking this work forward and they are working on a proposal to that effect. They are currently looking at capacity and capability to deliver a working system. Nothing settled yet.
    • Ian Litton is attending an Attribute Exchange Standards Group that has been convened by GDS, along with attendees from several central government departments. It is important that everyone has a common understanding of what is meant by attribute exchange and how it should be implemented. The hope is that we will end up with standards for AX along the lines of the Good Practice Guides for identity. There is a growing recognition that AX will deliver on some critical data requirements identified in the Government Transformation Strategy; the eligibility checking service pattern is now recognised as a common service pattern across government, with access to data being the real blocker. The #VerifyLocal projects have also identified AX as a key enabler in transforming local government services
    • Alongside the AX Standards Group, there are discussions underway about how a working AX infrastructure and associated trust frameworks should be delivered. The hope is that AX will be seen as a platform component alongside GOV.UK Verify, Pay, and Notify.
  • Ripple update - TS
    • 1% digital challenge
      • Looking for 1% of the NHS IT budget to be allocated toward a platform built on open source software and open standards.
      • Ripple received 48 submissions across UK and Ireland.
      • TS is meeting the NHS Digital Health CIO at a summer school meeting next week. Also has a meeting the week after in London with the CIO of NHS England to see what they can negotiate re: establishing a fund.
      • Event in October getting bidders together, trying to join the top of NHS organisation with the bottom in terms of rallying around this push.
      • Should be able to give a more significant update after meeting with NHS England in 10 days' time.
    • Showcase stack in Ripple foundation
      • There are 3 key components for any Health or care project. Think some of them could be extended to local government. UX framework, integration platform and clinical data repository.
      • Integration middleware is nodejs based and very JSON friendly.
    • Leeds digital records initiative
      • Push to extend but make it 'person held record'. 3 year project with modest expectations but will be based on the same stack and open source components
      • Whole idea is that approach/tooling can be reused, aiming to be Person Held Record exemplar.
        • Every health body will need a way of having a care record integrated between health and social care. There are some proprietary solutions out there, but here is an excellent example of an open record that we could all benefit from, though with no way of getting local authorities to use it. We try to fill this gap in the coalition to an extent, but a great example of a gap that DCLG might be able to fill.
        • NHS digital know that everyone needs a Person Health Record and an Integrated Digital Record, but are wary of centrally mandating a specific product. Ripple foundation are looking for a bottom-up revolution, not people waiting for the centre to make a declaration.
        • No NHS Choices integration to date, but this is something that should be on the product roadmap as a future piece of functionality..
        • New legislative requirements around data protection and consent (e.g. GDPR) are being tackled as part of the development, though the groundwork was largely done as part of the earlier work with Leeds council. Will be discussing with patient groups to see if a more explicit consent model can be agreed, whether they think secondary reuse is OK etc.
        • Ripple will be a LocalGovCamp in Birstol in September to showcase where they are, and what they have done. Hoping this will be a call to arms.
        • DCLG would be very interested in getting more detail on this piece of work, and possibly sharing more widely as an example of some of the great open/standards work that is happening out in the wild.
        • Ripple foundation news posts that Coalition members can link to and share if they want to spread the word about Ripple.

The Future of the Coalition - OS

  • Slides
    • <<LDC - Action Plan Update - July 17(1).pptx>>
  • Work streams have not been shared as much as they could or should have been e.g. waste services standards
    • The projects that we are working on don't seem to be getting shared as they should be. How do we get e.g. the waste project into Camden or Sutton?
  • The Coalition Endorsed iStandUK as that common body for data standards and design patterns, but need to look at how we communicate this kind of decision outside the Coalition.
    • LGA have done a lot of work with iStandUK around standards development and believe this collaboration is starting to become better known.
  • Could make a reasonable assumption that some of the stuff that has happened under the Coalition would have happened anyway. Challenge to the group: why we are getting together every 3 months to talk about things that might have happened anyway?
    • At the moment there seems to be nothing to promote. What do people get out of being part of the coalition? Apart from catching up/making contacts. What do we need to turn this into?
      • The £55k of budget allocated to it could potentially pay for a full-time admin for the next 12 months to chase things up and get things moving. Then, if we prove that there is value, we call throw e.g. 10k into the pot to fund the Coalition for the next year?
        • Could the DCLG have a part to play in this?
    • Currently the membership is a lot of organisations held together by overlapping agendas. If we were to dream of a thing with some resources, what would the entity look like that galvanises the community?
      • Before the Coalition there was a view that there are too many groups, and it was hard for Central Government to know who to engage with. There was value in having a group that bought all this together.
      • There were some tangible projects in the beginning and it was a hub to keep up with those.
      • From LGA viewpoint, there is lots of activity in this space and lots of people doing their own thing, and LGA are excited about what the Coalition has done. On a reasonably regular basis we come together as these networks and have the opportunity to share notes etc. The vision going forward might be that we start to say 'SOCITM do this, LGA do that'.
        • Having individual Local Authorities joining the coalition is also great, as they get to feed in to the conversation.
      • Currently there is no 'vision' of what good looks like that we are working towards. We have the expertise and links, but no collective idea of what we are working towards. The Coalition should be about more than just promoting projects or services.
    • The DCLG was a central point where assets were stored, and it was useful to have them held centrally rather than all with one council or organisation. The Coalition also fulfils this function.
  • As a concrete next step, is sounds like this should be the subject of a follow-up meeting focussing on how the Coalition ties in to the DCLG and the work that they want to do with Local Government.