Bridgend County Borough Council’s cabinet has agreed to adopt a new digital strategy to develop the way residents, businesses and visitors engage with the council.
As part of the 2019 budget consultation, feedback showed 87% of Bridgend residents want more council services online using better and more modern online functionality, as well as self-serve facilities.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 85% of Bridgend residents have access to the internet and prefer the convenience of online transactions.
Among the aims of the four-year strategy, which runs until 2024, is to integrate systems and reduce duplication, procure emerging technology and services, and provide value for money by making smarter use of resources.
As part of the strategy, the council will also explore the ‘Internet of Things’ – physical objects such as Alexa, which connect to the internet – for technology that could improve residents’ wellbeing and safety in their homes. For example, personal alarms and voice recognition technology to prevent loss of independence and enable communities to become more resilient.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on November 17, the Deputy Leader, Cllr Hywel Williams, said: “The demand for digital services is going to rise exponentially over the next four years. The strategy is very clearly set out, it encourages people to engage with the council digitally and tracks what services are required – we can make sure to fit services to demand.”
Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future Generations Cllr Dhanisha Patel said the strategy reflected how the council has kept up with changes in technology and added that residents who are unable to get online will continue to be supported.
She said: “We will always consider those who aren’t able to connect digitally. During the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve given out laptops to those who needed them and we’ve also done fantastic work with social services for those who are vulnerable using Alexa.”
The Leader, Cllr Huw David also said the local authority will continue to provide support to those who are digitally excluded, adding: “It’s important that we have a digital strategy that’s accessible to everyone, as well as being flexible. What may be the future now might not be the same in just months because of fast-moving changes to technology and society. For example, we never would have imagined nine months ago that all of our council meetings would be held not in person but only virtually due to the coronavirus.
“We’re more reliant on technology than we’ve ever been before – it underpins everything we do as a local authority. Our services couldn’t operate without a strong effective digital system at their core.”
Now the strategy has been adopted, the council’s action plan includes:
- Introduce a new digital access platform incorporating customer management and enhancing self service
- Develop the corporate website to include all standalone web pages ensuring all service information can be found in one place and is easily accessible
- Enhance the chatbot functionality for those wishing to use this way of communicating
- Consult with resident to ask them what digital services they would like that meets their needs and requirements
- Introduce an automated electronic scheduling Homecare system for enhancing services to the most vulnerable residents
- Ensure the council is fit for purpose and digitally enabled to support flexible working
- Ensure schools have excellent digital infrastructure ensuring high digital competency in line with the curriculum