Local public services, which span local councils, charities, higher education and blue light services, are tackling a range of challenges big and small by investing effectively in emerging technology, and the innovative new systems that put it to use. Digital disruption, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics have the potential to transform local public services, by creating cost savings, engaging communities in new ways, and improving overall service delivery, but it can be tricky to navigate. We can help you look this disruption in the eye.
Local public services, which span local councils, charities, higher education and blue light services, are tackling a range of challenges big and small by investing effectively in emerging technology, and the innovative new systems that put it to use. Digital disruption, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics have the potential to transform local public services, by creating cost savings, engaging communities in new ways, and improving overall service delivery and experience.
At one end of the spectrum, there are relatively quick and simple interventions that have immediate impact. Digital channels are increasingly important for engaging with service users. Online services allow residents to carry out a range of activities, from booking appointments, making payments and submitting applications for permits and services. In our 2018 'Local State We’re In Survey', it was found that there is a growing public appetite to have more council services available online - almost half (48%) say they would prefer more online services, particularly those in the 18-34 age group.
Some organisations have gone a step further and developed innovative mobile apps and digital platforms to assist with a range of challenges, for example, enabling new services such as connecting people who have spare accommodation with key workers in temporary need, and enabling collaborative communities like e-neighbourhood watch schemes. One local council utilised PwC's Innovation Crowdsourcing service to ask their people, 'How can digital improve our ways of working and enhance our residents' lives?'. Over three weeks, their workforce submitted 90 ideas and voted on which they thought were the strongest. This insight and ideation not only enhanced the content of the strategy – it empowered their people to have a say on the council's plans for digital.
Other services have seized on the cost and time savings offered by Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – robot-based solutions that automate repetitive tasks and make administration faster, more accurate and lower in cost. Crucially, these systems free up resources, allowing staff to spend more time on more complex processes.
Drones are another exciting technology that provide important cost, time and safety advantages. Drones can be put to use across a range of different scenarios. For example, PwC helped a local authority in the UK implement a centrally-controlled drones unit - primarily to assist with fire reconnaissance. However, its uses continue to grow, extending to other activities such as sending defibrillators out to people in rural areas, decreasing the amount of time that they can get help compared with a local ambulance. They can also be used by police and search-and-rescue for body heat mapping and safety checks. Drones support vital emergency services and keep key workers safe in environments that are dangerous for humans to access.
At the most ambitious end of the spectrum, in the future we could see local authorities in the UK embracing transformative technologies such as 3D printing to a much greater degree, as already seen in the private sector and elsewhere in the world. Many local authorities have targets for the provision of new, affordable housing. In China, 21 million homes are built each year, which is getting to the same number as the entirety of homes in Britain. This is made possible through modular housing and 3D printing. 3D printing allows the creation of a more versatile and affordable type of housing, in a fraction of the time, that is adaptable to changing life stages of inhabitants and the wider community.
These are just a few examples of the ways that emerging technology can be used by public services. PwC has extensive experience helping local organisations to start using new and emerging technologies on all scales. These disruptive technologies can, and should, be used to tackle your challenges effectively, reach the goals your organisation has for society and help you look disruption in the eye.
We believe the real power behind disruptive technology isn't about just taking one thing and running with it; it is bringing it all together to create a new sense of ‘expansive intelligence’ - where you get a better and greater understanding about the possibilities of the future and the behaviours of your customers.