1. Issue 4 | Winter 2015
Good to share: knowledge platforms in Singapore
PLUS: A big year for federated ID | Socitm Assessment Services
Personal view, with Ralph McNally | Spring Conference preview
Guy Barnett, Martin Ferguson & Vicky Sargent
Carl Newton & Mark Evans
Federal identity: national online ID programme ‘Verify’ among
topics covered at Socitm’s two most recent major events
17 Rapid and flexible: Socitm Assessment Services offers
digital tools for cost, quality and maturity measurement
In our four-page News section:
Spring Conference preview, third party
software, open data cities
Year of optimism and initiative:
Nick Roberts’ President’s letter
Advertising and sponsorship:
Published by Socitm
8a Basset Court
22Opening up digital: Spring Conference dates plus
full national and regional events round-up
Good to share: Lessons on knowledge-sharing from wired-up Singapore, researched by
Socitm Graham Williamson Research Award winner Rachael Mfoafo
Information governor: Q&A with Socitm
Member of the Year 2014 Ralph McNally
I look back over the past year with a mix of emotions: pride at representing Socitm members in so many ways; frustration
at the financial mountains we have had to climb; and amazement at the ingenuity members show in finding new ways to
improve services while reducing costs.
Reflections on 2014 for me bring many highs, with collaborative progress with our colleagues in the Government Digital
Service on the Public Services Network (PSN), performance analysis, identity assurance, design standards and more. We
have also seen significant progress in joint working with health thanks to the hard work of pioneer areas, and valuable
contributions through the health and social care events Socitm facilitated with ADASS and the Department of Health. We
have seen the effects of digital disruption with appointments of several CDOs and an unprecedented holistic focus on
changing citizen experiences, alongside the reality that making such fundamental changes to our organisations is tough on
governance, structure, people, and processes. Big data is coming of age too, particularly around “smart places”.
The past year also produced two of the best conferences I have attended in a long time: Socitm’s Annual Conference at
Old Trafford and the Scottish Conference at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth. At both events, I was truly impressed with the
value derived from networking among our digital leaders. Scotland in particular demonstrated the enormous value of
representation from all authorities across the country in one place.
The coming year brings optimism. The LG PSN Programme Board is
already facilitating a route to simpler PSN compliance processes for
single and shared service authorities. Health and local government
networking strategies show signs of better alignment. And I believe
we will also continue to see ever better collaboration between
central and local government including increases in shared assets,
knowledge and smarter procurement. Work continues this month to
help align G-Cloud more with local public service needs.
Finally, I look forward to two major initiatives in 2015: the Socitm
Technology Board, a vehicle for co-operation to encourage
development of effective ICT solutions to shared problems; and
development of #opensystemsalliance, a collaboration of the
willing to share good practice and open up our business systems.
Both initiatives have the potential for a profound impact on the
maturity of relationships between buyers and suppliers to build
services of lasting public value.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and successful New Year.
Year of optimism and initiative
Spring Conference preview:
How far can councils share IT networks, applications and
systems before losing their local autonomy? This timely
and potentially heated debate forms the centrepiece of
Socitm’s Spring Conference this year, set for Tower Hill,
London on 23 April.
As part of a session on ‘The rise of the network’ covering
the future of cross-public sector ICT and data sharing,
Eddie Copeland, head of the technology policy unit at
think-tank Policy Exchange (pictured right), will present his
new report “Small pieces loosely joined: how smarter use
of technology and data can deliver real reform of local
“Around the UK there are clearly many examples
of exceptional best practice when it comes to local
authorities using technology and data”, Copeland told
In Our View ahead of his talk. “However, the sector
currently lacks the mechanisms to spread the benefits of
the best ideas.
Many councils have implemented major service reforms
to deal with recent budget cuts, Copeland said, yet most
have exhausted their options for acting alone to make
“I will argue that the time has come to look at things
that the whole sector can do collaboratively to enable
further reform that benefits everyone”, he said. “I believe
that entails putting in place the core building blocks
on which digital reform depends: compatibility with
open standards, a common data network, clear legal
advice on data sharing, citizen control of personal
data, interoperability of IT systems, a dynamic and
flexible marketplace for online services, data analytics
capabilities that cross public sector boundaries, budget
flexibility and freedom to design local services to meet
“It also requires an acknowledgement that some of
these cannot be effectively implemented at a local
level. Instead, the sector needs to adopt the principle
of subsidiarity: the idea that a central authority should
perform only those tasks which cannot be performed
at a more local level. I will therefore outline ideas for
what I believe could be done by central government
(or the public sector as a whole); by local government
collectively; by regions; and by local authorities.”
Specific recommendations in Copeland’s report
include merger of the Public Services Network (PSN)
with the NHS network N3 to create a Single Public
Services Network (SPSN); and the establishment of
a Local Government Digital Service, owned by the
sector, to create and manage a Local Government
Data Marketplace (LGDM). “The LGDM would be a
competitive online marketplace that brought together
local authorities that needed particular online services
(transactions, apps or data) with individuals, businesses
and other organisations that could provide them”, the
Joining Copeland on the stage will be Philip Virgo,
vice chairman (policy) at the Conservative Technology
Forum, who will call for more resilient communication
infrastructures to underpin the vital role of ICT in modern
society, including public service delivery.
This calls for better enforcement of interoperability
standards; addressing fixed and mobile broadband
not-spots; and improved standby routings and local
digital exchanges to kick in when primary routings are
overloaded or fail, Virgo told In Our View.
“We need to move from a 20th century, pre-internet
world of fragmented, application-specific, semi-
incompatible voice, data and video communications
networks to a 21st century, post-internet world of secure,
ubiquitous, any-to-any, fully inter-operable meshes that
are collectively fit for purpose as a critical utility, on which
lives and businesses depend. The result should be no more
subject to outages or traffic rationing at times of peak
load than the power supply.”
Other topics on the Spring Conference agenda include
health and social care reform; workforce development
– building and maintaining skilled, multi-agency digital
teams; and innovation in service redesign around user
needs. For more information, see:
President’s update: board
strategy and member survey
Last year I commissioned a member survey to get a strong
steer from the membership on what’s important to you,
what we should keep doing, and where you think we
could improve or change, writes Socitm president Nick
Among an excellent 228 responses, I was pleased to see
that 99% felt that Socitm and its services and publications
were either very useful (34%) or somewhat useful (65%),
with professional development, peer support and
organisation maturity cited as the three most valuable
The survey then asked: if there was one thing about
Socitm you could change or improve, what would it
be? As you can imagine, we received a wealth of
valuable insight into your priorities and frustrations. The
largest single issue mentioned was engagement and
relationships with third sector, health sector and private
sector and overall we have been able to group the topics
under themes such as engaging members, research and
inclusion of services within subscription. Detailed work to
address all these issues will be carried out in due course.
Alongside the survey, I commissioned a Socitm Board
review in which an independent adviser surveyed all
board members to consider skills available and needed,
and key objectives for their work. One outcome was a
recommendation that the Board should hold a vision and
strategy workshop to plan for the next three to five years.
We held this session on 20 January 2015 and had the
member survey results available as valuable input to our
The workshop enabled the board to discuss and create a
new vision and we will be sharing this with members at
the forthcoming AGM at Spring Conference where we
will invite your views on our developing plans.
Through all this, member needs and priorities are at the
heart of all we do in steering the society and I continue to
value your feedback on proposals we make. Stability of
our core services is key, as is transparency of our activities
and decisions, and we will be developing and improving
these aspects as the year progresses.
Meet the board
Socitm’s board is made up of executive (paid staff) and
non-executive (unpaid) directors.
The non-executives are currently Nick Roberts (president);
Steve Halliday (immediate past president); Nadira
Hussein (Tower Hamlets), Geoff Connell (Newham and
Havering); and Nick O’Reilly (Derby), all vice presidents,
plus David Clayden (third sector expert), Lynette Ground
(third sector representative) and Peter Gallon (past
president), The executive team has Adrian Hancock
(CEO), David Bryant (finance and commercial director),
and Martin Ferguson (policy and research director).
Nick Roberts: Stability of core services is key
Third party web software
‘major problem for councils’
Integrating third party software into council websites is a
“major problem for all web teams”, delegates heard at a
Socitm event in London in November.
All council websites depend on third party modules for
key tasks such as online library catalogues, planning
application databases and bill payments, but integrating
these into the main site design often leads to a disjointed
user experience, delegates heard.
The main problem is usability, Martin Greenwood,
director of the Socitm Insight programme and event chair,
told In Our View. “People have to jump from council web
pages to third party software, with no consistency of
design”, Greenwood said.
“In some service areas certain suppliers dominate the market
as well, so web managers feel they have no influence over
them. Or suppliers say if you want to influence the design,
you will have to upgrade to the next version.”
The event was opened by Richard Beards, web team
leader at Northamptonshire County Council, who earlier
in 2014 had convened his own “third party summit” for all
suppliers of software used within his council’s website.
Greenwood said. “We are not talking about them doing
a lot of different work for each council – we are just
telling them mobile is important, or trying to cut down the
number of pages on websites.
“Suppliers do not get the opportunity to talk to councils
and their customer is often not the web team: they might
work for the planning department or library department,
and part of the problem is those people are asking for
customisation for this and that, but then it is a nightmare
for the web team to manage.”
One or two major suppliers are engaging with councils
and with Socitm and the situation is improving marginally,
but there are still major problems, Greenwood said.
He said often it is left to individual web managers
to tackle suppliers, but progress can be made “if an
individual is passionately committed to user experience
and committed to battle to put it right you can make a
All council websites
depend on third party
modules for key tasks,
but integrating these into
the main site design often
leads to a disjointed user
A key step in improving
software integration is to
ensure usability is built into
The summit was convened so Beards could share his plans
for website development with the suppliers and gain their
input, Greenwood said. “He said: ‘Here are our plans
for improving customer journey, we want you to help us.’
Integration is all about communication: usually there is no
communication, a council puts out a tender for third party
software and it is handled separately. Here, there was a
chance for dialogue in a non-contractual situation, and
the feedback was good.”
Meetings like this can open a dialogue and can be just
as useful for the software suppliers as for the councils,
A key step in improving third party software integration
is to ensure usability standards and compatibility with the
council’s main website design is built into the procurement
process when the software is bought in the first place,
Greenwood said – a topic covered at the event by
Amanda Wilde, digital services manager at East Riding of
Wilde told delegates she has ensured service departments
cannot procure third party web systems without sign-off from
her department, to prevent problems occurring down the line.
The problem of third party software integration is
perennially highlighted in Socitm’s annual Better
connected review of all UK council websites, of which the
latest version is set to be published on 2 March.
For more information see: www.socitm.net/research/
And presentations from the third party software event can
be downloaded at: www.socitm.net/events/use-third-
EU open data city project seeks
to expand UK membership
A smart city network helping councils share open data
tools is seeking new associate members from the UK.
The ‘Citadel on the Move’ project helps authorities build
mobile apps, which use open data to improve access
to public services, and share other open data tools and
information. Apps built using Citadel tools include one
showing drivers real-time parking availability in the city
of Ghent in Belgium; a ‘Treefinder’ app tracking urban
tree cover in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux; and
an app to help voters in London find their nearest polling
The project was set up four years ago with the intention
of helping urban local authorities share open data
experiences and currently has 102 European associates
in 46 countries.
Associate status and access to project tools and resources
is free, with optional extra services such as consultancy
offered for a fee as the non-profit project seeks financial
sustainability beyond its 4m euro EU-funding period.
“It is a great network to join for local authorities who
are just starting the open data journey”, Julia Glidden,
managing director of 21c Consultancy and project
advisor, told In Our View.
“We help them set out a road map for opening data,
from getting started to publicising it, then help them
troubleshoot; engage senior management; and write
One of the project’s pilot cities was Manchester and
about 20 UK local authorities are now associate
members, the greatest amount in any single country,
Glidden said. “Initially there was not as much interest in
the UK as in other areas, but in the last few months there
has been so much focus on smart cities in the UK that
interest has grown rapidly”.
Just before Christmas the project published results of
open data research from more than 120 cities worldwide
which found that 41% have little or no track record of
publishing open data. A further 47% did have some
experience of open data publication including a city
portal or systematic release, but no clear policy on
open data publication and updates; and just 12% had
advanced experience of open data including a portal or
systematic release and a policy of open data publication
Authorities interested in becoming an associate city
should contact the project using the form at:
Citadel on the Move: www.citadelonthemove.eu
Citadel pilot: Manchester from the air by Daniel Nisbet, Wikimedia Commons
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The changing landscape for local government,
a new working model to deliver integrated
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Integration Personalisation Guardianship Facilitation Citizen
In a rapidly
standing still is
the fastest way of
This year will see a key stage in the development of the
government’s new online identity management system
GOV.UK Verify (https://identityassurance.blog.gov.uk/),
with publication promised of a first model of how local
government will be able to use the system.
Verify, already in live trials by central government
agencies including HM Revenues and Customs, is a
federated identity service – a new approach to public
sector user ID that was the focus of much debate at
both Socitm’s Annual Conference and Socitm Scotland
towards the end of last year.
Under the system, third-parties such as private sector
firms Experian and Digidentity manage authentication by
validating people’s driving licence and passport details.
Once authenticated, users are then able to access any
other system within an approved network of federated
organisations, such as other government agencies or
approved software suppliers.
The Verify identity federation project is founded on SAML
2.0, an XML-based protocol using security tokens to
identify individuals. It is currently aimed solely at users
within the Public Services Network (PSN), not citizens, so
a key goal is to support shared services – though it can
also be used to access Internet services from inside PSN.
At the Annual Conference (http://www.socitmconference.
com) Johan Henrikson, chief executive of security
specialists Verisec, told delegates that federated ID is the
logical solution to user authentication given the growing
use of public cloud IT services by public sector staff.
The trend of service departments buying cloud
applications without referencing the IT department has
become so widespread it has generated the new term
“shadow IT”, Henrikson said.
“We have already seen major banks moving their
back office to Google and councils beginning to move
services in its national online user identity system ‘Verify’.
As delegates heard at two major recent Socitm conferences,
this represents a milestone on the road to digital service
Secure future: federated ID is logical step to handle the growth of public cloud use, the Annual Conference heard
desktops to Office 365 – it is happening”, he said. “This
leads to proliferation of usernames and passwords in the
organisation which will not be subject to your internal
policy, because these passwords reside with Google or
Microsoft or whoever it might be. Fixed passwords are
Identity federation on the other hand – with authentication
provided by third parties – allows people to use one
password for different applications in a single session –
“one of the rare security solutions that makes life easier
for the user”.
Henrikson showed how the system works in practice by
logging on as a user who is then shown a series of cloud
application icons such as Gmail and Dropbox which
share a federated security arrangement. A click on any
icon takes the user automatically out to a federated
identity provider and then back into the application, after
which any of the icons can be used directly.
“You are bringing the identities back home and
controlling them yourself instead of letting the providers
control them for you”, he said. “We can’t live with a
million passwords, because it won’t work.”
A similar approach to authentication, this time for the
citizen, was presented to Socitm Scotland in Edinburgh
The “mygov.scot” portal for online public services in
Scotland, which is currently undergoing initial (alpha)
testing (https://alpha.mygov.scot/), has its own single sign-
in for online services known as ‘myaccount’.
Run by the Improvement Service with help from the private
sector – unlike the Verify system which will be handled
directly by third party providers – the system is designed
to join up back office systems and deliver services from a
For organisations, the service will match their existing
user data either case by case or in bulk to national
registers, returning matches or probabilistic matches, and
will also notify organisations back when data changes
occur such as changes in name or address, or if someone
dies. For this, it gathers information from a range of
sources, including citizens themselves.
Once people are registered as myaccount users they
can pass through a series of security checks and levels,
after which it is up to each council or public body to
decide what online services they will offer at each level of
For example, Level 0 users who are anyone self-
registered might be allowed to report a missed bin
collection; Level 1 users who have undergone basic data
checks may be allowed to pay their council tax online;
and Level 2 users who have passed a face-to-face
validation process might be allowed to claim benefits.
“The single sign-on is embedded within a service
provider’s website and then redirected to myaccount,
where it checks user name and password and sends
the result back to the service provider account”, says
Cameron Walker, the service’s head of operations.
“It is a very thin set of data we hold in the centre. We
authenticate people, but our bit ends there and service
providers decide if they want to allow you to do
something, and provide accountability – tracking what
you did. We have no knowledge of what people do.”
As with Verify, sign-in is based on SAML 2.0, although
the system is not currently compatible with Verify, and
there are no plans for it to be used elsewhere in the UK.
Another key cross-sector ICT project in Scotland was
presented to conference by Lorraine McMillan, chief
executive at East Renfrewshire Council. Socitm in Scotland
has worked with SOLACE and other partners to build a
Collaborative Hub, which is beginning to reach critical
mass, McMillan said.
Cloud champion: Verisec chief executive Johan Henrikson
You are bringing the
identities back home and
controlling them yourself.
We can’t live with a million
passwords, it won’t work”
Operational IT is Scotty
making sure warp power
works. That is different from
Though the project had a slower start than expected – “it
took us a wee while to get our programme manager
in place” – one year in the pace has ramped up and
there are now up to 200 people involved across local
government, she said.
Once fully operational the hub will allow councils to
share ideas and applications more easily, leading to
shared innovation across all service areas that should be
embraced by all, she said.
“It should be the policy people in the council that are
talking and driving digital as well as the ICT people”,
McMillan said. “It is as fundamental as the discussion we
have about prevention, or community engagement. But I
am not sure it is getting onto the agenda with managers
as much as it needs to.”
Another Socitm Scotland speaker, Hampshire County
Council chief information officer Jos Creese, said
the move to become a digital business represents a
fundamental shift not just for policy staff but for IT
departments themselves, away from operational IT.
“Operational IT is Scotty in the engine room, making
sure the warp power works well”, said Creese. “That is
different from embedding IT, acting as a digital champion.
Can a chief information officer do that? Absolutely,
but they will have to have the credibility that they are
not coming from an operational IT camp, and that they
understand the challenges our managers face.”
Socitm’s role in facilitating this is to share best practice to
help its members understand how they can make this shift
personally, Creese said.
Ultimately, all parts of an authority will have to embrace
entirely new business processes enabled by technology to
cope with extreme levels of ongoing budget cuts, he said.
“In the first wave of cuts in 2010 we were stopping doing
things we didn’t have to do and salami slicing”, said
Creese. “The next wave was transformation stuff such
as contact centres, flexible working, and self service for
common activities to reduce pressure on help desks. But
that is not going to get us through to 2018 and beyond.”
A fundamental service review was now needed to ask:
“How can we define and deliver this in a completely
different way, working with the private sector and doing
common things across our organisation?” he said.
You can now start up a new business overnight, said
Creese – what would or could that type of approach
mean for new health and social care arrangements?
What is needed is sovereignty of digital approaches in
every part of the organisation: “digital programmes need
to be owned at board level by chief officers as part of
their own performance plans.”
This message chimed with one delivered to the Annual
Conference by Mark Thompson, senior lecturer in
information systems, Cambridge Judge Business School
and director of Methods Group.
True digital services are about new business models and
Time for a change: fundamental service review needed, Jos Creese told Socitm Scotland
sharing platforms in the manner of private sector pioneers
such as Uber and lastminute.com – the disintermediaters,
“We have got to start rethinking our business models.
Maybe we should focus a bit more on infrastructure
and open standards and reuse, not just about the agile
approach and building stuff.”
Not one to mince his words, Thompson said: “Everyone
is still in their silos in this room. We have hundreds of
versions around the country doing the same thing. But if
we are able to start standardising those capabilities, that
will ... stimulate supply by eager suppliers, contractors
and investors. We need to get to a shared local
“It is turkeys voting for Christmas. But the people who
thrive out of the silos, who work in bureaucracies, have
“It is turkeys voting for Christmas. But the people who thrive out of the silos have to go”: Mark Thompson
‘Opening Up Digital’
Thursday 23 April 2015, 9:00 - 17:00
Dexter House, 2 Royal Mint Ct, London, EC3N 4QN
Key issues to be discussed include:
• Local public services as a platform: a local GDS,
collaboration across regions or a different way forward?
• Network security: what will follow the PSN and N3?
• Delivering health and social care reform: how can we
ensure local public services are integrated?
• Workforce development: how can the public sector
develop and maintain skilled, multi-agency digital teams?
• The role of leadership: how are political influences shaping
the drive to go digital?
You graduated in law. What drew you to IT?
When I left school there were relatively few computers
Ralph McNally, head of local
public service ICT integration
at Leeds City Council and
winner of Socitm’s member
award in 2014 for his work
on health and social care
integration, talks to In Our
View about his career.
around and you had to be a Physics ‘A’ level student before you were allowed anywhere near them. I could see though
that computer skills were extremely important, so at the point I realised a career in law wasn’t for me, I took a post-
graduate diploma in computing and communication technology which led directly to a job working within the IT service
at West Yorkshire Police.
West Yorkshire Police were quite a long way in front of most other forces in England and Wales at that time in
developing innovative ICT solutions. I was exposed to a wide range of disciplines during my time there including
programming, systems developing and analysis and then project managing everything from small ‘stand-alone’ system
developments through to enterprise applications such as custody, case, crime and operational intelligence systems. It
was a really interesting place to be.
After I had been at West Yorkshire Police for around 12 years, e-government initiatives were beginning to emerge with
local authorities really leading the way and this looked really interesting so I moved to Calderdale MBC to become
directly involved and lead their e-government activity. This included everything from handling IEG statement production
to major infrastructure and applications development such as CRM and GIS. After about seven years with Calderdale
I moved to Sheffield City Council, first as a solutions architect specialising in information and then running the Council’s
information and knowledge management function.
How did you come to work on health and social care integration?
While I was at Sheffield, we created a dedicated information forum across South Yorkshire together with our main
partners. This led us to work directly with health service bodies, and was the first time I came across the Information
Governance (IG) toolkit. The toolkit draws together rules and guidance for health bodies and a range of other
organisations such as local authorities (at the time delivering social care services). It was initially produced by the
Department of Health and is currently operated by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), and during
this time I started to work with these colleagues to tailor the IG toolkit to local government requirements.
Health has a strong informatics governance framework and from a local authority perspective we also have much
in place such as the Public Services Network (PSN) code of connection as well as our own separate policies and
information governance processes so it made sense to converge and consolidate wherever possible.
The national IG Toolkit project from 2014 aimed to deliver this convergence building on the work started in South
Yorkshire to create a local government version, and looking specifically at what we needed to do to get information
Ralph receives Member of the Year award from Steve Cliff, IBM, with comedian Tom Binns (far left) and Adrian Hancock, Socitm CEO
flowing to support the rapidly developing health and social
care integration agenda. This accounted for my move to
Leeds City Council who were leading the project on behalf
of a wide range of stakeholders.
Where is this work headed now?
There is a fair way to go but our work was a vital step to
eradicate a lot of duplicated effort, time and money. It
Our work was a vital
step to eradicate a lot of
duplicated effort, time and
was also laying down the groundwork for how local government and health were going to manage integrated care
information requirements, and has wider implications across the whole public sector.
Having delivered really the foundation layer we are now involved scoping out a new IG programme, which is being
led by our health partners to take us to the next level.
What is your role as Socitm Yorkshire & Humber regional executive member?
My Socitm member award also recognised the work we do within Yorkshire and Humber regionally. This encompasses
operating regional Socitm meetings, working very closely with the Yorkshire and Humber Partnership Management
Board and also operating our regional Warnings Advice and Reporting point (or WARP).
In this region as with other Socitm groupings we tend to organise our learning and strategy development work and
deliver this through our meetings. The function of the executive in the region is to determine and shape the agendas of
our meetings and our activities and to work with Socitm at the centre to keep the society vibrant in the region.
Socitm’s own SAS is preparing for its first mission. The
‘SAS’ package comprises digital, self-service tools for
service cost assessment, service quality assessment,
and digital maturity and ICT maturity assessments, each
derived from aspects of Socitm’s principal advisory and
consultant-supported services, such as Benchmarking
the ICT service, Benchmarking user satisfaction and the
Digital and ICT maturity advisory services.
“The top level advisory and consultant-supported services
require significant cost, time and effort from both the
service participants and Socitm to deliver”, says Socitm
head of research Dr Andy Hopkirk. “While these are
obviously of high value to those who participate, not
everyone has the time, or the budget, or the ready need
when the calls for joining the cyclical services kick off.
Socitm Services’, p15, In Our View, Issue Two, August/
“The idea of the SAS package is to offer four digital
online services which subscribers can mix and match to
use whenever they want to. The package subscription will
be significantly cheaper than multiple separate, ad hoc
‘one-time’ use of each individual service.”
Beyond SAS, a single simplified version of the SAS
package components is in development for trialling as
a new ‘Annual Membership Profiling Survey’, Hopkirk
says. This member-only survey will gather, and offer
back, basic profiling data - such as organisation size,
ICT budget size and ICT staffing/user support FTE levels -
about each other to Socitm members.
In time other free-to-use, online taster versions of SAS
services may also be developed and trialled, he says.
“One of our ambitions for such services is that they can
act as a shop front and entry point for non-members who
then might like to become members and take advantage
of our more sophisticated services offerings,” Hopkirk
The SAS subscription package and its four component
services have each been put forward for inclusion in
the next version of the Digital Marketplace (previously
CloudStore + G-Cloud framework), with a full launch at
the Socitm Spring Conference in April. Watch this space…
For more information contact: email@example.com
The package subscription
will be significantly cheaper
than multiple ad hoc use of
each individual service”
Assessment options to mix and match
Who dares, wins: Will Socitm’s SAS be as rapid and flexible as its military namesake?
“Members have asked for service variations at a lower
price that are available as required. Our providing self-
service, digital access allows us to do that.
“Our online Service Quality Assessment (SQA) is the first
example of this new approach in practice (see ‘Overview:
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World view: Singapore
Anyone involved with creating a public sector online
knowledge-sharing community is likely to have found
their main problem has nothing to do with technology,
and everything to do with people. How do you persuade
managers and staff to share hard-earned knowledge and
insights when they are busy, cautious and simply unused
It was such ponderings that led Rachael Mfoafo, then
communication lead for the Scottish Local Government
ICT Strategy Programme at the Improvement Service,
to apply for and win the Socitm Graham Williamson
Research Award (http://www.socitm.net/membership/
research-award) for 2013.
Mfoafo’s proposal focused on exploring cultural and
technological issues behind successful online knowledge-
sharing platforms by mapping the public sector
“knowledge ecology” in the highly wired-up nation of
Singapore, travelling in 2014.
“It was through supporting the LG ICT Strategy
Programme in Scotland (http://lgictstrategy.org.uk) that
I first got a sense of some of the frustrations around
knowledge-sharing in the public sector, particularly using
online collaboration platforms,” Mfoafo told delegates
at the Socitm Scotland conference in Edinburgh late last
“I felt that there was some level of acceptance that public
sector officers are IT-shy, making a lack of participation
on collaboration platforms acceptable.”
Despite this, demand for online collaboration tools and
services throughout the public sector is “skyrocketing”,
she said. Recognised benefits include collective problem
solving, the potential to drive innovation, and time, space
and cost savings at both strategic and operational levels.
Mfoafo chose Singapore as a research subject from its
reputation as a highly wired-up nation – all households
have high speed broadband and people on average
own more than 1.5 mobile phones each – and as a
pioneer in many areas of e-government, including
How do you encourage public sector staff to share their
knowledge online? Rachael Mfoafo, winner of the Socitm
Graham Williamson Research Award, travelled to Singapore
to learn from this smartest of city states
Good to share
Smart city: Singapore’s urban island geography creates perfect conditions for a wired-up society
World view: Singapore
The fact Singapore – an island city-state with a
population of about 5.5 million – is so compact and
urbanised has contributed to its development as a wired-
up nation and the UK Government’s current intention to
devolve power to cities and city regions make its example
even more useful, she said.
Not all aspects of Singapore’s experience read across
to the UK – for one thing, because of its size the nation
does not actually have local councils, with everything
run through central departments and agencies. But its
experience in creating online tools and portals has strong
parallels with UK projects, Mfoafo said.
“Singapore’s Government website and portals are
designed to encourage citizens’ interest in contributing
to creating the public sector they want”, she said. “Its
REACH citizen engagement portal (www.reach.gov.sg)
for instance, was created in 2006 to lead the push for
better engagement with citizens. The portal team works
closely with communities and grassroots organisations to
obtain feedback on national issues and policies as well as
putting forward topics for discussion in the portal.”
The government also organises crowdsourcing challenges
such as app development competitions and hackathons to
tap into citizens’ knowledge and ideas to solve problems
and issues that Singapore may be facing, she said. There
are also plans to create “avatars”: online profiles for
all citizens allowing them access to personalised digital
services in a similar way to modern video game devices.
This builds on Singapore’s current e-Citizen portal (www.
gov.sg), which allows users to create personalised pages,
saving favourite topics and services.
As for the country’s public sector knowledge-sharing
platform “Cube”, a key focus of Mfoafo’s research,
this was created last year with basic structures and
Organisations must look for
creative ways to ensure sharing is
purposeful and objective-driven”
functions very similar to that of the UK Local Government
Association-founded Knowledge Hub, she said.
The Cube team sits within the Public Service Division of
the Singapore Prime Minister’s Office. Cube currently
has about 15,000 users, and its managers emphasise
content development, with customisation features to make
it visually appealing.
“As facilitators, they produce engaging content that
stimulates conversations on Cube,” Mfoafo said.
“Where digital platforms are concerned, organisations
must look for creative ways to ensure sharing is purposeful
and objective-driven yet draws on emotional elements
associated with experiences. The challenge is to bring
professional and social together in a productive way
such as organisational storytelling, which can then be
summarised and shared online.”
The team runs competitions and urges senior managers to
use the platform to encourage others to use it, she said.
Passport to research: Rachael Mfoafo with her Graham WIlliamson Award
They also produce a monthly newsletter called JAM,
which asks public officers a question directly related to
issues that other agencies also face. These questions are
often mirrored on the REACH portal to probe deeper into
the issue from the citizens’ perspective.
Along with supporting leaders to use the platform to
share insights, the team have also identified key people
in different government organisations who are active
World view: Singapore
in online communities within their organisations and on
social media in general and use them to support content
development on Cube. But despite all this, changing
organisational culture to encourage widespread sharing
remains a big challenge, Mfoafo said.
“Having been a facilitator on Knowledge Hub, I could
relate to the difficulties in creating a vibrant group and
sustaining it,” she said. “Overall it seemed to me that
facilitators are very important to support all knowledge
management tools, particularly in tying together content
from key platforms and [presenting it] in an engaging
format that drives further collaboration.”
Ultimately, it will be our success in cultivating a public
sector learning culture, making knowledge-sharing
everyone’s responsibility, on which success of our sharing
platforms will depend, says Mfoafo.
“People will do something if they need to, but if they hang
around on a platform, it is because they want to.”
Once high levels of usage are being achieved, another
key layer of modern knowledge-sharing platforms is
intelligent data analysis, helping managers analyse
complex patterns of data across live sources such as
Singapore is taking a lead in this field as well with its
international smart cities project iCity Lab at Singapore
Management University, a joint initiative with IT specialists
Tata Consultancy Services.
“Data management is critical, as smart cities of the near
future will need to be operated based on decisions
supported by a big data approach,” Alfred Wu, iCity Lab
director and a contributor to Mfoafo’s research, told In
“This analyses different sources of data from government,
enterprises and citizens, to make informed decisions
in near real-time to ensure operation efficiency, citizen
satisfaction, security and resilience.”
Better use of data will help city managers focus services
around individual citizens, said Wu.
“Data, information and opinions shared by citizens
through different formal and informal channels will
provide feedback to government in terms of performance
of urban services as well as programmes and policies to
drive those services.
“If city managers are able to acquire the right data,
design the right model, and perform the right analysis at
the right time, they will be in a better position to respond
to their citizens.”
To make sense of such a mass of data from multiple
live sources, new tools for data visualisation would be
essential, said Wu.
“We are surrounded by data in ever-increasing volumes.
Visual analytics will allow city managers and other
stakeholders to retrieve the most important insights. City
managers lacking visual analytics capabilities will not be
able to respond to challenges and capture opportunities
for improvement in the complex and fluid modern urban
If city managers can acquire
the right data and perform the
right analysis at the right time,
they will be in a better position to
respond to their citizens”
Dazzling platform for culture-sharing? The Helix Bridge in Singapore
Our next major national event, the Socitm Spring Conference, will focus on the theme of ‘Opening Up Digital’:
enabling councils, the NHS, the emergency services and third sector bodies to implement digital initiatives. The
conference will take place on Thursday 23 April at Dexter House in London.
Booking and further information: www.socitmspringconference.com
And please see the map below for the dates of your forthcoming regional meetings and other Socitm events.
Booking and further information: www.socitm.net/events
Yorkshire & Humber
Socitm Spring 2015
Socitm Scotland 2015
You know that technology has the
power to transform your business –
and that innovation is nothing without
vision. And as you strive to take your
role and your organisation further than
ever, we make you this promise: we’ll
be with you every step of the way.
Looking to take your business further?
Come and see the Canon insights that can help
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Toll-free: 0800 917 8815
We will be sponsoring regional meetings
throughout the UK during 2015 and also
present at the larger events like the
Socitm Spring Conference.
See our event calendar at
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