Digital Strategy for County Durham

Why Digital?

For most of us, digital technology is an essential part of daily life. We live in an increasingly connected world. The internet has given us access to a world of information and entertainment. We can shop, bank, and transact with public services on a 24/7 basis and we can share our thoughts, opinions and photographs with the world instantly through social media. Global communication is readily available and instantaneous. These connections have changed the way people expect to interact with their council to request, access and receive our services.

To meet these changing expectations we need to enhance and expand our digital offer. This means getting the most out of technology to increase choice and improve quality, finding innovative solutions that allow us to work in better and smarter ways and helping our communities to thrive in a digital world. Connectivity works in many directions. We are committed to using our digital platforms to not only offer people a choice in how they deal with us, but also to listen to their feedback on how we are doing with our service delivery and communication. We will then use that feedback to meet the needs of the county and continually improve.

We have already started this work, and our digital platforms and infrastructure are getting stronger every day. For example, phase one of the Digital Durham programme has already provided 105,000 properties in the North East with access to fibre broadband. Our aim now is to lead from the front, to build on this progress to support our residents, local businesses, bring our communities together and to develop a highly skilled digital workforce in a changing technological landscape.

Our Digital Strategy sets out the future for connecting Durham, how we will digitally improve our services, support our people, our communities and our organisation to deliver better outcomes for the people of the county.

Digital Ambition for County Durham

Connecting people to services

Our digital contact channels are already the first choice for our customers where they are available. We will continue to improve our digital services to enhance customer experience.

Our Digital Ambitions run through the heart of the council's wider transformation programme, designed to make our services better meet customers’ needs, help communities become more self-reliant and resilient, move our partnership working from good to great and to become renowned for our skilled and flexible workforce and our employee engagement.

We will improve our services in line with advances to digital technologies and ensure that services are available via mobile technologies.

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Digitally Connected

We have based our Digital Strategy around three core themes that, collectively, will enable us to put the customer at the heart of everything we do in a changing technological landscape.

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These three themes are interdependent. A digital community is necessary for people to access services digitally, and enjoy the benefits that brings.

Digital Principles

We recognise that our new digital strategy will affect all of our residents, businesses and visitors.

We have established a set of digital principles in order to make Durham a better place to live, work and do business.

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Digital Customer

What this means: Improve access to our services and information through technology and be responsive to customer's needs.

Following public consultation in November 2018, we know that people in Durham would like to see:

  • A clear and concise website that’s easy to use.
  • Increased availability of self-serve technology, with a simple and uncomplicated log on process.
  • Technology used to improve efficiency.
  • All customer information held in one place.

We currently offer more than 100 services online, with over 40% of our customers accessing this facility.

We will expand and redefine our service offer to make our online services as simple and user friendly as possible.

Our commitment to you

  • Continue to develop online services that are simple and convenient to use.
  • Use online services to provide better information to those using them.
  • Ensure all interactions are as quick, simple and secure as possible, ensuring service fulfilment at first point of contact.
  • Use the feedback we get to improve services.
  • Enable customers to make more online payments.
  • Provide up to date, relevant information on our website.
  • Ensure information is handled in a safe, robust way.
  • Provide support for those who need extra help using digital technology.
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Digital Organisation

What this means: Use digital technologies to improve our services and operate more efficiently.

As an organisation, we have already started to improve the way we work by:

  • Investing in modern, efficient and effective systems to help frontline staff manage caseload.
  • Introducing mass text messaging to keep customers updated of any issues that might affect them.
  • Developing an online appointment system for Customer Access Points.
  • Using technology to direct requests straight to the person best placed to deal with it.
  • Automating performance dashboards.
  • Increasing mobile working, resulting in less travel and increased productivity for staff.
  • Providing more opportunities for customers to provide feedback and using this to improve our services.

Our commitment

  • Continually improve services and processes based on comprehensive, available data and evidence - including customer feedback.
  • Increase automation across the organisation through the use of digital solutions and technologies, including the use of mobile technologies.
  • Use the information and intelligence we hold in a secure and effective manner.
  • Ensure IT and software systems are able to exchange data, are scalable and able to adapt to change.
  • Develop a digital leadership and workforce, ensuring investment in and access to up to date technology and appropriate training in order to facilitate this.
  • Continue to use digital practices to mobilise our workforce and support agile working in order to provide a more flexible, responsive workforce.
  • Develop a one council approach, integrating front and back office with a range of services dealt with at first point on contact (where appropriate).
  • Unify our communications approach to support effective collaboration and new flexible ways of working that support delivery of high quality services to our customers, whenever and wherever they are needed.

Digital Communities

What this means: We will help the people of County Durham to get the most out of digital technologies in their homes and communities.

The Digital Durham fibre programme is a £35 million initiative to transform broadband speeds for residents and businesses across the North East Region. By bringing superfast broadband to areas that would otherwise not receive a commercial connection.

Digital Durham also offers schemes to assist businesses and registered charities and social enterprises to get online:

  • Digital Drive – an initiative that aims to help SMEs in County Durham maximise their growth potential and sustainability. The initiative offers support and guidance on digital technology, digital health checks and grant funds up to 40% to support digital consultancy projects, equipment or installation of broadband.
  • Reboot Scheme – a partnership with Protech City to offer low-cost computer equipment to County Durham based registered charities and social enterprises.
  • Businesses can claim a grant towards the cost of connection to full fibre broadband under the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.

We also:

  • Help residents get online by providing free internet access;
  • Provide support to residents to improve their digital skills;
  • Provide free information, advice and guidance at www.digitaldurham.org.

Our commitment

  • Be digital leaders for our community and strengthen our digital partnerships through collaborative working, shared learning and best practice.
  • Work with partners to enhance connectivity through further development of our digital infrastructure.
  • Encourage and enhance data sharing.
  • Continue to expand our social media presence to support, engage and consult with the community by providing up to date and accurate information and gathering views of residents on issues that matter most to them.
  • Support all members of the community to go online through development of a robust mobile network, access to affordable broadband, expanding free access to Wi-Fi in council and community buildings.
  • Develop digital skills in our communities through our adult learning programmes and working with schools and colleges to ensure our children and young people have the skills demanded by future employers.
  • Maximise the use of technology to promote the health and wellbeing of communities and families.
  • Utilise technology to support digital inclusion and deliver a range of innovative products that enable independent living.
  • Continue to develop ultra-fast business parks and hubs.
  • Offer tailored business support and use every opportunity to promote the use of broadband to existing and emerging businesses.
  • Provide the infrastructure for a digital county.
  • Grow digital businesses within the county.
  • Aim to ensure no-one is digitally excluded and design services to be accessible using modern technology regardless of age, disability or ethnicity.
  • Provide information and support for businesses and residents to stay safe online
  • Explore how to use digital technology to make County Durham a better place.

Service Ambitions

Regeneration and Local Services (REAL)

Delivering a wide range of essential services, from waste collection to more specialist areas including licensing, and supporting delivery of the county's cultural and leisure offer, we understand the importance of putting people at the heart of everything that we do.

Digital has already transformed the way we work, and we are continuing to make use of new and digital technologies. We are building on progress made across many frontline services, including waste collections, highway inspections and building maintenance where digital mobile working is now commonplace. Planning, management and operation of our frontline services is more effective and efficient, and we continue to drive improvements that are better for customers that use them.

Our online customer portal has proven there is both an appetite for and an expectation of a modern, digital customer interface that not only provides a 24/7 service, but also has the ability for customers to give feedback as to what we are doing well and how we could do things differently. We intend to use digital techniques to further improve our responsiveness to customer enquiries and requests:

  • We will investigate the opportunity to further use of digital tools and technologies to automate data collection, effectively analyse operational data and develop augmented reality apps.
  • We will use digital techniques to more widely communicate, and analyse the response to, key messages and consultation.
  • We will make the best use of data to understand needs, manage assets and operations, and improve customer experience.
  • We will develop the digital offer in the areas of culture, sport and festivals to match that offered in the commercial world, such as social media, online bookings, e-ticketing and new exciting ways of engagement.
  • We will help communities and businesses get the most out of digital by ensuring connectivity and access is placed at the heart of economic regeneration initiatives. This includes access to superfast broadband, mobile connectivity and public wi-fi.

Service Ambitions

Children and Young People’s Service

Our vision is that County Durham will be a great place for children and young people to grow up in and a place where all children are healthy, happy, safe and achieving their potential.

Digital Technology has an increasingly important role to play as both an enabler and a driver of change: collaborating, sharing services, managing information more securely, enabling performance improvements and creating efficiencies.

The service has made significant strides to enhance its digital delivery over recent years through the implementation of new systems for Education, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, Children’s Social Care and Early Help. We will continue this improvement by focussing on key digital projects to improve our services:

  • We will use the increased flexibility and mobility of digital ways of working to improve accessibility and inclusivity, bringing our activities and services closer to residents and communities.
  • We will make our interactions more engaging to help improve our communication with people, especially young people. This will include greater use of user friendly ‘apps’, social media platforms and websites which are designed for the customer and which also enable the effective gathering of the views and feedback from children, young people and their families to help us improve services.
  • We will look to make more information resources available online for those who need help to understand the services available and how to access them. This includes our statutory requirements in relation to the Local Offers for Care Leavers and those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
  • We will look at opportunities to make available to children and families the information and records we hold about them through the use of digital technologies.
  • We will continue to build on our investment in digital technologies and systems by reviewing key service systems to ensure they are delivering expected benefits and are supporting staff in achieving positive outcomes in the work they do with children, young people and families.
  • We will make the most of the data that we hold by developing new approaches to the use and analysis of key data sets to help us understand the needs of our customers more effectively.
  • We will review and enhance the electronic systems available to support the commissioning of high cost services for children and young people so that our services remain efficient and effective.
  • We will explore the use of digital devices in the home including home hubs, and digital personal assistants such as Alexa to get the most out of these new technologies and to help in our service delivery where they can.
  • We will use new and innovative technologies and digital approaches with partners to support effective data sharing which enhance the services that we provide to children, young people and their families.

Service Ambitions

Adult and Health Services

Our key priorities are to enable people to improve their wellbeing and maintain their independence for as long as possible. Our digital ambition is to use technology to achieve these goals and to provide the best possible experience for people when using our services. A number of our key areas of work are set out below:

  • We will continue to review Durham Locate – a website which provides a comprehensive directory of care and support service available locally, helping people to choose services that are right for them - to ensure this system offers information that is accessible, useful and meaningful for those seeking information on wellbeing, care and support.
  • We will work to explore how we can expand the range of cost-effective assistive technologies we provide that help people remain independent and continue to live in their own homes for as long as possible. A range of equipment, such as alarms and monitors, are already available to provide reassurance that assistance and support is available at the touch of a button if needed.
  • We will continue to develop web content and social media platforms to share local information as digital technology is being used to connect and engage with the wider population to improve health and wellbeing. Online functionality is also being developed to support health improvement and protection, e.g. sexually transmitted infection testing kits are now available to order online from our service provider.
  • We will use our new social care case management system to assist us in the effective management of adult social care cases. As well as supporting staff with improved processes and providing better access to information, the new system will also bring more mobile and flexible working, allowing staff to operate more efficiently.
  • We will develop digital champions, enabling staff to be skilled in the use of digital technologies so not only do they become confident users of technology and systems, but also advocates by encouraging and supporting others to work or access services digitally.
  • We will use the huge opportunity provided by the integration of health and social care to work with our partners and care providers to further develop digital solutions to support services. A new system called Health Call is bringing more timely care and treatment to those in care homes simply by using technology to share information about patient conditions with clinical staff. Support is also being provided to care homes to enable them to link in with the NHS email system. On a wider scale, we are supporting the regional Great North Care Record project, a new way of sharing medical information between authorised health and social care workers across the North East and Cumbria.

Our ambition is to join up resources in the development and use of digital technology to enable staff and partners to provide care and support to people as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Service Ambitions

Resources, Transformation & Partnerships

These teams provide organisational support services such as finance, human resources, legal, communications, strategy and ICT and Digital, as well as partnership support services such as the administration of the Area Action Partnership network.

We established our Transformation Programme in 2016 with four distinct alms; to redesign services to better meet customer need at a reduced cost to the council; to help communities become more self-reliant and resilient; to move partnership working from good to great; and, tor us to become renowned for our skilled and flexible workforce and our employee engagement. Through innovation and digital adoption, we have already made many positive changes to the way we work and the services we provide to our customers. However, our ambition is to do more, and our strategic digital organisational theme sets out the future role of digital technologies:

  • We will build into every transaction the ability for customers to provide feedback and will use this data more intelligently to help better understand their needs, which in tum will help us to deliver more targeted and better services.
  • We will continue to invest significantly in digital solutions to speed up our internal business processes (e.g. our internal HR system and the new Office 365 system), help our staff effectively deliver services (e.g. case management systems that support social care staff practice), keep our data secure and protect our systems from cyber-attack.
  • We will use digital opportunities to consolidate and rationalise existing internal processes, removing duplication and non-value activity from the customer perspective. We have already invested in technology such as SMS bulk-messaging, voice recognition call transfer, automated enquiry handling and Robotic Process Automation. Paper-based processes have been automated, frontline operatives now instantly receive service requests (reducing double-entry in the back once) and software installed in our fleet vehicles is helping optimise routes and work programmes. These initiatives are also facilitating real-time progress updates to the customer.
  • We will undertake further improvement work to ensure our website is; mobile friendly, user focused and transactional so people can easily find the information they need, and, with social media, able to keep our customers informed, educated and inspired by our activities. Our online services are central to the way we interact with customers, and recent changes have already transformed the way we work.
  • We will continue to work to resolve as many enquiries as possible at the first point of contact and channel the more complex cases through the right professional process.
  • We will roll out training, development and support alongside new technological processes in order to create a multi-skilled, flexible workforce as we are aware that the transformation programme is reliant upon our workforce adopting new ways of working. We are also transforming our working environments and council buildings into collaborative and productive workspaces equipped for mobile and flexible working practices.



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For further information about the Digital Strategy please contact Victoria.Murray@durham.gov.uk

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