Norfolk Council looks to transform information delivery

person building piles of gold coins that get larger as they go on

A new initiative is set to save a local council £10 million over the next five years and transform the way information is delivered to taxpayers within the county.

The partnership, between HP, Microsoft, Vodafone and Norfolk County Council, will change the way public services will be delivered across the county, according to a senior executive.

Norfolk County Council’s CIO, Tom Baker, said the council had not been exploiting data as an asset but The Digital Norfolk Ambition (DNA) project would help improve services and lead to greater collaboration between the different stakeholders across the council.

Baker said basic information was at the heart of everything the council did but there were many challenges in accessing the information, given the complexities of the organisations. “There could be as many as 30 different agencies involved, “ he said.

The partnership would enable the council to transform its services, he added. “We’re now able to match data from multiple different sources to fit the digital agenda."

The council would move to a virtualised desktop infrastructure as well as developing a range of collaboration offerings such as IM and videoconferencing. “One of the challenges of Norfolk,” said Baker, “is its size: it can take two hours to drive from one side to another.”

The project will be based around HP’s Enterprise Cloud Services – the first time it has been used in local government in the UK, said James Johns, HP UK’s director of strategy for the public sector. “We’ll be using Workplace 360 desktop solution and Office 365 for collaboration.”

But Baker was keen to stress the new project was not just about the technology, and that it was a partnership that would fundamentally change Norfolk. “For example,” he said, “HP is investing heavily in the University of East Anglia and funding a course - a degree in Information and Management Analytics at the UEA - to help make up the workforce of the future."

There will also be shorter courses for 16-year-olds and technical work camps for schoolchildren, all with the aim of improving the county's technical knowledge.

The partnership was only signed on Monday and work on the project is not expected to start until the new year. According to Baker, the desktop replacements will be completed by the middle of 2014, with the information systems completed about the same time.

He said: “We saw what HP had done in Flanders with a system that could do things like pay child benefit, without the mother filling in the form – it pulls in information from the relevant sources.”

While acknowledging this was a step too far – at the moment – he did point to Essex council as inspiration. “We’re mindful of what Essex has done and we’re taking a similar approach,“ he added.

Max Cooter

Max Cooter is a freelance journalist who has been writing about the tech sector for almost forty years.

At ITPro, Max’s work has primarily focused on cloud computing, storage, and migration. He has also contributed software reviews and interviews with CIOs from a range of companies.

He edited IDG’s Techworld for several years and was the founder-editor of CloudPro, which launched in 2011 to become the UK’s leading publication focused entirely on cloud computing news.

Max attained a BA in philosophy and mathematics at the University of Bradford, combining humanities with a firm understanding of the STEM world in a manner that has served him well throughout his career.