Magazine article Public Finance

Moving on Up

Magazine article Public Finance

Moving on Up

Article excerpt

Although the private sector has led the way in using mobile technology to improve business efficiency and customer service, the public sector is keen to catch up.

In the past few years, a growing number of authorities have invested in the technology with a view to improving services and reducing data processing times. However, according to the Project Nomad 2008 report, there is a slower than expected take-up and many of the savings achieved under Sir Peter Gershon's efficiency programme did not 'arise from a fundamental transformation using technology'.

So is mobile technology worth it? If authorities can meet efficiency targets without using it, why should they bother to introduce it?

Evidence shows that the technology can improve both efficiency and citizen services. Greater flexible working not only leads to increases in productivity and service standards but also to reductions in areas such as fixed costs and carbon emissions. It can give staff more autonomy and empowerment and even improve their work-life balance.

So what roles benefit from mobile technology? Generally, the types of workers who benefit the most are those who travel around and want remote and/or home access. For example, at Vale Royal Borough Council, field personnel such as benefits officers are first in line to migrate from paper forms to mobile devices such as tablet PCs. They can go from home straight to the addresses they need to visit before going to the office to upload the information they have gathered into the central database at the touch of a button. This means they can fit in more visits each day and need less office space for the team.

There are now plenty of councils with data to prove that mobile technology has been a great step forward. Again, Vale Royal is a classic example. Simply by equipping benefits and council tax evaluation officers with handheld PCs, the council has saved ?127k in the first three years. The technology has enabled the council to speed up claim processing and therefore make payments more quickly.

However, some authorities that have run successful pilots or have invested in mobile technology have not rolled it out. Purchasing the technology is the easy bit. It appears that, for some councils, implementation is a much bigger step than they thought. …

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