Head of UK Local Government, Amazon Web Services
Local authorities are switching to cloud-based digital solutions to improve efficiency and better serve their citizens.
In a post-pandemic era where citizens expect more online interaction with local governments, new approaches can help councils provide services more quickly and cost-effectively. Against a backdrop of budgetary constraints and the cost of living crisis, industry observer Kris Burtwistle explains how the cloud can be instrumental in helping councils meet citizen demands while keeping costs in check.
Across the UK, local authorities are moving to the cloud as their main route to digital transformation, realising its cost-saving and sustainability benefits, as well as improving their agility and security posture.
“Councils are identifying a particular challenge they have and are using the cloud to alleviate that issue,” says Burtwistle, who is Head of UK Local Government at Amazon Web Services. “With cloud comes a degree of scale that was hard to achieve before. Organisations of all shapes and sizes can now tackle big, complex datasets and drive tangible outcomes from it.” Advantages with cloud adoption can be seen in transforming services around the citizen; cyber security and reducing threats; automating processes and innovating at speed; and repeatability.
While local authorities have different services, geographical challenges and demographics, they have similar statutory obligations to their citizens, which provides the opportunity for repeatability. “One of the things we have been working hard to do is take best practices and share that across other local authorities,” he adds.
Cloud-based solutions can help councils defend against cyberattacks and be proactive in identifying where potentially malicious behaviour may arise.
In one example, Swindon Borough Council used Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to address fly-tipping. A solution that saved over 2,000 staff hours on the ground, £3,000 a year on fuel costs and reduced average clean-up time from ten days down to four — it has been done in a way that makes it highly repeatable and easy to redeploy. Swindon has seen over £41k in savings over the past 2.5 years, which has also led to CO2 savings of 1,591,200g p/yr.
Burtwistle explains: “Cloud makes that kind of initiative far easier because you don’t need to go on-site and configure and install hardware to rebuild another solution. You can have that preconfigured in the cloud and redeployed at the next local authority quickly and easily.”
Cloud-based solutions can help councils defend against cyberattacks and be proactive in identifying where potentially malicious behaviour may arise. Over the last five years, Hackney Council has adopted a ‘cloud unless’ strategy and has been working to move their digital services to the cloud.
The Council suffered a major cyberattack in October 2020 which affected their legacy on-premises services, with serious impacts on the Council and its residents. The progress that the Council had already made by moving their services to the cloud helped to protect several critical systems from the attack, and their partnership with AWS enabled the authority to mobilise quickly to recover services.
Moving away from on-premises infrastructure and towards AWS in the cloud allows councils to operate at scale, maximising efficiencies and driving greater savings. Councils can scale services up or down according to usage — such as lower weekend demand — and replace manual tasks with AI-powered automation.
The 60,000 documents Maidstone Borough Council receives from citizens, for example, previously had to be manually scanned. Now, an AI-powered document processing solution with cloud-based storage assesses and extracts text and photos from documents, identifies where the relevant information should be rooted and sends that to the processing team. Councils can also help meet their own sustainability goals by moving to the cloud — and reduce energy use by nearly 80% when they run their applications on the AWS Cloud instead of operating their own data centres.
With easily redeployed technologies such as these, local authorities can smoothly and more efficiently address relevant concerns that arise, with the new solutions benefitting both the councils and their citizens in the long term.