Reflecting on London Tech Week

Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville reflects on the Council's London Tech Week events and discusses Hackney's bright digital future: 

Last week, we celebrated London Tech Week by hosting a series of events to help us continue improving the Council’s digital services and develop digital opportunities for Hackney’s residents and businesses.

I’m really proud of the digital progress the Council has made over recent years. We have brought our ICT and digital teams in-house, saving money and increasing the quality of the services we provide to residents and internal teams. We also work with the borough’s expert digital start-ups to re-think the way we work, present information and serve our residents, seeking their input and advice at every opportunity.

This work, with the borough’s fantastic array of talented start-ups, digital employers and social enterprises, formed a significant part of our London Tech Week programme.

During the week:

  • Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Human Resources, hosted an event for local employers to get their help in making sure that the 18 digital apprenticeships we are launching this week provide an excellent start for young people in Hackney as they begin their careers in the tech sector

  • I launched my new digital advisory panel, made up of local digital experts who will help us make sure we are being ambitious and making the most of the opportunities that digital offers

  • We met with colleagues from Austin, Texas about how we can renew the Austin/Hackney partnership, exploring how we can work and collaborate better with our ‘sister city’

  • We hosted a Dementia Friendly Hackathon with the Alzheimer’s Society and ‘hacked’ new ideas for apps to help those with dementia that can help us realise our goal of being a dementia friendly borough

  • We helped startups to meet with potential investors and employees by supporting Open House and Jobbio’s Startup Open House tour in Shoreditch

  • We welcomed colleagues from across local government to join us for an event hosted by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Government Digital Service to explore opportunities for deeper digital collaboration with other councils.

As directly elected Mayor, I have cabinet responsibility for ICT. I campaigned on a manifesto that is ambitious for Hackney and for the first time reflects the important role that digital technology, data and design-led approaches have in realising those ambitions. But, as well as making specific manifesto commitments on technology and digital for the first time, we have also moved this away from a big bang style grand plan for our digital services, and towards real collaboration internally, with local businesses and most importantly our residents.

We are already using this new collaborative approach on a number of our digital services:

  • We are helping people across the borough find new employment and skills opportunities through our new digital service for Hackney Works

  • Our new Pay My Rent service, which has been used more than 46,000 times since it was launched in September 2017 and has helped reduce phone calls to the neighbourhood contact centre by more than 20 per cent

  • We are improving support to people at risk of homelessness by using a design-led approach in response to the Homelessness Reduction Act. We have been able to deliver this more rapidly and effectively using agile digital techniques and by working with help from expert local businesses.

Despite this great progress, we want to do much more.

We are committed to playing an active part in the local government community, working more closely with other councils. We want to learn from others, work together to explore new ideas and solutions to the challenges our residents face, and make all the work we do freely available to other councils so that they can benefit from that too. I firmly believe, as do the teams working for the council, that the public sector and even more importantly the taxpayer should only pay once for new ideas and this principle helps to underpin true collaboration.

I am extremely conscious of the perils and pitfalls of politicians reaching for the shiny new digital thing, claiming the ‘white heat of technology’ for themselves, thinking that one big leap or investment will change everything. I want to be clear that isn’t what we are doing in Hackney - we are both grounded and agile, and we are determined to be innovative, but we want to do this in collaboration with local residents and businesses so they too can benefit from our digital journey.

I believe that over the next four years we will deliver real change for the people of Hackney and continue to play a leading role in showing how across local government we can open up our systems, share data and collaborate for the benefit of the residents we all serve.