Local Digital Fund winning bid: Code-sharing with other local councils

We’re excited to have been a part of a successful bid to the Local Digital Fund run by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Working with Croydon, Bracknell Forest and Oxford City councils, the discovery project aims to improve code-sharing between councils.

We’ve been sharing our Drupal website code with Croydon Digital Service for a couple of months already. Earlier this year, Croydon Council wanted to design a new ‘alpha’ website. Their delivery manager, Will, knew we potentially had the perfect starting point. He was the product manager for the Brighton & Hove City Council new website, before moving to Croydon Council, so he knew how the site worked. We kicked off a project to see if our site could be re-used for Croydon and quickly found that it could. After all, users in Croydon need very similar things from their website as in Brighton & Hove.

  • We didn’t know what licensing model we should use for the code.
  • If we opened up the code, would we have a big support overhead?
  • What are the logistics of managing code across the two councils?
  • We thought we wanted similar features, but how close are they in practice?
  • How would we manage a shared roadmap across two councils?
  • How would we make sure the collaboration was ‘fair’? After all, we had spent a lot of time and resources on building our site – how would we benefit from this?

That’s where the Local Digital Fund project comes in. Although in this case we are sharing Drupal code, we want to learn about code sharing in general. Each of the four councils in the project has its own perspective. We are all keen to work together and we want to find out what it means to do this ‘well’. We hope that this will result in a ‘playbook’ for other councils to use in the future. Plus, of course, four excellent council websites.

Automation and a possible future for health and social care

As the DF programme winds down, this will be my final blog post. It takes some of the ideas that Sharon Davies and I first shared at the Housing Technology 2018 conference, and applies them to the wider field of social care.

The acquisition of the Dell Boomi integration platform has opened up a vast range of possibilities by allowing us to automate business processes based on things that have happened, or are likely to happen (this is known as event-driven architecture).

Before going into more detail, I am conscious that automation is often seen as a way of getting rid of jobs – anyone familiar with Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano knows how badly that might end, if taken to its logical conclusion! However, if new technology is used to add new capabilities, and to enhance human work (making it more effective and efficient, rather than simply replacing people) – that is where the real benefits of innovation are to be found.

The diagram below (large version here) shows how this could be applied to health and social care in the future.

ASC event driven architecture v0.5 2019-03-24


Connected digital health devices (for example, blood pressure monitors) transmit data to an IoT platform (essentially, a data storage area). The integration platform can be programmed with business rules which are triggered by changes in this data. These business rules create actions – these can be things like mobile notifications, health visits, cases and tasks.

A simple health scenario could be:

An elderly citizen takes their blood pressure every morning. The reading is uploaded to the IoT platform. The integration platform picks up the new data and writes it directly to their NHS patient record. As a result, the GP saves time which would otherwise be spent taking blood pressure and doing data entry.

A more complex health scenario could be:

A series of blood pressure readings indicate an increase of 20% in BP over one month. The integration platform notices the pattern and creates an appointment for the resident with a nurse practitioner to carry out further investigations. As a result, the risk of a stroke or heart attack for that citizen is greatly reduced – and of course, the cost of prevention is very much lower than the cost of treating someone with a stroke or a heart attack!

It’s easy to see the potential for savings just from these two examples. The transformation work currently taking place in adult social care at the council should be able to apply these principles to our excellent Carelink Plus service, among other areas, as it replaces older technology with newer, connected health and monitoring devices.

Finally, I just wanted to say that it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with such a lovely, talented and motivated group of colleagues, and I wish the council all the best for the (hopefully non-dystopian) future. If you’d like to keep in touch, you can find me on LinkedIn here.







And it’s goodnight from me…

My time at Brighton and Hove City Council is almost up. My last day is Thursday 28th March and I’ll be sad to go.

I expected to be here for three months working on an account for businesses. But I met some amazing colleagues doing user centred work and decided to stay on.

Hats off to you great people. Thanks to the Digital First originals (Ali, Annie, Beckah, Charlotte, Gary, Nora and Ollie) and all the talented individuals we met along the way. Peak DF was 31 people – too many to mention here – but I’m grateful to you all.

Charlotte, Annie and Nora setting up the original Digital First wall in Jan 2017

When I left the Government Digital Service, I wanted to work more closely with users. That’s definitely happened. By collaborating with real citizens, businesses and community groups we’ve been able to do good work.

I’m proud of the work I did as a Product Manager. I’m proud of the big projects we took on as a team. Things like:

  • reworking the systems that run the city’s bin collections
  • the application process for schools (hours of testing!)
  • rethinking Pest Control from the ground up
  • creating a new platform for managing the city’s volunteers
  • Design Dave’s awesome design system

It’s essential work that keeps Brighton & Hove moving. As a new team forms in April, I wish you all the very best.

For more of the same, I’m on Twitter.

Digital First values by Ivanka and team