Our role in Digital Geelong

A new kind of council is emerging in response to digital media and the new culture of public deliberation and active citizenship enabled by new technology. 

All councils will increasingly need to – and be seen to – co-innovate with residents and act not through isolated departments but as genuinely integrated organisations. 

A new kind of council is emerging in response to digital media and the new culture of public deliberation and active citizenship enabled by new technology. All councils will increasingly need to – and be seen to – co-innovate with residents and act not through isolated departments but as genuinely integrated organisations. The City of Greater Geelong will seek to lead by example in the implementation of integrated online services and the promotion of digitally enabled community engagement with and for its citizens – as well as develop its staff capacity and capability to deliver this. It will build partnerships with all tiers of government and other key partners with local businesses, education providers and the voluntary sector to deliver the aims of the strategy. These partnerships will be key to one of the biggest challenges of the new era: digital inclusion.

At the heart of the Geelong suite of strategies to leverage these opportunities and attract the investment and talent – the people and capital – the city needs, will be Digital Geelong. Based in a Council-led initiative to create a ‘digital partnership’ that engages all government tiers, the public, and private and not for profit sectors, the Council’s own staff, and above all the local community, the strategy aims to:

  • Improve the design, economy, efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness of Council services

  • Improve engagement with the community and business and the very functioning of our democratic process by using new digital platforms

  • Identify the core roles of the Council in promoting the digital economy in Geelong – leading by example as a service provider, as an advocate for the local community and as a partnership-builder

  • Identify the role to be played potentially by partners and collaborations between public, private and not for profit organisations

  • Use urban informatics and city analytics to improve the performance and operation of the city itself

  • Open up local business opportunities from open data initiatives

  • Diversify the local economy to make it more resilient and forward-looking

  • Support innovation in existing enterprises while adding to the ecosystem and infrastructure to spark new local start-ups

  • Contribute to faster growth, new jobs and competitiveness

  • Ensure that the digital infrastructure and networks are in place to secure our ambitions

  • Help nurture the skills and mindset to enable local communities and businesses to take part successfully in the digital economy and maximise benefits from digital technologies: digital inclusion is a core aim of the strategy

  • Enhance the reputation of Geelong as a collaborative connected, dynamic and innovative city with empowered residents, businesses, learners and workforce and

  • Be an essential part of the wider strategy to retain and attract the talent and investment Geelong will need

Recommendation 5: Endorse the overall strategy at corporate level and identify which directorates should lead the implementation of which recommendations

There are seven elements in the Council role that are explained in detail in corresponding sub sections. The City will be:

  • A digital leader and advocate for change – new ways of working by staff and with the community

  • An innovator and entrepreneur in digitising its own services and engagement – and the democratic renewal this can bring

  • A champion of digital inclusion – fostering digital literacy with a leading role for our innovative library services

  • A robust and creative supporter of local business promoting the skills, knowledge and infrastructure required by SMEs and local retailers to exploit the digital economy

  • An effective creator of the partnerships needed to deliver Digital Geelong. To get the maximum economic and service benefits from digitisation requires planning and leadership from all tiers of Government in collaboration with the not for profit and private sectors. This Council will seek to be at the heart of the collective effort by bringing together all the forces required to deliver the strategy and maximise its impact in a Geelong Digital Partnership.

  • A coordinator of the urban renewal of Geelong with integrated digital initiatives and a talent attraction strategy to create an innovation and tech savvy eco system at the heart of a renewed Geelong

  • A marketer of Geelong as a networked community and as ‘the competitive edge’ of Melbourne, ripe for new start-up initiatives and the relocation of talent.

Recommendation 6: Endorse the elements of the council’s role at corporate level and identify the champion/s who will take the lead

Digital principles for the City of Greater Geelong

Principle 1: Helping everyone join in

Designing accessible digital services and working for digital inclusion, to ensure that as many people as possible can take advantage of those services.

There are different reasons why people may not be regular users of digital services. They may be disadvantaged by a lack of skills or confidence, or find going online is difficult because of location or affordability. Many of those who are currently digitally excluded are those who could benefit most.

With the aim of creating an inclusive framework we will encourage people to go online by:

  • Promoting the advantages of being online by embracing digital tools internally

  • Making it easier to access information and to carry out transactions by ensuring digital services are intuitive

  • Working with partners in the public, private and not for profit sectors to enable better access to training, support networks, and low-cost digital infrastructure

Principle 2: The Customer in control

Ensuring in the way information and services are made available that the customer is always in control, maximising transparency and self-service where possible. This will require careful organisational change initiatives, which are already under way in some areas of CoGG.

A major benefit of the digital revolution is that it makes it possible for individuals to access their own data and records and to select services to meet their needs, at times which suit them.

Well-designed web services can provide customers with personalised information and enable them to request services, report issues and undertake transactions online simply and quickly.

Understanding our customers’ needs and designing web services around the customer journey are key to delivering the right digital services.

Customer transactions are increasingly designed to be undertaken online. Wherever possible this should be fully automated, and with simple, intuitive interfaces from the perspective of the customer. Transaction examples include placing an order or making a purchase, making a payment, registering a complaint, and reporting a problem. We will overall be tailoring more online services and content so they work better on mobile phones and devices.

Principle 3: Digital by Default

Accelerating the move to a ‘digital only’ delivery where possible, though reflecting the needs of different groups and allowing for choice – while balancing efficiency with service quality

Embracing digital channels as the default in service design where possible will help to stimulate both opportunity for and benefits to service users and enable overall public service innovation:

Opportunity and benefits: enabling individuals and communities to take more control of their lives, giving access to online data and services to improve productivity, work-life balance and education for all.

Public service innovation: Geelong will actively seek a channel shift strategy based on well-designed services which put customers in control and reduce costs: but must continue to facilitate offline services and support those who are not online to ensure they can access every service.

The City will further develop its Customer Access/Experience Strategy to support the current IS strategy. Customer access will include a Web Self Service Program, and will aim to provide web services designed around the customer to deliver services in a cost-effective way and through an appropriate choice of channels. A growing list of services will be provided through our self-service program or portal, giving residents a secure, easy-to-use method for accessing local services, personal information and transactions from PCs and mobile devices. Such a portal could work in future together with the Council’s website.

To promote effective digital services shift Geelong will establish a Customer Access / Experience Board to oversee customer access activity across the organisation, ensuring maximum join-up within the Council and with partners. The Customer Access Strategy will continue to develop web self- service at its core, while providing a solution to those who can’t access digital channels directly. And we will pursue the development of a personalised Geelong Account for residents to use and track council service delivery and communication.

The City is committed to providing easy-to-use, trusted and flexible information and transactional services that support our ‘digital by default’ and online customer relationship management approach. The data obtained from the interactions with the public will, subject to privacy protocols, inform the use of next generation business intelligence, analytics and – increasingly important to enable the public to understand the data easily – visualisation tools across all front line services, to drive even higher performance.

Principle 4: Geelong Public Services Together - Sharing Information on a Common Platform

Geelong will seek to work with other public sector partners to ensure public services collaborate as much as possible to share insights and where possible, technology and services, making services more efficient for the taxpayer and more joined up for the service user and coordinate impact in the area. Over time, the aim is to increase the publication of relevant data sets for public access across all levels of government.

Digital Geelong will lead to more council data being made available online. This includes publishing information about public service activities and plans. A key aim is to enable customers and residents to understand the reasons for decisions we take, by making the evidence that supports them more readily available. As well as improving trust in public services and the democratic process, over time this ‘Open Data’ approach should also reduce the administrative burden of dealing with specific information requests.

The role of CoGG staff

We will, with our innovative staff, develop new ways of working in the digital era, leading by example through the transformation of our own services. While we will ensure all in the community and business can access the same quality of services ‘offline’, we will be an effective advocate for digitisation. In taking this position we are aligned with our staff.

The council staff surveyed have a clear and positive view of the potential of digital. The majority see digitalisation as having the capacity to help the Council to deliver better services, with greater impact at lower cost. Simply, they see it as having the power and potential to transform service delivery, as enabling staff to work flexibly and ‘on the move’ and as the basis of intra-council collaboration between departments enabling a more ‘joined-up’ government approach.

Moreover, they see ‘digital’ as a potential win-win for residents as well as staff – helping the interaction between both. Digital is seen as facilitating access to powerful data, which if properly managed will aid decision making and help the council to better understand and respond to the customers or local residents.

And staff see its full potential not just in relation to communication but the impact it can have on service design, delivery and corporate transformation. As one staff member put it: ‘this is about the coming together of ICTs, process design and delivery, data, customer service and engagement’.

Although barriers to success were identified such as cost, current organisational culture, lack of skills and the existence of legacy ICT systems, staff stressed the need to overcome unwillingness to change: they see that moving towards the digital future requires cultural change first and foremost to make the best use of technology in the design and delivery of services, as much as, if not more than, investment.

The commissioning by The City of such a strategy was considered timely and necessary by staff. However, staff stressed the strategy needed to be part of a process of top management-led internal engagement and awareness-raising about the possibilities and potential of digital for changing the business processes of the various service delivery departments of the Council.

Digital activity must be seen as being an essential crosscutting part of the council’s transformation agenda – supporting the organisation’s strategic aims and recognising the benefits of whole council engagement to meet customer / citizen demands and organisational needs. This agenda is as much to do with people and culture as it is with technology. It’s about a new mindset and ways of working. It’s about enabling people to do new things and staff to collaborate to solve problems, be more productive, be more engaged in co-producing innovation- and more empowered. Enabling a collaborative style of working through digital platforms will help staff to develop ideas, share thinking quickly and tap into existing experience which is more efficient.

Participation is crucial. Digital services are still services – you need to understand provider and consumer needs to design them well. So staff must help design the change, which will help overcome the barriers to communication. And that also means there is an opportunity to work with frontline staff to help inform (and get buy-in) to service re-design opportunities Some staff suggested the creation of a new senior post of ‘Chief Digital Officer’ (or similar) at director level, responsible to the CEO, to oversee the integration of digital across the the City’s activities.

Recommendation 7: Develop an implementation strategy that acknowledges the organisational culture changes required to align activites with Digital Geelong.

Recommendation 8: Ensure that a cross-council process of digitisation is led by the CEO with support from the CDO or other relevant officer.

Staff want the opportunity for agile working

Staff are attracted to the involvement and re-design potential that digital tools and social media give them – not least of which in their own working environment. Digital and the shift from PCs to mobile devices, offers a real opportunity for more flexible and agile working, enabling City of Greater Geelong staff to operate efficiently from any location and on the move. This enables staff to be based out in the community and indeed work from home or other locations.

The optimum results will be achieved by secure, ‘any-device, any-platform’ access, to enable staff to use personal, and non-CoGG devices – and agreed social platforms – so they can collaborate and work efficiently, and access customer information from wherever they are working. A ‘Bring Your Own Device’ scheme – subject to protocols – should be encouraged to allow staff the opportunity to use their personal devices securely at work. Enabling such a relaxed and a collaborative style of working through social platforms will help staff to develop ideas, share thinking quickly and tap into existing experience which is more efficient. These ideas are reflected in the recent transitions of successful organisations: Yarra Valley Water Victoria, Commonwealth Bank Sydney, Goodman Sydney, KPMG Brisbane.

We can take advantage of the consumer revolution making it possible for any personal device to securely connect and use Geelong’s systems and data. This means that staff can work with the equipment of their choice saving the Council having to refresh equipment – potentially very cost-effective. Digital is about now as well as the future.

Recommendation 9: Enable staff to use their own devices at work using a ‘bring your own device (BYOD)’ platform.

The City of Greater Geelong approach

An innovator and enterpreneur in digitising services, engagement and democratic renewal: the City of Greater Geelong approach

The key foundation of the transformation of Geelong into a digitally-enabled council is the digitisation of services and transactions to offer a new level of service that is more customer-centric, accessible and provides opportunities for financial savings.

The journey is towards what might be called multi-channel customer experience management and the greater use of insight analytics to inform service design – and the people, process and technology underpinning this. The City of Greater Geelong is already on this journey, which is not just about technology, but about customer-driven business design, data exploitation and reducing costs while increasing efficiency. The aspiration is to be the first platform-based, digital and genuinely data-driven council in Victoria.

We will be shifting delivery where possible to a ‘digital by default’ model, to reduce costs and improve services. Delivering services online has the potential to significantly reduce costs. In Geelong we estimate that face-to-face transactions can cost up to $14.04, telephone transactions $3.20 and online less than 30c. Moving transactions from expensive channels (e. g. face-to-face) to cheaper channels, that are easy to use, will save money and enable us to target resources at front-line services. More mobile working will enable a significant reduction in our overheads, including accommodation costs, as staff are able to work in virtual teams, at home or on the front line.

Recommendation 10: Save resources by moving transactions online, as stated in the current IS strategy. Encourage flexible working both inside the organisation and within local business.

We will design our digital services around our communities and individuals ensuring a more personalised service. We will create a Geelong Account which can personalise services so it is possible for residents to track the progress of applications and correspondence with the Council as well as receiving proactive alerts and reminders when, for example, a parking permit is due for renewal or a development application is made.

We will make services as simple to access and as automated as possible to speed up transactions, empower staff and reduce costs. By joining up Geelong’s data more efficiently across the whole Council we can deliver a very different customer experience. For example, our staff dealing with calls can resolve more at the first point of contact rather than having to transfer them to another service because they don’t have access to the information they need to service the call. And, expanding services onto mobile phones offers the possibility of completing more transactions conveniently on
the move and at times that are convenient.

Tailoring public services in this way where possible allows scarce resources to be used where necessary on face-to-face services, where digital services will only ever complement delivery. To guide us we have identified the key Geelong Principles for this journey.

Recommendation 11: Use digitalisation to tailor and personalise the City’s services. Explore the creation of a personal Geelong Account for online users.

From open data to the Geelong dashboard: from civic insights to democratic renewal online

Open Data can include all kinds of data sets that the Council releases including research, economic data, demographic trends, service performance data and analytics, and indeed city-performance data obtained from a number of sources including, increasingly, sensors in infrastructure and, subject to protocols, mobile phone data: so called ‘Big Data’. As we see in the section on SMEs, such Open Data can be highly useful to local business as well as enhancing council transparency and accountability.

Digital Geelong commits the Council to being one of the most advanced and innovative exponents of Open Data in Victoria to improve accountability for performance, to enable data experts or ordinary citizens to develop public information services or applications to help citizens make informed choices, to provide important civic insights into the progress of the city itself and to promote economic opportunity. It is noted that CoGG has released a large number of datasets which is a springboard for further data release – the information released is across the whole spectrum of Council collected data..

It is also a fundamental part of the re-invention of the democratic process – helping to re-engage the community with local government and the decision-making process and indeed to make that process one of collaboration and co-production – which online activity is enabling and with which Geelong wishes to be associated.

So Geelong will have a conscious policy of releasing data it already collects but hasn’t previously made publicly available. It will progress this initiative through a modern open data platform and sharing Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to enable developers from the community and business, producing online systems, to link up with Council systems and provide useful applications for the public

The data will be released in machine readable form on an open source website with clear policies on reuse. The next stages are as important. Geelong will invite other public bodies/State government departments with whom we have a relationship to upload their static data relevant to Geelong in machine readable form.

Over time we will encourage anyone in the data market (transport authorities, utility companies) to join our data ecosystem because of the benefits to them, the citizen/user and the city – and then we will use our website to point to their open API’s. From the start users in the community – university, TAFE, SMEs, health providers (health and public health being areas where big benefits will accrue from sharing data) and residents – should be encouraged to share and link up data sets about the local area: a ‘Geelong in Numbers’ approach.

Not only will citizens benefit from access to data, CoGG will start to benefit with data sets being released by other organisations and links being uncovered. CoGG needs to be in a position to take advantage of this as it happens.

This will be the Geelong Data Factory or Dashboard – a unique platform for private, Council and other public sector organisations to publish their open data sets online. We will aim to lead Australia in having the largest number of data sets available online and show the transformational things that can happen when a whole city shares its data, enabling a ‘Geelong 360 Civic Insight’ for residents and business which no other regional city currently can achieve. And with everyone on the same page, it is easier for council and state government staff, motivated citizens, and local organizations to collaborate more effectively to improve the quality and value of their city and its various precincts.

Recommendation 12: Maintain the City’s position as a leading Open Data champion in Victoria. Be recognised for providing access to all types of data sets.

Geelong data factory: activating and promoting the 'One Place Dashboard'

In addition to making it easier for the Council to analyse its own performance and drive operational improvement in all its services, a public-facing civic performance data dashboard will enable the community and business to explore and interact with Council information in a much deeper and richer way than would be possible in a spreadsheet or document.

Properly managed it can become an innovation exchange portal: an online interactive easy-to-use dashboard-like portal that allows ideas – from the council or from community and business – to be communicated to a wide audience to gauge their response and gain their input. The City will welcome this interactivity and dialogue on a platform which could also become one of the ways in which shared urban innovation – solving Geelong problems/maximising opportunities through crowd-sourcing solutions – can be promoted. It can also in itself help promote Geelong as a forward-looking and open city supporting innovation.

To activate the initiative requires not just that Geelong releases data and leave it on the platform. The platform needs to be actively managed to prompt the dialogues that will then shape the data that is supplied and how it is used. There need to be both a ‘push’ and a ‘pull’ approach by

‘Push’ and ‘pull’ to make the platform a success

The ‘push’ is to provide the supply of data through the platform. The pull is to attract in the local developer/coding/ data analytics professionals/SMEs through ‘hackathons’ that help create better applications for and uses of the data, and through the potential marketing of their products (see more on this in the section on SMEs). The ‘pull’ should also be to encourage special interest groups or local clusters to explore what existing public datasets can be used and combined to provide new insights, savings or prototypes reflective of Geelong’s needs. : an opportunity perhaps to have a strong health or sports science input into the Open Data platform and the development of applications.

But attention must also be given to promoting the skills, knowledge and support people need to use data. This will partly be enabled by the design of the platform itself which must be easy to access and use but also the management of the platform encouraging learning and interaction. Basically there is a need to ensure not just ‘Open Data’ but ‘opened data’. (More will be said about this in the section on ‘digital inclusion. )

And of course this whole exercise must command top level corporate endorsement. Support from senior managers makes the difference and liberates the potential of staff to develop this project and to release more and more data by default.

Recommendation 13: Create a Geelong Data Dashboard as a platform for Open Data, for providing acute civic insight and for giving opportunities to partners and residents to read, share and use data.

From open data to open government and the reinvigoration of local democracy

Clearly, the digital revolution has the potential to reinvigorate and indeed reimagine local democracy. The shift towards interactivity in modern local government communications is also a shift towards greater public involvement in shaping policy and delivery. The faster speeds available via high speed broadband and the ease of access to existing, free, social media tools – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – provide sophisticated methods to enable people to participate in two ways, more personalised, conversations and to conduct consultation to a micro level.

They thus also offer the possibility of involving citizens at the heart of the democratic process and in return offer local government real help in solving local problems. Geelong wants to be a leader in Australia in its approach.

This process of digital reinvigoration of local democracy could take many forms:

  • Crowd sourcing problem solving and new policy development online, using the new Dashboard or Open Data platforms

  • Increasing blogging, twitter, Instagram and relevant Facebook activity by Councillors and indeed staff, subject to protocols: seek to engage harder to reach residents and younger people on social media and indeed through gaming technology

  • ‘Geelong virtual town hall meetings’ held on Facebook and Open Data platform with the Mayor and Councillors answering questions/holding dialogues on key policy issues in real time

  • Live-streaming council meetings using Google Hangouts as a cheap but effective way of getting people more involved in local democracy; linked to Facebook style Q+A /tweeting as above, while meetings are live pod casts should be available online/on the dedicated YouTube channel, which itself should be linked to interactive social media

  • Enable staff to engage in dialogues with residents openly online about policy and problem solving – but also encourage the use of yammer for staff to conduct withinand cross council dialogues and engagement to promote innovation by staff;

  • Experimenting with online participatory budgeting: an important way to link new thinking on data and technology with a new approach to budgeting. At is most ambitious it can involve residents in ‘outcomes-based’ budgeting – which targets money at the most effective programmes. But many cities globally are allowing residents to directly vote on smaller portions of budget via the web and to choose how the money is spent in their precinct or city from a list of options. Previously in some global exemplars participatory budgeting was a face to face process but Geelong will develop this approach further to incorporate up to the moment features of digital voting and deliberation: a real new frontier in Australian democracy based on the key interactive strength of digital media enabling a democracy based on the exchange of ideas, and intelligent crowd-sourcing, valuing citizens for their expertise as well as their votes.

Recommendation 14: Further explore the implementation of the identified opportunities in which local democracy can be re-invigorated online. Participatory budgeting should be an area of focus.

Next section: Community focus

Page last updated: Tuesday, 20 August 2019