Les Phillimore on the Impact of Robotics in Local Government

How impactful can robotics and AI be in the Local Government sector?

This is a really interesting question for me. I don’t know how much you know about my job roles, but I am also a District Councillor locally, so this is a very important topic for me. I think it is an excellent question, and to be honest, it is complicated. Local Government is always on a spectrum, it is sensitive and customer facing, working to satisfy the needs of a diverse, broad society, so there is an endless multitude of uniqueness.

Local Government is and must remain entirely inclusive and that can and will create challenges within any digital transformation programme in local Government. Whether we like it or not, whether it is acceptable or not, there are elements of society that are digitally excluded and no matter what digital transformation takes place, those elements of society who are digitally excluded cannot and must not be excluded by that digital transformation. Some of this will revolve around inter-generational issues or a willingness or reluctance to embrace digital technologies, it matters not, Local Government must be and must remain, fully inclusive.

Breaking this down a bit further, a new resident in their 20 or younger moving into the area are digital natives and will automatically do most things “online”. They’ve grown up in and around technology and they intuitively understand it and they are comfortable using it. This may not be the same for an eighty-five-year-old, so you have to proceed with caution, certainly at the moment.  

‘In the long term, however, I think it is a different story. To be honest, every Local authority is going to have to digitally transform because it is becoming more and more relevant and integral to the day-to-day operations on multiple layers. In the future, everything will evolve into a digital solution or service and eventually we will evolve into a generation that is solely digital, but I should stress, there may be a number of generations to go through and hurdles to jump first, BUT, as the internet is only 29 years old and technology is advancing at exponential rates, who knows what technologies we will be working with and adopting or declining in another 29 years?