Digital First Programme aims to have at least 40% of transactions online and deliver £1.3 million in savings over next four years

The Highland Council Digital First Programme aims to greatly increase access to online services, enabling at least 40% of transactions to be carried out online by April 2017. The programme will also deliver £1.3 million in savings over four years.

Digital First means that online services should be simple, convenient and well signposted so that customers choose digital as a first choice.

With the emergence of tablet and smartphone technology and its increasing prevalence, there is an expectation that more public services will be accessible online, so that people can choose when and where they can access services at their convenience. 

Recent customer research has shown that 61% of Citizens' Panel customers who use Highland Council's website do so to access contact details for Council services.

11.9% of Citizens' Panel and 21.6% of Communities Panel respondents use the website to request services and 12.5% and 5.4% respectively use the website to make a payment, indicating the demand for digital services continues to grow.

There are currently 34 online forms and another 37 in development. There were 82,000 online transactions, including payments, in 2014, which puts the Council on target for at least 10% of total transactions online this year.

Although there is a steady decrease in the demand for face to face transactions (10% fewer in the past 12 months), there will continue to be a need for telephone and some face to face services to be available, as well as support for those customers who do not have access to the internet for a variety of reasons, such as affordability or lack of skills.

The Highland Council Corporate Plan 2012-17 and the Customer Engagement Strategy 2012-15 sets out the Council’s commitment to provide services, where possible, in a range of ways, including telephone, face to face and online, whilst increasing the number of services available on the website.

Highland Council is working with partners to ensure training and support is available to help more people to access online services.

Chair of Resources Committee, Cllr Maxine Smith said: “This new technology, and the change in the way people are using it, provides an opportunity to release significant savings through increasing digital and reducing face to face transactions, where possible.

“The majority of our customers will welcome the convenience of increasing user-friendly digital services and the benefits they bring.  We are well aware, however, that some customers will require additional support to access online services and will still require the availability of services by telephone and in person. In this respect, the programme seeks to achieve a balance, whilst driving a considerable change in the way in which we do things into the future.”

Scotland’s Digital Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s ambition for a digital environment which promotes and supports service delivery and economic growth. To achieve this, the public sector “will adopt an approach of “digital first” in service design; that means that organisations will deliver online, everything that can be delivered online”.

The Resources Committee on Wednesday 25 February will be asked to agree a number of Digital First principles to form the basis of the work going forward.

24 Feb 2015
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